Exercises for your core region should be an integral part of your fitness routine. Anyone who works out regularly will know the importance of a strong core for flexibility, balance and strength.
It’s all too easy to fail to see the importance of the muscles in your core if you are starting out. Worse, even if you do know this, these exercises can be difficult to get into if you are overweight or have been away from exercising for a time, and can seem a little boring.
However, the health benefits of paying attention to this part of your body and doing exercises for your core are considerable, due not least to the importance of controlling belly fat.
On the upside, there are many exercises that you can do without any specialized equipment and in your own home. Plus, working this part of your body will give visible results that will make you feel good about yourself.
So, make sure that exercises for your core are part of your routine. Here are seven of my favourites to get you started.
7 Exercises for Your Core
1. Core Crunch
This is one of the best exercises to burn fat and tone your core. See it as your basic or entry exercise.
Lie on your back with your knees bent, with your feet flat on the floor. Rest your hands across your chest or on the back of your head. Never put any pressure on your head.
- Pull your belly towards your spine keeping your back flattened against the floor and slowly tighten the muscles within your abdominal region.
- Lift your shoulders off the floor and towards your knees keeping your neck and back straight and your chin up. Do this slowly and evenly without jerking movements.
- Slowly, return to the starting position by lowering your shoulders and head back onto the floor.
- Keep your abdominal muscles tight and repeat 5 times.
- Take a short break and repeat the routine.
2. Leg Pull-in
This is a great beginners exercise with a focus on the lower abs.
- Lie on a mat and extend your legs to the front.
- Place your hands on the ground by your sides near the glutes with palms facing to floor.
- Bend your knees and bring your upper thighs back until your knees are at chest level.
- Contract your abdominal muscles and hold.
- Slowly move your leg back to the starting position.
- Do this 20 times and take a short break. Then repeat.
After the first couple of times, increase the effectiveness of this exercise by lifting your shoulders off the ground at the start of the exercise and keep them off the ground until finished. But do not place any pressure on your neck.
3. Tabletop Crunch With Leg Reach
This is effectively a variation on the previous exercise but focusses more on flexibility and balance.
- Lie on your back. Raise you legs to a vertical position and bend your knees so that your lower legs are horizontal to the ground. This is the basic tabletop position.
- Raise your upper back and head off the mat and reach your fingers towards your toes.
- Lengthen your legs away so that your knees straighten and lower your legs to a 45 degree position. Do not move them too close to the ground.
- As you do so, lower your upper body and reach your arms overhead. Keep your lower back pressed onto the floor.
- Reverse the movement by bending your legs back into tabletop position. As you do so, lift your upper body off the floor and reach your hands toward your toes.
Repeat the exercise 10 times.
4. Flutter Kicks
This exercise targets the lower abs and are particularly good for your hip flexors. Doing this exercise repetitively is also good for improving your endurance levels. Remember to keep your legs extended for most effect.
- Lie on your back with your head and shoulders off the floor and your hands on the floor by your sides or behind your head.
- Extend both legs and, with your toes pointed away, lift your right leg off the floor to about 45 degrees. Hold.
- Raise your left leg a few inches off the ground keeping your back on the ground.
- Drop your right leg swiftly down so that it hovers a few inches off the ground. At the same time raise your left leg up towards the ceiling.
- Repeat this movement, alternating the legs up and down without pausing or allowing ether leg to touch the ground.
- Continue for as long as you can but aim for at least 10 repetitions.
As you get used to this routine, gradually raise your upper leg towards the ceiling before returning it to a few inches from the ground.
5. Lying Leg Raises
Double Leg Lifts are also known as Mermaid Moves. They seem relatively easy but the real challenge is felt if you keep your legs straight.
- Lie on your back on the floor with your legs extended. Place your hands underneath your lower back and glutes so your pelvis is supported.
- Begin to raise your legs toward the ceiling, pressing your thighs together and keeping the legs straight. Lift until your hips are fully flexed and you can’t go any higher with straight legs. Hold.
- Keep your legs together and lower back down to the floor. Move slowly at all times and do not arch your back.
- Do 15 times. Take a break and repeat.
When you start to get used to this exercise, try doing it without allowing your feet or legs to touch the ground between moves. Also try it with ankle weights for greater core strength.
6. Bicycle Crunch
This is a great variation on the crunch with a particular focus on flexibility.
- Lie on the floor with your knees in a tabletop position and your hands behind your head.
- Lift your shoulder blades off the ground and pull your abs toward your spine, pressing your lower back into the mat.
- Straighten your left leg out while turning your upper body to the right, bringing your left elbow toward your right knee. Make sure your rib cage is moving and not just your elbows.
- Repeat this action on the other side bringing your right elbow towards your left knee while straightening your right leg.
- Make sure you are moving your elbow towards you knee and that the knee only moves a little towards your chest.
Repeat for 10 times on each side.
7. Triangle Sit Up
The Triangle sit up, also known as the Jack-knife, is a more advanced exercise but there is also a modification for beginners. The idea is to raise both your arms and legs off the floor with all the strength and balance flowing through the core.
- Lie on the floor in the same position as for crunches but with your legs extended. Make sure to lie flat on your back, keep your legs close together, and point your toes towards the ceiling.
- Extend your arms back towards the floor above your head with your palms facing the ceiling.
- Raise your arms over your head towards the waistline. At the exact same time, lift your legs off the floor and pull them towards your belly, keeping the legs straight and the toes remaining pointed up.
- Keep your legs straight and contract your tummy muscles towards your spine. Exhale as you touch your toes with your fingers – or at your maximum possible extend – to form a triangle shape.
- Take a deep breath while returning to the starting position.
This is an advanced exercise. When starting, try it by keeping one foot flat on the floor with your knees bent as in the starting position for crunches. Stretch out the other leg. Extend your arms over your head and bring them off the flooring while pulling your upper body up.
Bring the straightened leg up in the air at the same time and touch the toes with your hand while leaving the other leg bent and the foot flat on the floor.
Do this 5 times. Then reverse the legs again keeping one foot on the floor while rising the other and touching it.
If you continue to find this difficult, forget about touching your tows and do the movement keeping your arms crossed on the your chest or keep your arms to the side parallel to the floor as you sit up.
These exercises are targeted on the abdominal region to tone the core muscles of the body. They will strengthen the core muscles, improve the posture, and increase your mobility and flexibility.
No one is claiming that these exercises alone will burn all the excess fat from your body. However, they will build muscle mass, enhance the density and performance of your core muscles and heighten your body’s ability to effectively burn fat.
Any programme to help you lose weight should also include correct dietary control. But exercising the core region has been shown to be important for the amount of harmful fat you have in your abdominal region.
These are important exercises and should be part of your exercise routine. You will soon find that they compliment other types of exercise. And they have the added payoff of improving your body shape thereby making your feel good about yourself.