2 Essential Core Exercises

The two best moves for core training

The best way to train your core

The foundation of your core training program should be isometric exercises and spinal stability exercises. First, let’s define these terms… 

Core – Any and all muscles that support your torso and spine, basically the muscles in below your ribs but above your pelvis. This includes the six-pack but also includes the many layers of muscles that wrap around your entire torso, like a corset. (Get it?! COREset 😉)
Spinal stability exercises –  Any exercise that has you “brace” your core in order to keep your spine straight while performing the reps will develop your spinal stability. Examples include bent-over dumbbell rows, standing tricep kickbacks, and sit-ups. 
Isometric – An exercise that works the muscle by holding still, rather than going for reps with a full range of motion. Planks are a perfect example of this. A plank is done by holding your core muscles tight for a specific amount of time. Bonus – A plank is also a spinal stability exercise! 

Stop relying on crunches if you want to shrink your waist!

Crunches are not the best way to tone your midsection. Contrary to popular belief, when you build the six-pack muscles (rectus abdominis) you are actually making the fat sitting on top of them protrude even more! Perhaps you’ve been doing 25, 50, even 100 crunches at a time and wondered why you aren’t seeing the results you want. Training just your ‘six-pack’ leaves many other core muscles weak and imbalanced. You must train all parts of your core for a strong, toned midsection.


It's a mistake to overwork your six-pack muscles and leave the rest of your core out of your workout. You risk developing neck aches, low back strain, and exacerbate a rounded or hunched spine posture.

Two essential moves for core

Disclaimer: Those in a rehab or therapy program, those with a history of surgery or injury, or those who are unsure of their posture and form should always consult a professional to work with them individually before starting a new exercise routine. Advice on this website, while created by a qualified fitness professional, should not be misconstrued as individual coaching.


1. Start in the proper position (see video for more details) with your legs together, core tight, and hands right under the shoulders, or slightly wider. 
2. Hold this position for the desired amount of time. 
What to watch for: Do not let your hips/but lift up. Keeping your glutes slightly squeezed will keep your lower back and pelvis in safe alignment. Do not let your lower back sag – keep your abdominals/belly button pulled into your spine.
Start with 2-4 planks per workout and holding them for :30 each. I like to keep planks toward the end of the workout when I know they will be more challenging. Each week, add :5-:10 to your planks until you are able to do four one-minute planks. At that point, you can move onto more challenging variations.  
There are countless variations and modifications for planks. I suggest mastering the standard plank before adding variety to your plank routine. You can do them on your elbows, you can do them while moving your feet in and out, tapping your chest with alternating arms, twisting your hips from side to side. My favorite variation is side planks from your elbows! 


(Instructions start at 0:43 in the video if you want to skip ahead) 
1. Lay down on your back with your legs straight and slightly apart and your elbows reaching the ceiling with your fingertips by your ears. 
2. “Throw” your arms up and forward to initiate the movement. As soon as you can contract your core, brace your spine, and move through the hips in order to keep your spine as straight as possible. 
3. At the top of the movement reach forward with your chest and pelvis and look slightly upward. Do not fold/bend your torso over your legs or let your lower back round. 
4. Lean backward, keep your spine as straight as possible, and quickly return to the floor with control.
What to watch for: Don’t get into the habit of grabbing your legs to help you finish the sit up. Do not put your feet under a couch or other object to hold them in place. Its OK for your feet to move a little while doing a sit up. If your feet are held down by something, you’ll end up compensating but using your hips and legs and not your deep core muscles to complete the move. It IS ok to really throw or swing your arms to get the initial movement started, especially if you are new to doing sit-ups. 
Start with 2-4 sets of sit-ups in your workout. Start with 5-10 reps at once and see how that feels. Complete as many reps as you can with good form. Doing more reps but letting them get sloppy isn’t better and can lead to bad habits and potential injury. Eventually, you may progress to 15, 20, or even 25 reps in a set. 
Sit-ups are a more challenging move that requires awareness and control of many muscles at once. If sit-ups don’t feel right to you, you can build up your overall core strength by committing to a well rounded total body workout plan that focuses on form and posture. Once you are stronger overall, consider adding direct core training back into your fitness routine. 

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