Why Should You Train Your Core

Core exercises improve balance and stability across many different exercises as well strengthen the muscles in your upper body reducing your risk of injury when training.

It also improves flexibility and mobility giving you better functional strength in day to day activities. Another benefit to training your core is that core exercises can improve your posture leading to better breathing, digestion, and spinal health.

When training your core, it’s important to focus on a well-rounded approach, targeting all core muscles.

What Muscles Make Up Your Core

When you hear “core” you can think of these muscles

  • Rectus Abdominis (Think of the muscles that make up visible front abs.)
  • Obliques (These are located on each side of your waist moving upward long the side of your abs)
  • Transverse Abdominis (This is a deep muscle that wraps around your torso and controls compression)
  • Erector Spinae (This muscle runs along your spine and is key to a having good posture)

There are a few other muscles that make up your core which are deeper and provide support to the above muscles or play a role in stability, contraction, or supports other body systems like your digestion and respiratory system.

Level 1: Seated Leg Lifts

Start by sitting in a chair and lean backward while gripping the sides of your chair. Lift your legs up off the chair. You can increase the difficulty of this exercise by straightening your legs in front of you. If you find this core exercise too difficult lift your legs one at a time.

Typical Routine: 3 sets of 10 repetitions

Level 2: Scissor kicks

Laying on your back place the palms of your hands on the floor under your butt. Raise your head off the floor by lifting by looking forward towards your feet. Straighten your legs and lift them both off the ground swinging them up and down, one after the other. The motion will look like scissors opening and closing when viewed from the side.

Typical Routine: 3 sets of 20 repetitions

Level 3: Plank

Lay on your stomach bringing your legs together and point your toes to the ground. With your arms shoulder width apart bend them and lean forward so your forearms are against the ground picking up your torso in the process. Maintain a straight back and do not arch your back or lift your shoulders. Hold this position with good form for as long as you can,

Typical Routine: 3 sets of 30 seconds

Level 4: Superman & Banana Boats

Start by laying on your back. Raise your arms straight above your head and bring your feet together pointed straight ahead of you. The banana boat part of this exercise requires you to engage your core and life your legs, arms, and head off the ground and holding the position for as long as you can. Once you can no longer hold this position roll over to your stomach and do the opposite motion lifting your arms, head, and legs upward away from the ground as you press your stomach into it.

Typical Routine: 3 sets of 15 seconds each

Level 5: Mountain Climbers

From a standing position, lean forward reach for the ground in front of you until you are able to touch the floor. Next walk your arms out until you are in a straight arm plank position. To perform mountain climbers pull your legs inward towards your chest while keeping your hips pointed straight at the ground. Be sure to perform each rep slowly to maximize the effectiveness of this exercise.

Typical Routine: 3 sets of 12 repetitions

Level 6: Russian Twists

From an upright seated position extend your legs in front of you while maintaining a slight bend in your knees. Lean backward slightly and begin to rotate your from your core side to side. You can also keep your arms together if you are having trouble rotating. Be sure to rotate from your core instead of turning your shoulders. This will give you a greater range of motion and better target your obliques. If this feels too easy try holding onto a medicine ball or something heavy.

Typical Routine: 3 sets of 10 seconds

Level 7: Hanging Knees to Chest

Start from a deadhang position and lift your knees together to your chest. Pause at the top of the motion and slowly lower your legs back into the starting position. You can make this easier by using a supinated pull up grip (chin up grip). You can also increase the difficulty of this exercise by straightening your legs.

Typical Routine: 3 sets of 10 repetitions

Level 8: Hanging Knees Raise

Start from a deadhang position and lift your legs towards your chest until you get into the position that looks like your sitting on a low chair. Keeping your knees together hold your knees in this position for as long as you can. You can increase the difficulty of this core exercise by extending your legs forward until you reach a full L-sit.

Typical Routine: 3 sets of 15 seconds

Many intermediate and advanced calisthenic skills require a strong core. Try pushing yourself and testing your core strength by learning these isometric exercises.