Dreaming of your ideal body, just in time for summer rolling around? We have just the thing! All you need to create a killer ab workout at home is to incorporate core exercises that target all major muscle groups in your belly - the abdominals and obliques. You don’t need the gym to sculpt your mid-drift - all you need is a little motivation, a banging playlist and our guide to the best core exercises and you’re ready to feel the burn!
What Are the Main Core Muscles?
Did you know? Your core is made up of several different muscles that all work together to create an essential part of the body - one that deserves some attention if you want those wash-board abs! We’ve listed all the muscles and a little bit about them to keep you informed when planning out your core work-out routine.
- The Rectus Abdominis - This is what is generally considered your six-pack abs, as they sit at the front of your core
- The Internal and External Obliques - These muscles are located on your sides
- The Transversus Abdominis - This muscle is the deepest abdominal muscle and wraps around your midsection horizontally
- The Erector Spinae - These are rope-like muscles near your spine
- The Multifidus - This muscle is very deep and runs alongside your spine
- The Quadratus Lumborum - Like the above, this muscle is located in the lower back and is deep, just above your hips
- The Diaphragm - Considered the breathing muscle, this sits at the top of your core
- The Pelvic Floor Muscles - These muscles make up the floor of your core
Why is it Essential to Strengthen Your Core?
If one of your goals is better balance and stability, it’s essential that you work on your core to create harmony between the various muscles. Not only is a strong core essential for ease in everyday life, but it can also help prevent various injuries. Sure having that coveted six-pack would be a wonderful bonus to most but with a strong enough core, you can help guard against injuries such as sports injuries, posture pain and even accidents.
When your core muscles are weak, your spine is less supported and your posture is prone to slumping which can put a strain on your spine and cause pain. Exercises such as planks, leg raises and mountain climbers can help strengthen the muscles, reducing posture pains.
Whether you’re looking for home core exercises for beginners or an advanced core circuit, all you need is variation, targeting all core areas and trust us, you’ll feel your abs crying for mercy.
Take a look at our Core Exercises for Beginners Circuit below. Give it a go and let us know how you get on!
For complete beginners to core exercise, focus on your form to begin with rather than getting in the reps. Without correct form the chances are you won't be targeting the right areas. Once you've mastered the technique you can try progressing each exercise by adding weight or intensity. We’ve got a number of fantastic core classes you can attend to get you started and in the mood to achieve those goals!
Our Top 12 Exercises to Strengthen Your Core
Lie back on your floor, carpet or mat with your hands behind your head. Lift your shoulders off the mat, elevate your legs off the ground, bend your knees at a 90 degree angle and look at your thighs. Remember to keep that neck relaxed!
Once you’re in the starting position, it’s time to crunch. Rotate your right elbow towards your left knee whilst extending the right left to straight, lowering it as close to the floor as possible without touching the mat. Return to the start and repeat on the other side. That’s 1 rep, make sure you x20.
This form works on both abs and obliques. It also helps in toning the thighs and side abdominal muscles.
Place your palms flat on the floor, hands should be shoulder width apart and directly above your wrists. Keep your legs extended straight behind you with your feet hip width apart. Tuck your tummy in and engage that core, butt and quads. Hold for 30 seconds.
The plank works the following muscles; transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, internal oblique, external oblique muscles.
Side Hip Dip
Begin by choosing a side, we pick right, lie down with your left foot on top of your right, and firmly press your right forearm on the mat with your elbow under your shoulder. Your palm should be flat on the ground with your left hand on your hip.
Engage your obliques (side abs) and lift your hips up until the body forms a straight line from your head to your toes. Pause for one pulse, then lower back down to your starting position. 1 rep done, x10. Then flip onto your other side and repeat the same cycle.
These movements target your outer thighs, hips, and side buttocks.
Begin by lying on your back with your hands by your sides and legs elevated off the ground at around a 45 degree angle - keep your toes pointed. Push down into your arms and pull your knees into your chest until the hips are off the ground, keeping the core tight. Slowly untuck into your starting position. Repeat x20.
This exercise increases the strength in your low abdominal area, helping focus on this one area.
Plank With Spinal Rotation
Start in a high plank position with your palms flat on the floor, hands shoulder width apart, shoulders directly above your wrists and your legs extended straight behind you, with your core tucked in and the glutes engaged. Remember to keep your feet hip width apart for good balance. Then, rotate your full body to the right into a side plank, so that your right shoulder is stacked above your right wrist and your left hand is extended towards the ceiling. Hold this position for a couple of breaths, then return to your starting position. Repeat this movement on the other side and that’s 1 rep. Repeat x10.
