Best Core Exercises: The Top 20 List

Top 20 Core Exercises

 

Best Core Exercises: Strength, Muscle Tone, and Support

When it comes to developing your core, it isn’t all about having a six-pack and washboard abs. Yes, it is great to have your midsection looking its best, but it is also critical to ensure that your core is strong to help protect your lower back and overall body. This list of the best core exercises will make sure to not only have you looking toned and ready for the beach but also better protected as you perform your everyday physical activities.

Some of these ab exercises will require exercise equipment, but many of them are bodyweight exercises that can be done pretty much anywhere you have a flat surface. This means that you can stay committed to these different core exercises whether you have time to get to the gym or not. With 15 minutes of free time in your day or even while watching your favorite TV show, you can make sure to develop and strengthen your core.

And, you don’t have to be an expert to get started either. Some of these exercises will be more advanced, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work your way up to them. Start with the easier core exercises on this list, and then work your way up. Before you know it, you will have mastered the majority of them.

After finishing this list of the best core exercises, make sure to visit our lists of the best push-up variations and the best stretches for even more health and fitness know-how. And, if you want to look your best while exercising, make sure to visit our list of the best activewear brands.

 

 

Top 20 Core Exercises:

 

 

 

Half-Kneeling Wood Chop Exercise

Primary Muscles Worked: Abdominals and Obliques

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate

About Exercise: This is an excellent functional-core strengthening exercise. It will work on your abdominal and oblique muscles as most of these exercises do, but the movements it uses are perfect for athletes or those looking to work on making explosive movements. This exercise will require a medicine ball, but it can also be substituted for a dumbbell or something else that is small and weighted. The goal of the exercise is to keep your core tight as you rotate up and down in a woodchopper motion. To make this core exercise easier or more difficult, change up the weight of the medicine ball and the number of repetitions.

 

 

 

 

Plank Exercise

Primary Muscles Worked: Entire Core

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate

About Exercise: The plank exercise is one of the best core exercises out there, and you may have seen it on another fitness website already as it is one of the most commonly used. There are several different variations to this exercise, but one of the best is the traditional plank exercise. A couple of keys to focus on as you go through this exercise are keeping your core tight the whole time, controlling your breathing, and keeping your body in as straight of a line as possible. Also, to make this exercise a little easier, you can execute it from your knees. And, of course, you can always increase and decrease how long you hold the plank pose for each time.

 

 

 

 

High Boat to Low Boat Exercise

Primary Muscles Worked: Abdominals

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

About Exercise: A little bit more of an advanced ab exercise, the high boat to low boat exercise will require you to have a strong midsection to start. By keeping your legs up off the ground the whole time, your ab muscles will be forced to stay engaged. This is an excellent ab exercise for men and women and will help develop a strong and toned midsection. As you go through the exercise, make sure to have nice, steady motions and to control your breathing. You don’t want to be jerky or realize you are holding your breath the whole time.

 

 

 

 

Crunch Exercise

Primary Muscles Worked: Abdominals

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate

About Exercise: If you have done bodyweight exercises before, you have most likely done this exercise. It isn’t super advanced, but it can be very effective as an ab exercise. It works so well because it allows you to isolate your abdominal muscles with every repetition. As you go through this core exercise, you want to make sure that you use fluid and controlled movements. Don’t try and jerk yourself up off the ground each time. Instead, use your core to smoothly lower and raise yourself. To add a little bit of difficulty to this exercise, try holding a medicine ball or a weighted plate across your chest.

 

 

 

 

TRX Body Saw Exercise

Primary Muscles Worked: Entire Core

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

About Exercise: When it comes to TRX exercises that work on core, this is one of the best ones out there. This is an advanced version of the plank exercise listed above, but with some slight movement. The TRX straps will really challenge your core and help you develop a strong midsection. As mentioned before, this is not only going to help you look your best, but core exercises like this one will help to strengthen and protect your lower back and midsection from muscle strains and more.

 

 

 

 

Ab Wheel Rollout Exercise

Primary Muscles Worked: Entire Core

Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Advanced

About Exercise: When it comes to strengthening your whole core, this is one of the best core exercises to use. As you roll out, you must keep your midsection straight and in a line. This means that your core will be tight and contracted the whole time. The farther you roll out away from your body, the harder this exercise becomes. This can also be done as a Swiss ball exercise if you do not have an ab roller wheel. Just use the Swiss ball to roll out and back in with instead of the ab roller wheel. And to make the exercise even more complicated, instead of placing your weight on your knees, you can raise up and keep your weight on your toes (remaining on your toes is a really advanced ab exercise).

