Are you missing your typical workout routine as much as we are? We know it’s been months since you’ve gotten to clip into a bike at a spin studio, had a Body Pump instructor barking at you to squat lower, or blazed a trail on the treadmill. We’ve been stuck working out from home, which isn’t as exciting as exercising in a fancy gym or club-esque boutique studio, but the work itself remains important—especially when it comes to your core muscles. Your core is the epicenter of your body’s success, helping you with everything from stabilization to breathing.
The best part of core exercises is that they can be executed without any added weight—your body alone can add resistance to crank up the intensity of the exercise and continue to challenge you. The number of core exercises and variations are seemingly endless, but let’s face it: the motivation to actually complete an ab workout solo or at the end of the rest of your workout can be low. These five exercises in particular are ideal; they’re going to attack all parts of your core, can be done from the comfort of your living room carpet, and will keep you from the mundane routine of crunching yourself into oblivion.
Planks are the most classic core move there is, but despite its constant presence in ab routines and group fitness classes, it never gets easy. Starting out on your forearms, extend your legs back behind you and come onto your toes, making yourself flat as a board. Now, it’s time to hold for as long as you can, or to do sets of 30-second rounds. The challenge here comes from ensuring your butt is down and your back is flat. Plank intensity can be increased by raising a leg, an arm, or both to add some instability. This exercise not only has a ton of options for variation, including side planks or raised planks, but it works all the muscles in your core at once.
2. Bird Dogs
Bird dogs will help strengthen the core through both contraction and balance. This move will help to train your whole core, and will help strengthen your lower back. Start out in a tabletop position on your hands and knees. Extend one arm out and at the same time, extend the opposite leg out. Then, bring both the extended arm and leg in underneath your stomach and squeeze. You can do a certain number of reps on one side and then switch sides, or do alternating reps. The element of balance comes in when the arm and leg are extended, and the other arm and leg are responsible for keeping you stable.
You’ll be channeling your inner superhero with this one. Contrary to popular belief, your lower back muscles are a part of your core—it’s not just about the washboard stomach up front. Start out lying on your stomach, and to execute one rep, contract your arms and legs up off the floor. After holding for a second, you’ll drop back down. Supermans work as a good counter-exercise to all of the other abdominal work you’re doing.
The tricky part about core work is that there are so many different muscles to train. Flutter kicks are an effective way to strengthen your lower abdominal muscles. Start out by lying on the floor and put your hands underneath your glutes or lower back. Next, raise your legs, shoulders, and head off the floor, and from there, you’ll begin to flutter your legs up and down, alternating which leg goes up while the other is coming down. This exercise can be done for time or for a number of reps. It’s important that you keep your legs, shoulders, and head raised off the ground the entire time. You may feel your neck and shoulders becoming tense, and if that’s the case, you can lower your head and shoulders to the floor and just focus on the leg motion. This won’t alter the results or benefit from the movement, but will help you to avoid injury. Once you become more comfortable with the movement itself, you can add back in the challenge of lifting your neck and shoulders off of the ground.
Russian twists will help to burn out the main part of your core, and also turn up the heat on your obliques. Start out on the ground in a seated position, and raise your feet up off the ground. Next, you’ll literally twist from side-to-side, touching the floor beside your legs while keeping your feet raised. To increase the intensity, you can lean back further with your upper body creating a more difficult angle. This exercise is plenty tough without weight, but adding a dumbbell, heavy book, or detergent bottle will give an extra challenge.