14 Unique Core Exercises That Go Way Beyond Classic Sit-Ups & Planks (2023)



February 1, 2021

mbg Health & Fitness Director

By Kristine Thomason

mbg Health & Fitness Director

Kristine Thomason is the health and fitness director at mindbodygreen.

14 Unique Core Exercises That Go Way Beyond Classic Sit-Ups & Planks (5)

14 Unique Core Exercises That Go Way Beyond Classic Sit-Ups & Planks (6)

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February 1, 2021

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Welcome tombg moves! We've been working out at home more than ever lately—and we know our readers are, too. To help keep your fitness routine feeling fresh, we're releasing a new at-home workout every Monday, to start your week off strong.


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Core strength is the foundation of every kind of movement, in both fitness and daily life. Lifting heavy weights? Holding an advanced yoga pose? Carrying your groceries or picking up a little one? Your core is a major player in keeping your body stable and secure through it all.

While engaging your core is a key component to most fitness moves, we've rounded up some of our favorite exercises that specifically home in on this essential body zone. (FYI: Core includes abdominals, back, glutes, and even pelvic floor muscles.)

Put a few of these exercises together for a core-specific workout, add them to a bodyweight routine, or simply break one out when you need a midday moment of movement:


Half Pushup Hover

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  1. Get into a plank position, with your wrists directly under your shoulders.Engage your core.
  2. Bend your elbows, and slowly lower until your body is halfway toward the floor.
  3. Hold for a few breaths, then lower to the ground.

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All Fours Core Work

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  1. Get on all fours and extend one leg long behind you. Be sure to have your hands under your shoulders and your left knee directly below your hip. Shift weight into theupper bodybut out of the shoulders.
  2. Drop your toes to the ground and lift them back up.
  3. Then, pull your knee toward your same-side armpit.Repeat this while making sure to keep yourcore engaged.
  4. After 30 seconds, extend your opposite arm forward. As you lower and lift your toe, lower and lift your hand, too. As you pull your knee in, draw your opposite elbow toward your ribs. Repeat while stabilizing through your core. Continue for 90 seconds.

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Knee Catches

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  1. Lie on your back. Bring your arms to a low V by your side and lift your knees to tabletop.
  2. Keep your ribs knitting down and your belly button driving toward the ground below you.
  3. Starting with one leg, extend your foot out and down toward the ground, making sure to remain stable through your core. Repeat on the opposite side. Alternate between right and left.
  4. Next, bring your knees together, and slowly begin to drop both feet out and down toward the ground, making sure to inhale and exhale with the movement.Continue this sequence for 2 minutes.

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Tabletop Triceps Pushup

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  1. Start on all fours, in a tabletop position. Stack shoulders right on top of the hands and hips right over knees.
  2. Keep your elbows pointed toward your knees. Inhale as you bend the elbows and bring your chest toward the floor. Go as far down as you can, try to line your nose up with your fingertips.
  3. Engage your core, and slowly lift your chest back up to start. Keep your chest open, but don't arch your back.Repeat for 8 breaths.

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Single-Leg Tabletop Triceps Pushup

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  1. Start on all fours, in a tabletop position. Stack the shoulders right on top of the hands and your hips right over your knees.
  2. Extend one leg out, keeping it at hip height. Be sure the hips stay parallel. Keep your elbows pointed toward your knees.
  3. Inhale as you bend your elbows and bring your chest toward the floor. Go as far down as you can; try to line your nose up with your fingertips. Press the opposite shin into the ground.
  4. Engage your core, and slowly lift your chest back up to start. Keep your chest open, but don't arch your back.Repeat for 8 breaths.
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Plank With Shoulder Retraction

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  1. Get into a highplank position, with your hands stacked right under your shoulders.
  2. Engage your core to stabilize your plank.
  3. Inhale, as you allow your chest to lower and your shoulder blades to press together.
  4. Exhale as you lift your body back to a plank position, spreading your shoulder blades apart.Repeat for 5 breaths.


