Sit-ups on Exercise Ball - 30 reps
Toe Touches - 30 reps
Reverse Crunches - 30 reps
Russian Twists - 30 reps
Side Planks - (hold 30 seconds each side)
Plank - (hold as long as you can! Aim for at least 60 seconds each time)
Repeat 3 times through
Here's why these exercises are so effective at strengthening your entire core and how to perform them:
Although planks are known primarily as an abdominal exercise, they work so much more than just your abdominals. Front planks also help strengthen your chest, arms, back, glutes, and legs. The easiest way to get into a plank is by lying on your stomach and placing your elbows underneath your shoulders. Place your palms face down in front of you or make a fist and lift your body up so that your forearms and toes are the only parts of your body touching the floor. Make sure to keep your body in a straight line, neck in line with your spine, and tuck your pelvis to avoid dropping your lower back and making your butt lift in the air. Hold as long as you can, aiming for at least 1 minute each time!
Side planks are an excellent exercise to work your oblique muscles. Similar set up as the front plank, but rather than going up onto both forearms and toes, start by facing your body towards either the right or left and lift up onto just one forearm and the side of your foot. Your other foot should rest on top of the supporting foot, and your hips should be shooting upwards to fire up those oblique muscles even more. Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides. If this becomes a breeze for you, try lifting your hip up and down, “hip dips”, or hold for longer duration.
Russian twists trigger all three regions of your abs; the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis and obliques. The photo above is an example of me performing the russian twist exercise with a kettlebell for additional resistance. To perform this exercise, start with your feet and glutes on the ground and knees bent. Lean back until your back is at about a 45 degree angle with the floor. Use a 6-15 lb kettlebell or dumbbell for added resistance and twist your body from right to left until you reach 30 reps. To make this more challenging, lift your feet off the floor. To make it even more challenging, keep them off the floor and completely straight out in front of you.
Sit-ups/crunches on the exercise ball (a.k.a. stability ball) primarily strengthen the rectus abdominis. Unlike traditional crunches on the floor, exercise balls are an unstable surface. Working against this instability requires both coordination and balance, making it a more effective core exercise. Position your back over the ball, with your knees bent and both feet on the floor. Rest your hands behind your head without putting any pressure on your head or neck. Contract your abs while peeling your upper back off the ball just until your shoulder blades come off the ball. Hold that position for a second before slowly rolling your spine back down to the starting position. Perform 30 reps, really focusing in on your core each time you lift up and down.
Reverse crunches are amazing for your lower abs! They work the deepest muscles of your core (transverse abdominis) as well as your rectus abdominis and lower back. Lie flat on your back with your arms flat by your sides and knees either bent at a 90 degree angle with the floor (beginners) or straight with feet pointed towards the ceiling (advanced). If you’re doing the beginner version with your knees bent, use your lower abs by contracting and bring your knees towards your chest until your glutes are lifted off the floor. Using the lower abs slowly bring your glutes back down to the floor and knees back to starting position. Repeat for 30 reps. If you’re doing the advanced version, start with your legs extended directly over your hips. Contract the lower abs and lift your hips and glutes a few inches off the floor. Bring your hips back down and repeat 30 reps.
Toe Touches are amazing for your middle and upper abs. Lie flat on your back and extend your legs straight up into the air until they are directly over your hips. With your arms parallel to your legs and reaching up towards your toes, slowly contract the upper part of your abs to lift your shoulder blades up off the floor and your fingers towards your toes. Once your fingers are as close to touching your toes as possible, slowly roll your upper back down bringing your shoulder blades and head back down to the floor. Repeat 30 reps.
In combination together, these six exercises work every inch of your core!