5 Effective Core Exercises

  • Megan McInturff
image description

We all have a six-pack. For some of us, it’s just hidden under a few extra layers of belly fat or Thanksgiving dinner. So how can you summon your six-pack to surface? Start with exercises that deviate from the traditional gym class crunch. It may have been the first ab exercise you learned, but it’s certainly not the most effective because it only strengthens superficial muscles on the front of the core. The key to tight abs is deliberate movements that target deep muscle groups of the entire abdominal wall.

Showing off a tight six-pack is just one of the perks of a strong core. More importantly, it improves overall health due to better posture, alleviates lower back or knee pain, and helps you become stronger over all. You’ll also notice a huge difference in your yoga practice. You will be able to hold poses longer, and arm balances and inversions will become more obtainable.

Need some ideas of effective core exercise other than just doing plain old crunches? We’ve got you covered with five effective core exercises that are sure to work the entire abdominal wall.

Yogi Bicycles: Lie on your back. Interlace your hands behind your head and keep your elbows out to the side. Extend your left leg long and draw the right knee in towards the chest. Lift your head and shoulders up off the floor. Guide your left elbow towards your right knee. Switch sides by cycling the legs, drawing the left knee into the chest and extending the right leg. Bring the right elbow towards the left knee. Try for 3 sets of 30.

Reverse Crunch: Lie on your back. Bring your legs either to a 90 degree angle with the hips by extending feet straight up towards the sky or bring the thighs to be at a 90 degree angle with the hips and bend your legs so your shins are parallel with the floor. Hands can either scoot under your glutes or down alongside the body with the palms facing down. Without momentum, lift your hips and pelvis up, curling the lower back of your abdomen. Slowly lower back down. Try 3 sets of 10.

Planks: Start in a high push up position. Hands should be shoulder width distance apart. Spread the hands wide and try to distribute the weight into the knuckles and finger pads, not so much in the heels of the hands. Keep the legs active and straight. Try to maintain your plank for one minute. Take it up a notch by coming down on to your forearms. Also, try side plank either on the hand or forearm.

Ab Holds: Sitting in a chair, place your hands on the chair on either side of you with your fingertips facing the same direction as your knees. Cross your ankles. Press down into your hands and left your bottom up a couple of inches. Draw the belly in and up. Try to hold for 10 seconds. If you feel like you do not have enough height in your arms, try starting on the floor and put your hands on blocks or phone books to get more elevation. Try this 5 or 6 times.

Leg Raises: Lie on your back with your legs stretched out in front of you. With your feet together and your arms down by your side, lift your legs off the ground. Keep pressing your lower back down to the ground and your shoulders flat. The less distance you raise your legs, the more your abs work. Aim to lift the legs only six inches. Hold this for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.