9 Best Core Exercises You Need to Build Better Stability and Strength

Building your core enhances its power, improves balance and stability, and reduces falls and injuries in sports and many other pastimes. Having a strong and flexible core can help you go through many daily physical activities

hover exercise

Your core is the link connecting your lower and upper body. Many activities that you undertake every day either passes through your core or starts from it

A weak or rigid core can affect the way your legs and hands function. Core exercises can help you build your core to enhance its power and improve your balance and stability.

A strong core can help reduce falls and injuries in sports and many other activities.

Thus, we all need a strong and flexible core to help us go through many daily physical activities.

Best Core Exercises that really get results.

Here are the 9 best core exercises you need to help you build core strength and stability.

Long Arm Crunches

long arm crunches

It is one of the top-rated ab exercises. This variation changes the traditional floor crunch by stretching your arms behind you. The movement can help you work the ab muscles intensively.

The long arm puts more emphasis on the upper part of the abdomen. But the rectus abdominis is one long muscle between your lower chest and pelvis. Thus, the exercise can work the whole muscle.

Targets: Ab muscles, core muscles

Level: Intermediate

Steps to Follow

  • Lie on your back. Raise and stretch your arms behind your head. Keep them close to each other and close to your ears. But do not clasp them.
  • Exhale, contract your abs, and raise your shoulder blades off the floor. Keep your arms stretched behind your head while doing this.
  • Start inhaling and slowly lower your body back to the floor
  • Repeat up to 3 times to complete a set and 12-16 sets per session

Dead Bug

It is one of the beginner-friendly core exercises used to build total core stability. It helps you move opposing limbs together while keeping your core stable without causing injury to your back. In effect, it can work many core muscles while protecting your lower back.

The dead bug can help improve side-to-side coordination and core strength.

Some regard the dead bug as a very easy to do exercise. But it is one of the best core exercises you can rely on if you want to build a strong core.

The dead bug is the go-to exercise if you are not comfortable doing the plank exercise. The reason is, unlike the plank, you do not need a strong core to start doing the dead bug.

Instead, the dead bug can help strengthen your core and prepare your body for the plank exercise.

Target: Rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, lower back, obliques

Level: Beginner

Steps to Follow

  • Lie with your face up on an exercise mat.
  • Extend your arms upwards towards the sky or ceiling in such a way that they are perpendicular to your torso.
  • Bend your knees and lift your legs such that they form a 90-degree angle with your thighs.
  • With your back still on the mat, engage your core. Make sure your spine remains in this position throughout the exercise.
  • Slowly lower the right arm, without bending it, while at the same time extending the left leg. Stop the movement of the arm and the leg just before either of them touches the floor.
  • Return to your starting position
  • Repeat the movement with the left arm and the right leg to complete a set.
  • Rest for a moment and repeat the cycle.
  • Throughout the movement keep the opposite arm and leg steady, and your core tight.
  • Make the movement quite slow and steady and exhale as you go through the motion.

Boat Exercise

The Boat Pose is one of the most popular core exercises in yoga and Pilates classes. It is one of the best core exercises you can rely on to give you results if you want to build a stronger core, including the difficult-to-reach abs muscles.

The exercise challenges you both physically and mentally. The reason is you need strength and endurance to hold the pose. You must also maintain tension in your legs and arms, engage your core muscles, and remain balanced during the pose.

Steps to Follow

  • Sit on an exercise mat.
  • Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Lean back a little bit and raise your feet to a level where your shins are parallel with the floor. Keep your knees bent at the beginning. This is the half pose.
  • Stretch your legs and get them to form a 45- degree angle with the upper part of your body. Try to keep your torso upright such that it makes a V shape with your legs.
  • Lean further back, if necessary, stretch your arms, and make it roughly parallel with the floor. Your palm must face upwards. Keep your spine long, and your abs pulled in.
  • Your goal is to balance yourself on your sit bones or the lower part of your pelvis if you can. Lift your chest a bit to help support your balance.
  • Take at least five breaths while in the pose or remain in the position for 30-60 seconds.
  • Exhale and put your legs down. Then, breathe in and sit up.

