Your core is an incredibly important part of your body. It keeps you stable, supports your spine, and helps you move throughout the day. Your core is more than just your abdominal muscles – it also includes our lower back, pelvic floor, hips, and your glutes. We need a strong core to maintain good posture and balance and to prevent back injuries and back pain. Fortunately, you can strengthen your core through exercise so you can continue living an active life without worrying about injuries or falling. Here are the ten best core exercises for wiser adults from the series “Back Health and Core Stability” with Clarice Cummins, P.T. in Wysefit App.
1. Bird Dog
Begin on your hands and knees on the floor. Make sure your arms are directly under your shoulders. Your knees should be a fist-width apart. Keep your core tight, by pulling your belly button in, but don’t tighten up your neck or shoulders. Begin by sliding your right arm forward as though you were going to shake someone’s hand – keep your thumb up. Bring your arm as high as you can comfortably go, but no higher than your ear. Bring your right arm back onto the floor and then lift the left arm up. Now, do the same motion with each leg. Keep your foot pointed straight and lift as high as you can without hurting your legs. Make sure you keep your hips square and don’t rotate your spine. As you become more advanced, you can lift one arm with the opposite leg at the same time! If you have any pain in your wrists or ankles, you can do this exercise by laying on an exercise ball to keep the pressure off of your joints.
The plank is a wonderful exercise that works your entire core plus your shoulders! You can begin by doing a knee plank and then work your way up to a full plank. Begin by laying on the floor with your elbows bent and forearms on the floor. Keep your elbows close to your chest and your thumbs pointing up as you lift your hips up. Now, keeping your knees on the ground, lift your heels up, so that your weight is on your forearms and knees. Make sure your body is in a straight line, with your hips up and spine straight. Hold this position for 60 seconds. Once you become stronger, you can do a full plank. Hold the same position in the upper body. However, when it is time to lift your body up, keep your legs straight and place your toes on the floor. If you can’t hold the plank for 60 seconds at a time, then do intervals instead. Hold the plank for 15 – 20 seconds at a time and do as many intervals as you need to reach 60 seconds of planking.
3. Side Plank
A side plank works your obliques, also known as your side abdominal muscles. Begin by laying on your right side. Bend your right arm and place your forearm on the ground. Bend your knees at 45 degrees with your heels facing your glutes. At first, you can use your fist to help lift your hips off the ground. As you become stronger, you should be able to lift your body up without your fist. Keep your body in a straight line and do not bend forward or backward. Place your left arm on your body and hold for 60 seconds. Repeat on your left side. As you become stronger, do not bend your knees, but keep your legs straight. When you lift your hips up, all the weight will be on your forearm and feet. Work your way up to holding 60 seconds at a time on both sides.
4. The Pallof Press
This the best-ever core exercise! It engages all of your core muscles and will make you strong quickly. Before you begin, securely tie an exercise band to a doorknob, stair railing, or other secure surface. If you do not have an elastic exercise band, you can even use a pair of stretchy tights!
Do not use something light, like a kitchen chair, because you will be pulling on the band! Once you have your band in place, face your band and then turn to the right, so the band is facing your left side. Now, kneel on your left leg and bend your right knee at a 90-degree angle, making sure your right knee does not go past your toes. Keep a straight back and stack your spine on your hips. Grasp the handle of your resistance band and bend your elbows until your hands are against the top of your abdomen. Slowly press your arms out until they are straight and then bring them back in. Do this for 60 seconds and then switch sides for another 60 seconds.
5. Bridge Lift
The bridge lift works your glutes and lower back. Begin by lying flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Slowly raise your hips until they are in a straight line with your knees and chest. Keep your core tight and do not arch your back. Slowly lower your hips back down after three seconds. Repeat for 60 seconds. If you’d like a challenge, then hold your hips high for 60 seconds at a time!
The variation shown here uses an elastic band. It is not required for the beginner version. And if you don’t have a band, you can always use stretchy tights tied up in a loop 🙂
This exercise focuses on strengthening your lower back. Lay on the floor face down, with your arms and legs extended. Take a deep breath, tighten your core, and raise your head, right arm, and left leg at the same time. Do not hyperextend your joints – you only need to raise your leg and arm about two inches off of the ground. Slowly lower yourself down and then do the same with the opposite limbs. You can do this for 60 seconds at a time. For more of a challenge, raise your head, arms, and legs all at the same time.
7. Leg Lifts
Lay flat on the floor with your legs extended. Slowly raise your right leg by contracting your abdominal muscles. You only need to raise it about 5 inches off the ground. Slowly lower your leg back down and then raise your left leg. Repeat 10 times on each leg. For more of a challenge, raise both legs at the same time. Just be sure you are engaging your core and keeping your back flat on the ground.
8. Clam Shells
To perform the clamshells exercise, lay on your right side with your legs on top of each other and your knees bent at a 45-degree angle. Bend your right arm so that you can rest your head on your right hand. Raise your right knee as high as you can without shifting the weight on your hips. Keep your left leg on the ground and make sure your feet are touching the entire time. If your heels cannot stay connected, then do not raise your knee as high. Practice this for 60 seconds on one side before switching sides. For added difficulty, you can place a resistance band above your knees and hold a lightweight in your top hand. Lift your top hand while you lift your top leg and lower them at the same time.
An elastic band and a dumbbell are helpful, but not required.
9. Seated Side Bends
Begin by sitting on a chair with no arms, like a kitchen chair, or a stability ball. Sit up tall and place your left hand behind your hand. Extend your right arm down towards the floor and lean over. Tighten your side abdominal muscles, the obliques, as you lean over and come back up. Keep your spine straight and do not lean forward. Do this10 times on the right side and repeat on the left side.
10. Wood Chop
This exercise works your abs and lower body and can also get your heart pumping! Begin with your feet hip-width apart. Clasp your hands together and lift them above the right side of your head. Bring your hands down diagonally to the left side of your body while squatting. Bring your hands back up to the right side of your head as you stand back up. Do at least 10 reps on one side before switching to the other side.
If you liked this article, we invite you to check out the Wysefit Back Health & Core Stability Series with Clarice Cummins, P.T. on Wysefit App!