Single-Leg Stretch Variations

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  1. Lie on your back. Find your neutral spine: Think of your pubic bone and hip points lining up in the same plane.
  2. Lift your legs to a tabletop position. Your shins should be parallel to the ground and knees stacked over hips.
  3. As you exhale, extend the right leg straight out at a diagonal, without leaning into that side. Then come back to tabletop with control.
  4. Repeat on the other side.Continue for 8 breaths.


Bird Dog

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  1. Get on all fours, and place shins flat on the ground. Release your shoulder blades away from your ears.
  2. Inhale as your reach your right arm and left leg up, stretching away from your body. As you lift, don't arch your back or bring your leg too high. Tuck your pelvis and hug your abdominals in;squeeze your glutesfor stability.
  3. Exhale as you return your arm and leg back to the ground.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.Continue for 8 breaths.


Knee Hover Tap

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  1. Start on all fours.
  2. Exhale to float your knees a couple of inches off the ground.
  3. Inhale as you slowly lower them to tap on the ground.Engage your coreto stabilize the body.
  4. Continue for 8 breaths.


Bird Dog In Knee Hover

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(Video) Full Body Pilates Workout
  1. Start on all fours. Float your knees a couple of inches off the ground, and hold.
  2. Without shifting your hips, inhale and extend your right arm forward. Exhale as you crunch your abs and pull your elbow toward your torso. Reach it back out, then return it to the ground.
  3. Inhale as you extend your left leg out; squeeze through the glutes. Try not to lift your leg up much higher than your torso. Then exhale to curl your spine and crunch your body inward.
  4. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg.Continue for 8 breaths.


Narrow Bridge-Lift Knee Fan

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  1. Lie on your back. Place your feet together so the inside edges of your feet are touching, knees are touching, and inner thighs are squeezing together. You should almost be able to touch the heels with your fingertips.
  2. Activate your core, keep your ribs knit together, and reach your tailbone toward the backs of your knees. Shoulders stay wide and down your back, and you'll soften your jaw and upper body. Squeeze your knees together as if you're holding a hundred-dollar bill between them.
  3. Begin to fan your knees out and in while maintaining a deep push into your heels. Drop your back closer to the ground if you begin to feel tension in your lower back.


Donkey Kick

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  1. Get on all fours and come down to your forearms. Lift your armpits away from the floor, and shift your weight into your upper body.
  2. Lift one leg up and hold. Bring your leg to a 90-degree angle, flex the heel, and square off your hips.
  3. Pull your waist in, and lift the ribs off the floor.
  4. Then lower your leg to the ground, and lift it back up.Continue for 2 minutes.


Crunch Variations

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  1. Lie on your back. Bring your hands behind your head. Lift your head, neck, and shoulders, and hold.
  2. Keep your chin off your chest, and drill the belly button toward the spine.
  3. Bring your legs into tabletop, or bring them to the floor. Lift your chest and shoulders as you exhale, and inhale on the way down. Continue for 2 minutes.


Mountain Climbers

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(Video) 12min. Power Yoga "CORE" ABS WORKOUT with Travis Eliot & Lauren Eckstrom -- Inner Dimension TV

  1. Start in a plank pose, with shoulders over wrists. Pull waist in, drag shoulder blades down the back, and engage the core.
  2. Fire up the belly by pulling one knee in, then the other. That's one rep.Continue for 2 minutes.


What exercise works all of your core? ›

Crunches are a classic core-strengthening move. The act of lifting your upper body works your abdominal muscles. If you have occasional low back pain, do crunches with care — move slowly and start with just a few reps.

What is the number one best core exercise? ›

The Best Ab Exercises, According to Science
  1. Do crunches—the right way. The resounding ab winner in the muscle-activation studies is, in fact, the standard crunch. ...
  2. Bicycle crunches are good, too. ...
  3. Visit the captain's chair. ...
  4. And do your planks, too. ...
  5. Stop trying to target your “lower” abs.