Basic Bridge

bridge core exercises

Also Known As: Glute Bridge, Hip Raises

Targets: Abs, Glutes, and hamstrings

Level: Beginner

The glute bridge or basic bridge exercise works to isolate and strengthen the muscles in your butts. It also targets the hamstrings, which are the main muscles in the posterior chain.

Many see the bridge as an exercise to work your glutes. But if then correctly, it can improve the stability of your core by working the muscles in your core, hips, and lower back.

It is one of the core exercises you can include in your exercise plan for a full-body workout. It can also be a warm-up exercise or a rehab exercise to stabilize the core or spinal cord.

Steps to Follow

  • Lie on your back, using an exercise mat for support if you wish. Keep your knees bent and your spine neutral. Your hands must be by your sides. Your feet must be under your knees and flat on the floor and about a shoulder-width apart. Keep your spine in a neutral position.
  • Push your lower back into the floor and then up to tighten the muscles in your buttocks and abs.
  • With your knees pressed into the mat, lift your hips until it forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  • Tighten your core and pull your belly button in the direction of your core.
  • Hold the position for 20-30 seconds, inhale and lower your hips back to your starting position.
  • Repeat at least 10 times

Ball Push-Away

ball push away

The Ball Push-Away exercise is a modified plank exercise. It helps you build extra core strength with the support of an exercise ball.

Targets: Ab muscles, core muscles

Level: Intermediate

Required Equipment: Medium or large exercise ball

Steps to Follow

  • Get into the plank position with your forearms resting on the exercise ball. Keep your feet apart.
  • Pull your navel in and towards your spine to brace your abs.
  • While still in the plank position, use your forearms to push the ball as far as you can.
  • Hold the ball for a few seconds and roll it back to your starting position.
  • PS: Maintain your plank pose throughout the movement
  • Repeat the back-and-forth ball movement as many times as you can per session.

Hanging Leg Raise

hanging leg raise

Many of the core exercises like sit-ups and crunches tend to target the upper abs. These exercises take the top-down approach.

The hanging leg raise, on the other hand, takes a bottom-up approach. It focuses more on the lower abs and works your abs differently compared to other core exercises.

It is an isolation exercise that works the muscles in the abdomen and the hip flexors.

It can be one of the most effective core exercises to include in your exercise plan if done correctly.

You can add the hanging leg raise to your workout plan if you are an advanced ab trainer.

Targets: Hip extensors, abdominals

Equipment Needed: Horizontal bar, Pull-up bar, or Gymnastics Rings

Level: Advanced

Steps to Follow

You need a horizontal bar that is at a reasonable height above your height. The bar should be strong and stable to carry your weight during the core exercise. Gymnastics rings can do the same job.

  • Reach out and grab the bar with an overhand grip. Keep your arms a shoulder-width apart.
  • Engage your ab muscles without moving your torso.
  • Exhale, then, raise your legs slowly.
  • Keeping your legs fully stretched, bring them up as far as you can. Ideally, you want your legs to form a 90-degree angle with your torso. You will feel the abdominal muscles working hard if you do this correctly.
  • While inhaling, slowly lower your legs back to the floor
  • Repeat 10 times or as many as you can in a set.
  • Aim to do 30 repetitions per session.

Dumbbell Plank Drag

Dumbbell Plank Drag

The regular plank is one of the most effective and challenging core exercises.

It helps to develop your core, hips, and glutes. But it can be a very tiring and boring exercise.

Dumbbell plank drag is an advanced variation of the plank exercise.

It involves pulling a weight from side to side while in the plank position. This tests your stability as you must balance your body on one hand while you move the weight.

It is quite an effective core exercise as it can work your core, upper body, endurance, and balance simultaneously.

Dumbbell plank drag turns the standard plank exercise, where you remain at one position for the duration of the exercise to a more active one, making it more exciting.

