The core muscles aren’t just ab muscles, but those of the back and hip flexors as well. The core stabilizes the spine and pelvis. A strong core is essential for improved fitness and athletic performance, and can prevent postural muscle imbalances and back injuries. A million crunches won’t properly condition the core. Moves that work multiple muscle groups across multiple joints are the best, most efficient core exercises. Here’s a list of some below. Some use weights or a stability ball. Work your way up to 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. Work your core at least 2X/week, and you’ll be well on your way to awesome abs. And don’t forget to breathe during these moves, deeply.
1. Pendulum With Stability Ball
Sit on a mat and place a stability ball between your legs (at your calves/ankles). Squeezing the ball in place, lie back onto the floor, and extend legs straight up into the air. Keep knees slightly bent and arms out to the sides for support.
Keeping upper body and glutes stationary, lower your legs down to the right, as close to the ground as possible. Return to start and repeat to the left side to complete one rep.
Make sure your back stays firmly planted and that your legs swing in line with your hips (not above or below them).
Modified: Don’t go down as far on each side.
Lie face down on your stomach with arms and legs extended. Keep your neck in a neutral position. Keeping your arms and legs straight (but not locked) and torso stationary, simultaneously lift your arms and legs up toward the ceiling to form an elongated “u” shape with your body — back arches and arms and legs several inches off the floor.
Hold for two to five seconds and lower back down to complete one rep.
Modified: Alternate lifting one arm and opposite leg at a time.
Start in an inverted V: forearms on floor, elbows wide, hands clasped, butt lifted, legs straight. Tip head between arms to look at feet. Looking up, press body forward until chin is above hands. Return to start to complete one rep.
Modified: Stay on your forearms, in plank position, for 20-30 seconds.
4. Side Plank Hip Lift
Lie on right side, left foot crossed over right, right elbow under shoulder, and left hand on hip. Press into right forearm and raise right hip and thigh off ground. Lower hip to complete one rep. (Do opposite side next round.)
Modified: Place foot of top leg on floor in front of bottom leg.
5.Back Extension on Stability Ball
Begin very close to a wall, facing away from it. Pull the ball into your legs as close to your body as possible. Keep your toes firmly on the ground and the soles of your feet flat on the wall behind you. Straighten legs so that weight is evenly distributed between your feet (at the wall) and the ball. Adjust the ball if necessary so that it is
under your hips. Place your hands behind your ears or across your chest.
EXHALE: Extend from your hips- Bringing your torso upward toward the wall as high as possible. Hold for 1-3 counts.
INHALE: Slowly return to starting position to complete one rep. Make sure your feet are flat on the wall and that your weight is pressed into them for stability.
6. Boat Pose
Slowly lean back, slightly rolling your tail bone under. As you lean back lift your legs off the floor so that you are now balancing on your butt. Lengthen and flatten your back, trying to eliminate any roundness or arching. Lift through your upper chest. Keep lifting long through your neck and head. Hold for 20 seconds.
Modified: Hold your legs underneath the thighs for support.
7. Jackknife on Stability Ball
Start behind the ball, place your midsection on the ball and roll forward until your hands reach the floor. Walk out with your hands until the ball is underneath your ankles. Have your hands just outside of shoulder width. Hold the push-up position and retain a strong core.
EXHALE: Bend at the knees and pull the ball up towards your torso, bringing your knees to your chest. Keep the movement smooth and don’t drop your hips or raise your lower back.
INHALE: Extend your legs back to the starting position. Keep your spine in a neutral position.
Modified: Stay in plank position on the ball, holding 20-30 seconds.
8. Bicycle Crunch
Begin by lying on your back, placing your hands behind your ears. Do not put your hands clasped behind your head. Lift your legs in the air and bend your knees so that your legs form a 90 degree angle. Move your legs in a bicycle motion. When your left knee is closer to your body, reach your right elbow to it. When your right knee is closer to your body, reach your left elbow to it. Tip: Try performing this exercise for 60 seconds in 2 sets.
9. Plank Row
Start in a plank position with your hands on two dumbbells. Keeping your elbow close to your body, lift one dumbell up. Repeat on the other side.
Modified: Do the same arm motion without weights.
10. Leg Raise with Pec Fly
Lie on your back a floor mat with your arms and legs extended, holding two medium dumbells.
EXHALE: Simultaneously raise your arms and legs straight above you, pausing for a second.
INHALE: Return to starting position to complete one rep.
Modified: Bend your knees.