What exercise strengthens the core the most? ›

Abdominal crunches are a classic core-strength exercise:
  • Lie on your back and place your feet on a wall so that your knees and hips are bent at 90-degree angles. Tighten your abdominal muscles.
  • Raise your head and shoulders off the floor. ...
  • Return to the start position and repeat.

How do I strengthen my core after 60? ›

5 Core Exercises for Seniors
  1. Abdominal Bracing. This is the simplest exercise you can do, and it's a great place to start if you're just easing yourself into exercising. ...
  2. Seated Knee Lifts. For a nice progression from your abdominal bracing, you can start taking on some seated knee lifts. ...
  3. Seated Side Bends. ...
  4. Deadbug. ...
  5. Bridge.
4 Jan 2022

How do I strengthen my core after 70? ›

5 of the Best Core Exercises for Seniors
  1. Superman. Targets: Lower and upper back muscles, plus the glutes. Lie facedown on the ground. ...
  2. Side Bends. Targets: Obliques. ...
  3. Wood Chops. Targets: Obliques. ...
  4. Dead Bug. Targets: Upper and lower abdominals. ...
  5. Plank. Targets: Your entire core.
9 Jun 2020

What exercise activates the abs the most? ›


One exercise ranked highest for both upper and lower rectus abs (and second highest for obliques): incline curl-up. Second best for upper and lower abs was the stability ball crunch, but the vertical leg raise (both hanging and captain's chair) virtually tied it for lower ab activation.

What exercise is better than sit ups? ›

Second, plank exercises recruit a better balance of muscles on the front, sides, and back of the body during exercise than do sit-ups, which target just a few muscles.

What are the signs of a weak core? ›

Signs of Weak Core Muscles
  • Lower Back Pain. Low back pain has many causes. ...
  • Bad Balance. Having good balance protects us from falls. ...
  • Poor Posture. ...
  • Hard to Get Up or Down. ...
  • Difficulty Standing for Long Periods. ...
  • Plank. ...
  • Squat. ...
  • Wall-Press Dead Bug.
12 Apr 2021

Can exercise help sagging stomach? ›

Add Exercise to Your Routine

At-home treatment options are ideal for minor sagging. One such option is exercising. Any workouts that build muscle mass or tighten muscles — especially around the stomach — can reduce the appearance of loose skin.

How long does it take to strengthen a weak core? ›

When we're talking specifically about strengthening and building your ab muscles — not necessarily seeing them – "it can take anywhere from four to eight weeks, depending on what exercises you're doing and your eating habits," said fitness coach Nick Leyden, MS, CSCS. (More on those aspects later.)

Can a 60 year old get stronger? ›

Repeated research has shown that, through weight training, men and women in their 60s and beyond can grow muscles as big and strong as an average 40-year-old.

Are planks good for 70 year olds? ›

“But seniors may find traditional abdominal exercises difficult, especially if they have lower back problems. The most effective ab exercise for seniors is the plank.” How to: Facing down toward the floor, place your elbows and knees on the ground while keeping the rest of your body elevated.

What are the McGill Big 3 exercises? ›

Here are McGill's “Big Three” exercises for improving your low back endurance:
  • The McGill Curl Up. Lie down on your back. ...
  • The Side Bridge. Lie on your side, with your forearm on the floor and elbow underneath your shoulder. ...
  • The Bird Dog. Assume a hands-and-knees position on the floor.

Can a 70 year old regain muscle mass? ›

“Research shows that, even into your late 80s, your body still has the potential to build muscle mass,” Stacy Schroder, director of wellness at Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, said.

Can a 70 year old rebuild muscle? ›

Seniors Can Still Bulk Up On Muscle By Pressing Iron Our muscle mass decreases at surprising rates as we get older. But researchers found that people older than 50 can not only maintain but actually increase their muscle mass by lifting weights.