Targets: core, hips, glutes upper back, obliques, lats

Equipment Needed: Dumbbell of appropriate weight

Level: Advanced

Steps to Follow

  • To start the Dumbbell Plank Drag core exercise, place a dumbbell on your left. You must leave the dumbbell at a point where you can easily reach it when you get into the plank pose.
  • Get into the straight arm plank position by supporting the weight of your body on your toes and hands. Place your hands directly under your shoulders.
  • Pull your navel towards your spine to engage your ab muscles. Ensure you keep your head relaxed and in line with your spine. Your back must be straight or flat, and your eyes must look ahead of you. To get the position correct, imagine your body is a long straight line.
  • Maintain the pose throughout the rest of the exercise.
  • Balancing your body on your left hand, use your right hand to drag the dumbbell to the opposite side, that is, the left side of your body. Keep your hips steady; do not try to rotate them.
  • Change hands by supporting your body with your right hand. Then, using your left hand, drag the dumbbell to the right side of your body.
  • Repeat the cycle as many times as you can

Medicine Ball Slam

medicine ball slam

The medicine ball slam targets your core, quads, hamstrings, glutes, back, triceps, and shoulders. Thus, it is not just a core exercise. It is a total body exercise that you should consider including in your exercise plan.

The exercise involves many of your muscles, such as your abdominals, glutes, spinal erectors, and low back working together to make the movement successful. Thus, it can help improve core strength and stability if done regularly. It can also enhance the coordination between your lower and upper body.

Also Known As: Overhead medicine ball slams

Targets: Entire body – abs, core, quads, hamstrings, glutes, back, triceps, and shoulders

Equipment Needed: Medicine ball

Level: Intermediate

Steps to Follow

  • To start the core exercise, stand tall with a medicine ball in both hands at your torso. Your feet must be about a shoulder-width apart; your knees and hips bent slightly.
  • Engage your core, draw your abs towards your spine and roll your shoulders back.
  • Load the spring by slightly doing a squat. Then, inhale, press down your heels, and rise on the balls of your feet while swinging your arms and the ball overhead. Keep your arms straight and fully extended, and do not bend backward. Keep the ball straight over your head.
  • Exhale, press your hips back, bend your knees, and using your core, slam the ball down as forcefully as you can against the floor about a foot from your feet. Let your arms follow the slam to prevent you from falling.
  • Squat down and follow the movement of the ball and pick it up from the floor.
  • Immediately get ready for the next slam by forcefully using your hamstrings, quads, calves, and glutes to rise and stand on your toes.
  • Get on the balls of your feet again while lifting the ball overhead and do the next slam.
  • Repeat as many times as you can per session

Russian Twist with Dumbbell

Russian twist with dumbbell

It is a very effective core exercise that can help strengthen the abdominal muscles.

You do not need any equipment for the Russian Twist exercise. But you can use a medicine ball to make it more challenging and add tension to the core muscles.

You can add it to other core exercises like the crunch, plank, and bridge. It can also be part of your total body strengthening workout. And it can be of great benefit to anyone in any sport that involves throwing balls or swinging a club.

The Russian twist can work many core muscles, including the rectus abdominis, and the internal and external obliques.

Also Known As: Seated Oblique Twists

Targets: Abdominals, obliques

Equipment Needed: Medicine ball (not necessary)

Level: Intermediate

Steps to Follow

  • Sit on the floor or exercise mat.
  • Bend your knees and put your feet flat on the floor. You can lift your feet off the floor to make the exercise more challenging.
  • Pull in your abs and lean backward and form a 45-degree angle with your upper body and thighs. If using a medicine ball, hold it in both hands and directly in front of you.
  • From your torso, slowly twist the upper body to your right, and touch the floor with the ball.
  • Hold the position for a moment.
  • Contact your abs, twist at your torso to return to the center position.
  • Then, twist to touch the floor with the ball on the opposite side.
  • Repeat the process as many times as you can per session

Final Words from LiveLife

A weak, unbalanced, or tight core can make it difficult for you to go through many of your daily activities. But concentrating all your fitness efforts on core exercises to build a stronger may also make it easy for you to pick up back and hip injuries.

Thus, core exercises must be part of a full-body fitness plan which can develop all body muscles.

Brumitt J, Matheson JW, Meira EP. Core Stabilization Exercise Prescription, Part I. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach. 2013;5(6):504-9. DOI: 10.1177/1941738113502451.

American Council on Exercise (ACE)-sponsored Study Reveals Best and Worst Abdominal Exercises. May 14, 2001

Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School. Core conditioning–it’s not just about abs. Updated 2020.

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