4 Effective Core Training Exercises

Let's be honest: Traditional ab exercises like crunches have gotten pretty much out-dated and extremely boring as the best way to work your core muscles. 

These days there are many creative core training exercises available that can actually reach more small muscles around your midsection and tighten your core area better. 

And, these exercises can be done with zero fitness equipment. We have put together four challenging core exercises that can be performed in less than 10 minutes...and you can do them almost anywhere.

Core Training Exercises

Side Plank

This is one of the most effective core training exercises available and a good routine for gauging the level of your core strength The side plank adds strength for the majority of the muscles from your legs up through your shoulders. This includes spine stabilization.

Exercise Instructions:

  • Start this exercise by lying on your left side with your legs straight and the right leg stacked on top of the left one.into a push-up position with your weight balanced on your bent elbow and forearm as pictured below.

  • Engage your abdominal muscles and lift your knees and hips off the mat with your head and spine creating a straight line extending down through your lower torso. 

  • Return to your starting position.
side plank exercise


  • To add a challenge you can increase the intensity of the side plank by raising the left leg off the lower leg.

More on the Side Plank

Russian Twist

While the seated Russian twist focuses mainly on your oblique muscles, other spine supporting muscles will be engaged. The Russian twist can also be done with weights or a medicine ball.

Exercise Instructions:

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Using your core muscles, lift into a sit-up position with your arms straight out in front of you and your palms together.
  • With your body at a 45 degree angle, engage your abs and rotate to the right as far as you can.
  • Pause for a count and reverse the movement to the left, going as far as possible. That's one rep.

russian twist position #1
russian twist position #2
russian twist exercise position #3Kyle Demonstrating the Russian Twist Exercise

Side Lunge

Side Lunges are a great compound exercise that work your entire core. You can add dumbbells to create a greater challenge. 

Exercise Instructions:

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms at your sides and palms facing in.
  • Standing straight with your feet shoulder width apart, step to the right and lower your body into a lunge while shifting the dumbbells to the right side of your body on either side of your right knee.
  • With your weight on the back of your right heel, return to the starting position and repeat the movement to your left side. That's one rep.

side lunge position #1
side lunge position #2

Reverse Crunches

The reverse crunch does a good job of targeting the lower part of your abdominal muscles. Typically this is where the fat tends to accumulate.

Exercise Instructions:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and palms facing down as pictured.
  • After tightening your abs, raise your hips off the floor and crunch them inward.
  • With your legs pointing up in the air, pause for a count and slowly bring your legs down to your starting position.
reverse crunch position #1
reverse crunch position #2Kyle Demonstrating the Reverse Crunch

Tips for Core Training Exercises

  • Start your core training exercises with a five minute warm-up like a slow jog or running on the elliptical trainer to warm up your core muscles and get the blood flowing.
  • Balance type exercises are important for good coordination. When you walk, run, or play just about any sport, you are on one leg many times. Exercises on an unstable surface like a bosu ball can help you with your balance and coordination.
  • While you don't need any special equipment in order to do a core workout, an exercise ball can create an extra challenge for many of the exercises.

Benefits of Core Training Exercises 

  • Full Body Workout. Although you can focus on certain areas, performing body weight exercises properly requires you to engage supporting muscles. In fact, almost all movements will use your core.

  • Convenient. Most core exercises can be done anytime or anywhere – inside or outside; hotel rooms or living rooms; during a regular workout or squeezed in between appointments. Since no equipment is required, a lot of instructors are running classes in public parks or on the beach.

  • Variety. Core training exercises have their roots in many different disciplines including yoga, pilates, plyometrics, and martial arts. With so many options to choose from, you will be able to stave off boredom and keep your body from getting too comfortable with a predictable program.

  • Toned Abs - The muffin top is something that drives us all crazy. By adding core exercises and strength training, you can tone and strengthen your abs, glutes, and lower back area. The stronger the core, the easier physical activities become.
  • Simplicity - Most core training exercises are fairly simple and not time-consuming. You don't need any exercise equipment to do many of them, and they can be done almost anywhere at any time. On top of that, the results can be fantastic. 

  • Better Balance - With a strong core you can keep all of your muscle groups working together. There have been times (especially as we are getting older) that one part of the body is making a move that the other parts aren't ready for. Many of these exercises can teach the different muscle areas to act together in harmony.

  • Fitness Goals - Whatever your fitness goals might be, developing a strong core will help you to reach them faster with less chance of injury. 

  • Other Activities - From playing tennis or golf, to lugging that huge bag of dog food out of your trunk, strong core muscles will make most of your daily physical activities easier.

Other pages that might interest you:

I will continue to share ideas about diet and exercise that have helped me along the way. If you have any questions I can help you with, or ideas you would like to share, feel free to contact me or visit our Q&A forum

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