What exercise should a 70 year old be doing? ›

Adults aged 65 and older need: At least 150 minutes a week (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking. Or they need 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity such as hiking, jogging, or running. At least 2 days a week of activities that strengthen muscles.

Can you flatten your stomach after 60? ›

Diet, Nutrition, and Exercise

Diet can be a very effective way for seniors to lose belly fat. You might not ever get to have six-pack abs, but you can significantly reduce your weight and improve your health with a good diet and nutrition plan.

How can seniors get a flat stomach? ›

5 Exercises to Lose Belly Fat for Seniors
  • Feel the burn and tone your tummy with this fun workout. SilverSneakers. ...
  • Spine Twist. ...
  • Standing Mountain Climber. ...
  • Double Step Reach and Push. ...
  • Side Lunge with Diagonal Reach. ...
  • Rotational Squat + Low Jack. ...
  • Check Your SilverSneakers Eligibility Instantly.
18 Aug 2020

What is the number 1 ab exercise? ›

According to the study, the bicycle crunch was the most effective exercise when analysing the muscle activity in the abdominals. To complete a bicycle crunch, lie on your back with your lower back pressed into the ground, bring your knees in towards your chest and lift your shoulder blades off the ground.

How do I hit all my abs parts? ›

The plank is the best overall core workout you can get, and it can stimulate up to 130 percent more ab action than a crunch. The plank will target the whole set of your obliques, the rectus abdominis, and strengthen the lower back. Plus, you can do it anywhere.

What can replace sit-ups? ›

Best Sit-Up Alternatives
  • Hollow Body Hold.
  • Dead Bug.
  • Scissor Kick.
  • Plank.
  • Side Plank.
  • Bird Dog.
  • Farmer's Carry.
  • Pallof Press.
30 Aug 2022

What is better than a plank? ›

The Pallof press is a core exercise that works all the ab muscles, as well as your glutes and back. It may be more effective than a plank because it creates less strain on the wrists and lower back.

What works the same muscles as sit-ups? ›

Like situps, crunches help you build muscle. But unlike situps, they work only the abdominal muscles. This intense muscle isolation makes them a popular exercise for people trying to get six-pack abs. This also makes them ideal for strengthening your core, which includes your lower back muscles and obliques.

How do you test if your core is strong? ›

Lie facedown on the floor, but instead of placing your hands beneath your shoulders as you would for a pushup, slide them forward until your thumbs are in line with the top of your forehead. Now try to push yourself up. If your back can stay perfectly straight, your core is solid.

Does walking strengthen your core? ›

“Dancing, swimming, cycling, running, brisk walking, skipping rope, stair climbing, hula hoops, yoga and planks can all help you build your core muscles,” says Reddy. Ojha recommends at-home abs workout for the same.

How do you know if your core is activated? ›

Here are four simple things you might notice when your core is activated during a workout: You're able to perform straight-leg raises or a straight leg hold without arching your back. Every part of your spine should be touching the floor.

How do I get rid of my overhang belly? ›

To lose stomach overhang you have to burn fat cells in both the fat you can see directly under the skin and also the more dangerous fat that you can't see that surrounds your organs. Cardio such as swimming, aerobics, running or dancing will burn this excess fat store.

How do I get rid of hanging belly? ›

Panniculectomy is a surgery done to remove stretched out, excess fat and overhanging skin from your abdomen. This can occur after a person undergoes massive weight loss. The skin may hang down and cover your thighs and genitals. Surgery to remove this skin helps improve your health and appearance.

What vitamins should I take to tighten my skin? ›

  1. vitamins A, C, D, and E.
  2. coenzyme Q10.
  3. selenium.
  4. zinc.
  5. epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)

What happens if you do sit ups everyday for a month? ›

When you do sit-ups every day, your back and hip muscles become more flexible. A flexible back and hips improve circulation, as well as reduce stress. You also build a strong core and keep your hips, spine, and shoulders aligned by performing sit-ups properly.

