The Core Exercises You're Not Doing
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Committed to boring crunches? Time to break up. Instead, incorporate some innovative moves into your workout routine. Recommended by top trainers, these exercises will challenge your core in a whole new way.
Photo: Getty Images
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“This move—which can easily be incorporated into a HIIT workout—strengthens the entire core and can help increase your cardiorespiratory endurance,” says Elliot Rivera, NPC athlete and founder of HealtHaven.com.
A Get in a high plank position with wrists below shoulders, keeping core engaged and spine neutral.
B Without moving hands, hop feet to hands drawing knees toward chest. Reverse the movement and repeat, either for time or for reps.
Sets: 3 to 4
Reps: 10 to 15
Med Ball Slams
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“A little outside the box for abs than most people would normally do, I love how this exercise truly engages your entire core and you get a bonus ‘crunch’ as you take the med ball from overhead down to the ground,” shares Jen Jewell, personal trainer and fitness cover model.
A Stand with feet hip-width distance holding medicine ball with both hands overhead, with arms fully extended.
B Shift hips down and back as you explosively slam the medicine ball into to the ground.
C Allow the ball to bounce back into hands and repeat the sequence.
Sets: 2 to 3
Reps: 8 to 10
RELATED: Power Pumpkin Workout
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“This functional move engages the entire core: abdominals, obliques, lower back, and everything holding them and the spine together. Bearing a heavy load overhead while lunging places additional stress on the core demanding it to perform even further. I wouldn’t go a week without this move, as it’s much more effective than other common core training exercises which only isolate specific muscle groups,“ shares Casey Kirch, certified personal trainer and owner of Find Your Edge Fitness.
A Stand with barbell overhead, keeping arms straight while stacking the weight over wrist, elbows and shoulders so the core bears the load.
B Step forward with left foot then lower to lunge position. Step back to starting position and repeat on the opposite side, alternating legs.
Reps: 10 per leg
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“This is the ultimate core exercise, as you’re using your own bodyweight to not only work your core but also every other muscle in your body throughout the entire movement. You’ll especially feel it your abs, obliques, back, shoulders, and arms,” notes Natalie Jill, functional fitness trainer and creator of the REV4 Body Weight Workout System.
A From standing, crouch down and touch floor with fingertips.
B Without moving feet, begin walking hands forward, using the core for control.
C Continue walking hands forward until full outstretched. Reverse the movement and return to starting position.
Sets: 1 to 3
Reps: 5 to 10
Goblet Squat with a Heartbeat
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“This move requires great trunk stability while also working on developing hip and shoulder mobility and stability, two key areas of the body most people need to focus on,” shares Jesse Dietrick, certified strength and conditioning specialist at Fitness Quest 10.
A Hold kettlebell at chest height and stand with toes turned out slightly. Perform a kettlebell squat holding the bottom of the position.
B In this position, press kettlebell straight out in front of chest, fully extending the arms. Draw kettlebell back to chest and repeat the press three times for the “heart beat.” Re-extend the legs and return to starting position, keeping kettlebell at chest level and repeat the sequence.
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“This awesome multi-faceted move offers much more than your typical abdominal exercise, as it targets balance, stability, and the core while also requiring some upper body strength,” says Felicia Romero, celebrity trainer and fitness cover model.
A Begin in a plank position with hands under shoulder and feet positioned in the foot cradles directly under the TRX anchor point, with straps fully lengthened
B With core engaged, spine neutral and feet together draw hips toward ceiling bringing legs toward chest, avoiding any swinging back and forth. Reverse the movement and return to starting position.
Reps: 10 to 20
BOSU Pre-Stretch Dumbbell Fly Crunch
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“This move challenges the core from a pre-stretch position, allowing for full range of motion while using levers and resistance to load the top of the crunch. It’s important that you have a solid base of core training before attempting this advanced movement," says Steve Saunders, president of Power Train.
A Lie on BOSU with abs in fully stretched position, dropping shoulders and head back while holding dumbbells in each hand with arms directly over chest.
B To initiate the movement tuck chin to chest and engage core.
C Lift up into a crunch position with dumbbells extended straight up, avoiding allowing them to move toward the knees.
D Sit upright at top of the position and push dumbbells away and back toward ears, holding for 2-4 seconds keeping the core engaged. Return dumbbells back over chest and slowly lower to starting position.
Dumbbell Row Series
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“This functional move not only blasts a bunch of calories fast, but because it’s multi-planar, whole body core work it strengthens your body dynamically as you twist and lunge—just like you do in life,” says Linda LaRue, exercise physiologist and athletic trainer.
A Stand with feet hip-width distance holding an 8 or 10 pound dumbbell, keeping shoulders down and drawing navel toward spine with contracting the pelvic floor muscle (think kegel).
B Step back with right foot for a forward lunge while making a rowing or figure 8 motion on the left side. Reverse the movement and repeat on the opposite side. That’s one rep.
Sets: 2 to 3
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“This version of the fire hydrant is an excellent way to increase endurance of your deep abdominal muscles, and the instability from the BOSU turns on your obliques and makes your core work double time. Plus it provides an added challenge for your glutes, muscles that are often neglected yet vital for good hip mobility,” says Angel Chelik, founder of WorkBetter Wellness.
A From kneeling, place hands on BOSU directly under shoulders with the dome side down. Tuck toes under and lift knees, hovering approximately 3” off floor.
B Keep BOSU level and torso stable as right hip opens to side. Draw right leg back in to starting position without touching floor and repeat. Complete all reps on right leg before switching sides.
Reps: 10 to 15
Indo Board Surfing
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“The Indo Board is a unique training tool that is perfect not only for improving balance but also for strengthening your core, as training on an unstable surface allows you to achieve greater activation of the core musculature. Plus it’s fun and feels like play,” shares Justin Seedman, certified personal trainer and health coach in South Florida.
A Stand atop the Indo Board with feet shoulder-width distance, keeping a slight bend in knees and. Maintain a focal point as the board slides to one side.
B Using your hips and core, maintain balance as the board slides in the opposite direction. Continue “surfing” from side to side, incorporating this move into your warm-up for several minutes.
Reps: 2 to 3 minutes