This exercise helps engage your shoulder muscles, lat muscles, glutes, and abs, in addition to your obliques.
Start in a high plank position, palms flat on the floor, hands shoulder width apart, shoulders above your wrists, legs extended and core engaged. That’s you just starting! Whilst keeping your core tight, draw your right knee towards your chest, return to the starting position and then immediately copy that movement with your left knee. That’s 1 rep, we say x30.
It’s up to you if you want to keep this movement slow but if you want a little cardio, move your legs quicker as you alternate side to side. Don’t forget to keep your core engaged and your back flat throughout.
Seated Row / Russian Twists
Sit on the floor, lean your upper body back until you feel your abs engaging. Lift your legs together and bend to a 90 degree angle, bend your arms and clasp your hands together with your elbows out wide.
Then, rotate your torso to the right side so your right elbow is hovering off the mat. Keep your lower body still and tense whilst rotating your upper body to the left side until the left elbow is just off the mat. That’s 1 rep, x20. As you rotate, remember to follow your hands with your eyes.
The Seated Row/Russian Twist targets the muscles in your upper back and also the latissimus dorsi - the muscles that lines the chest.
Start in a high plank position, palms flat on the floor, hands shoulder width apart, shoulders above your wrists, legs extended straight and core engaged. Tap your right hand to your left shoulder whilst keeping your core very still and engaged. There should also be little hip movement, swaying will not help you get those 6 packs! Then repeat with your left hand to the right shoulder = 1 rep. Repeat 10 times.
And that’s you completed our killer home ab workout unless you want to make it extra hard and repeat the circuit 2 - 3 times, but we’ll leave that up to you. Remember, you can do core exercises wherever you want, at a time that suits you.
The plank shoulder taps trains and strengthens your core, glutes, arms, wrists, and shoulders.
Bird Dog Crunch
Begin by kneeling on all fours before raising your right arm out and, at the same time, straighten your left leg out. Once you’re in position, hold for as long as you can, then reset slowly. Same again on the opposite side.
This crunch is great for targeting your lower back and improves balance and stability.
Begin by lying on the floor on your back, with your hands and feet flat to the ground. Next, lift your hips off the ground and squeeze those glutes.
For those looking to trim up their glutes, this exercise is a great option.
Begin by lying down on your back with your knees bent, then lift both knees up at a 90 degree angle. Next raise your arms so they are both pointing towards the ceiling. Then extend your right leg forwards whilst simultaneously raising your left arm overhead in a controlled manner. Return your arm and leg to the starting position, then switch to repeat the movement on the opposite side.
This exercise targets the rectus abdominis, internal obliques, external obliques and more core muscles, so it’s a fantastic one to add to your routine!
Core Workout Routine For Beginners
To help you get started and achieve your goals for your dream abs, we’ve put together some basic workout routines using the core exercises above.
Aim to do a core workout two to three times a week, depending on how your body handles it, and any other factors such as time, fitness level or injury. For those just starting out, basic routines should be your go to until you can do them with ease. After that point, you’re ready to move onto more intense core workout routines.
Everyone's got to start somewhere, so if you’re just getting started on your core exercise journey, follow our basic routine below to get your body used to training and toning those all-important-muscles.
- The Plank - Remember to take deep breaths and don’t strain yourself when doing this exercise! If you feel any strain, or pain, rest and try again with a more relaxed posture. You should aim to keep the correct position for as long as you can without dropping or losing the pose.
- Dead Bug - Try between 6-10 reps to really get your core engaged and have you feeling the burn! This exercise might need a little bit of practice, as it requires some coordination, but once you’ve got it nailed, your abs will thank you.
- Reverse Crunch - For this once, try doing 3 sets of 8-12 reps and, remember, you can place your hands on either side of you for more stability if you’re struggling to keep form.
- Glute Bridge - Aim for 3 sets of 12-15 reps for improved glutes and avoid arching your back for best results.
And there you have it! With our beginners core workout routine, you’re well on your way to defined abs, better strength and overall improved fitness level. Incorporate your core workout before any weight training or cardio to get your heart rate up and you in the mood for a fantastic session. You got this!