How can I strengthen my core in 7 days? ›

7 Days and 7 Ways to Strengthen Your Core
  1. Forearm Plank Pose. Forearm Plank strengthens all the muscles of the abdominal wall. ...
  2. Plank Pose. ...
  3. Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana) ...
  4. Boat Pose (Navasana) ...
  5. Prone Single and Double Leg Lifts. ...
  6. Locust Pose (Salabhanasana) ...
  7. Table Top Arm and Leg Extensions.
10 Oct 2013

How many minutes a day should you do core? ›

Doing just a little core work each time you workout is totally fine. "If you're going to the gym two to three times per week, I suggest doing 5 to 10 minutes of ab or core work during your workout. Then, give yourself a day of rest in between workout days," he says.

What causes a weak core? ›

If you have weak core muscles, you may even find that your stomach sticks out further than your chest. This core strength sign is an indication of loss of core tone and a weak core. This core strength sign can be caused by core muscle weakness, pregnancy, or an increase in body fat around your core.

How many planks should I do per day? ›

As a general guideline, Doug Sklar, a certified personal trainer and founder of PhilanthroFIT in New York City, recommends striving to do three sets of up to 60 seconds. “It's OK to start with shorter sets and work up to 60 seconds,” he says. Plus, shorter planks can still give you a solid workout, Sklar says.

How long should you be able to hold a plank position? ›

Most experts suggest anywhere from 10 up to 30 seconds is plenty. “Focus on doing multiple sets of smaller amounts of time,” says L'Italien. As you progress, you can extend your plank for up to one or even two minutes, but don't go beyond that.

How can I flatten my 70 year old's stomach? ›

  1. Clock in at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week to help burn extra calories. ...
  2. Supplement your weekly exercise routine with at least two days of conditioning, strength-training exercises that target the abdominal area. ...
  3. Cut out excess calories in your diet.

What is the best exercise to get rid of midriff bulge? ›

1. Bicycle crunches: Lie flat on the floor and press your lower back to the ground. Interlace your fingers, and put your hands behind your head. Bring your knees in toward your chest and lift your shoulder blades off the ground.

What exercise burns the most belly fat at home for seniors? ›

Jogging : Both walking and jogging are the most effective belly fat burning exercises. If your muscle strength and endurance permit, you should consider jogging along with or instead of walking. Relatively shorter, slower jogs burn more calories than walking and have a significant impact on your health and weight.

Do all exercises work your core? ›

Simply put: Any exercise can be a "core" exercise if done right. Yes, that means you can get stronger abs by engaging your core during your squats, deadlifts, lunges, or overhead presses (just to name a few).

Can I just do core exercises? ›

Doing just a little core work each time you workout is totally fine. "If you're going to the gym two to three times per week, I suggest doing 5 to 10 minutes of ab or core work during your workout. Then, give yourself a day of rest in between workout days," he says.

What happens if you train your core everyday? ›

Working abs every day can lead to muscle imbalances

If you do standard crunches 7 days a week for 300 reps, your rectus abdominus muscle (the six-pack muscle) is likely to get trained much more intensely than the other abs muscles.

Does holding in your stomach strengthen your core? ›

Suck in your stomach.

Not only will this move instantly make your stomach look flatter, but you will also be giving your abs a workout. Your deep core muscles are activated by sucking in your stomach and the longer you suck in, the more toned your core will be.

Is just planking enough for core? ›

Pushing your spine against the floor can cause lower back pain later on. Additionally, planks don't just work your core: They work your entire body. Planks require your arms, your legs, and all of your abs, making them an all-encompassing workout and a more efficient way to exercise.

Is 10 minutes of core a day enough? ›

If you want to build balanced strength, working your core is key—but it doesn't have to take forever. In fact, a 10-minute core workout can be a great way to challenge those muscles and reap the strength-building benefits.


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