Having a strong core is about more than doing crunches – It is about working everything from your shoulders to your knees.
It is about working the front of your body as well as the back of your body.
And it is about moving in every plane of motion.
So stop wasting your time with basic crunches and try these 7 Great Core Moves that work everything from your shoulders to your knees in EVERY plane of motion!
1. Side Plank With Leg Raise – The Side Plank is a great way to work your obliques as well as your shoulders and glutes. By adding in the leg raise, you make the move more advanced and challenge your glutes and abs even more!
To do the Side Plank With Leg Raise, set up on your side. Prop yourself up with your forearm right below your shoulder (or your hand to advance the move) and stack your feet one on top of the other. Then lift your bottom hip up off the ground as high as possible while keeping your body in a nice straight line. Squeeze your belly button in toward your spine and keep your glutes tight.
Do not let your chest rotate forward toward the ground or your top hand touch the ground. Keep your top hand on your hip or reach it up toward the ceiling. Then lift and lower the top leg up toward the ceiling, keeping the bottom hip up and the body in a nice straight line. Even as you lift, do not let your chest rotate toward the ground. You can lift and lower straight back down or you can lift and then lower to touch the ground behind you and then in front of you. You can also simply hold with the leg lifted.
2. Push Up Holds – The push up is basically a moving plank. And a push up with holds works your upper body even more while forcing your core to work harder to stabilize and keep your body in a nice straight line.
To do the Push Up Holds, set up on an incline or on your hands and knees (beginner) or hands and toes (advanced). You want your feet together and your hands just outside your chest. Your body should be in a nice straight line. Hold for 5 seconds at the top of the push up with your arms locked out and your belly button pulled in toward your spine. Then lower down to the mid-point of the push up. Your arms should be bent to just about 90 degrees. Hold there 5 seconds. Then lower down so you are just hovering above the ground and hold there 5 seconds before quickly pressing back to the top of the push up. Your body should move as one unit as you lower and it should be in a nice straight line as you hold. Do not let your hips sag or your butt go up in the air. Do not tuck your head toward the ground or shrug your shoulders. Then quickly press back up from the bottom and repeat with a 5 second hold at the top. You can also simply choose one of the holds (top, middle or bottom) and hold there for an extended period of time.
3. Sit Thru – A great rotational core exercise that really works the front of your body. This move is also great to get your heart rate up and add in a little cardio.
To do Sit Thrus, start on your hands and knees. Flex your feet and press up onto your hands and toes with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. You will then rotate open toward the right and bring your left leg under and through toward where your right hand is. As you bring your left leg forward and through, lift your right hand. You should be almost sitting with your left hand down to support you. Then bring the left leg back through so you are back in the starting position. Next rotate to the left and kick your right leg through and forward as you lift your left hand. Move as quickly as you can back and forth. Beginners may need to move slowly or even start in a more spread out position with their legs out straight.
4. Super Crunch – A more traditional crunch exercise; however it does work your quads as well. Because you come up to balance on your butt, it is more of a full sit up than simply a crunch.
To do the Super Crunch, lie on your back with your legs out straight. Crunch your upper body up as you draw your knees in. Come up so that you are sitting on your butt. Reach your hands to outside one knee. Then lie back down. Then crunch up and reach through your knees. Lie back down. Then crunch up and reach outside the other knee. Those 3 crunches equal one rep.
5. Plank With Reach Out – A great full body move that opens up your hips, activates your glutes and even works your shoulders and abs. A great move for anyone that sits all day.
To do the Plank With Reach Out, set up on your hands and either your knees (beginner) or toes (advanced). To do this move from your knee, set up in the top of a push up with your hands under your shoulders and your body in a nice straight line down to your knees. Then sit back on your heels into a “child’s pose” position, reaching one hand back between your legs. Move forward back to the top of the push up as you reach the hand from between your legs out toward the wall beyond your head. You may even extend your hips more toward the ground. Just make sure to keep your abs engaged so that you don’t feel the extension out in your low back. Complete all reps on that side before switching to the other arm.
6. Glute Bridge and Curl – Your glutes are an important part of your core and are completely ignored by crunches. Low back pain? Then you need to strengthen your glutes!
Beginners may need to start with a single leg bridge and curl while more advanced exercisers may do the two-leg bridge and curl.
Beginners will want to start with one towel under only one foot and slide out one leg at a time. You will set up in a glute bridge and then, keeping your hips up, extend one leg out at a time. Driving through your heel, you will drag the foot back in so you are back up in a bridge. As you curl each leg back in, feel your hamstring work to pull the towel back in. Alternate legs, sliding one leg out at a time.
To perform the two leg curl, place both feet on top of one towel about hip width apart (or a towel under each foot). Start in the bridge position and slide your feet out. Keep your hips up off the ground and your glutes engaged as you slide out. Make sure your abs are engaged as you slide out. Then curl the heels back in, bringing the hips up again into a glute bridge. Do not let the hips sag toward the ground as you slide out or come back in. Make sure your abs stay tight to protect your low back.
For other Glute Bridge and Curl variations, click here!
7. Mt. Climbers (Mountain Climbers) – This core exercise is also a great cardio move. Mountain Climbers really work everything from your shoulders to your knees. Mountain Climbers can be done on the ground, with towels or even from a suspension trainer.
To do Mt. Climbers, set up in a high plank from your hands and toes with your feet in the suspension trainer straps. Bring your right knee in toward your chest. Then drive the foot back out and bring your left knee in toward your chest. Go as fast as you can, alternating knee drives. Mountain Climbers should look like you are “running” with your hands on the ground. Beginners may need to go slowly to start or even do these from the ground. You can also do cross body climbers by bringing your knee in to the opposite elbow.