 

 

 

 

Side Plank Exercise

Primary Muscles Worked: Obliques

Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Advanced

About Exercise: Whereas the traditional plank exercise will primarily focus on the abs and lower back area of your core, this side plank exercise will isolate your oblique muscles to strengthen them. Another big difference is that you will be supporting all of your weight with only one forearm instead of two. As with the straightforward plank exercise, the side plank exercise depends a lot on having good form. So as you go through this exercise, focus on having a strong core, keeping your body in a straight line, and controlling your breathing.
 

 

 

Mountain Climbers Exercise

Primary Muscles Worked: Abdominals

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate

About Exercise: While most of these core exercises will focus on slow and controlled movements, this ab exercise will challenge you to get out of your comfort zone with quick movements. You still want to make sure that you are in control of your body movements, but this exercise will challenge you to be as quick as possible. You will start in a pushup position and then alternate, bringing your knees to your chest and back down. This movement will help develop your abs and overall core.

 

 

 

 

Leg Raises Exercise

Primary Muscles Worked: Abdominals

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

About Exercise: This is another excellent core exercise that highlights and focuses specifically on your abs. By keeping your legs straight and slightly off the ground, you will force your abdominal muscles to do all of the work. The great thing about this exercise is that you can easily adjust the amount of time that you hold your legs up for at a time. So if you are just starting out, begin with a shorter time and then work your way up. If you are an expert, challenge yourself to hold yourself up for a few minutes (just make sure you are keeping proper form the whole time).

 

 

 

 

Cable Oblique Twists Exercise

Primary Muscles Worked: Obliques

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate

About Exercise: Cable exercises are great for several reasons. One of the main reasons is that they can be used to isolate specific muscle groups. This cable exercise will highlight the oblique muscles and will put all of the strain and effort on your core. Also, with the ability to easily adjust the weight, you will be able to find the perfect amount of weight each set to challenge yourself while also maintaining excellent form. You can also slide the handle up or down on the cable machine to adjust the angle that your obliques and core are being worked.

 

 

 

 

Alternating Single-Leg Jackknife Exercise

Primary Muscles Worked: Abdominals and Core

Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Advanced

About Exercise: This is a more advanced ab exercise, but it can really help to strengthen your core. It is vital, though, that you are not jerking yourself up each time. As you go through this exercise, you want to make sure that you are using smooth and controlled movements and are allowing your core to lift and lower yourself back down each time. The more you can control your movements, the more you will get out of this ab and core exercise.

 

 

 

 

Plank Shoulder Taps Exercise

Primary Muscles Worked: Entire Core

Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Advanced

About Exercise: If traditional planks are not enough for you, or maybe you are just looking to mix it up and challenge yourself, consider this core exercise. The plank shoulder taps exercise will develop your core similar to the traditional planks exercise, but by alternating your hands, it will put even more strain on your core muscles. They will have to not only support your body weight but must also balance it as well. To really challenge yourself, try adding in a pushup between each shoulder tap!

 

 

 

 

Side Bend Planks Exercise

Primary Muscles Worked: Obliques

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate

About Exercise: A variation of the side plank exercise, the side bends plank exercise, will have you bring your hips up and down in a controlled motion to really challenge your obliques. When making this motion, though, you need to make sure that it is controlled. You want to be able to slowly raise and lower your hips each time using your obliques to do the work for you. The more you can focus on form and technique, the more you will get out of this core exercise.

 

 

 

 

Hip Dip Planks Exercise

Primary Muscles Worked: Entire Core

Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Advanced

About Exercise: Once you have mastered the traditional plank exercise, give this hip dips planks exercise a go. It will start with the same plank body positioning, but instead of holding still the entire time, you will dip your hips back and forth. This motion will challenge your core and also help to tone it better as well. When doing this exercise, really make sure to focus on proper form. Because the better your form is for core exercises like this one, the more you will get out of it.

 

 

 

 

Cable Crunch Exercise

Primary Muscles Worked: Abdominals

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate

About Exercise: This exercise will take the traditional ab crunch to a whole new level. The cable crunch exercise will really help to isolate your abdominal muscles and strengthen them. Rather than using your body weight as you would with a standard crunch, this exercise will use the weight of a cable machine. By setting the weight that you want, you will be able to challenge yourself accordingly and really see an increase in core strength. When doing this ab exercise, make sure to lock in on your form. As a side note, it is better to do less weight with good form than a higher weight with poor form.

 

 

 

 

Bridge Exercise

Primary Muscles Worked: Glutes and Lower Back

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate

About Exercise: This is one of the best core exercises out there to isolate your glutes and lower back. It isn’t extremely challenging, but it will provide a lot of value because it isolates these muscle groups so well. A couple of keys to focus on when doing this exercise are – keeping your core tight the whole time, squeezing your glutes together at the top, controlling your breathing, and moving up and down in a controlled manner. To make this exercise more challenging, you can complete it with one leg down and one leg sticking straight out. Also, you can increase or decrease the difficulty by how long you hold the pose at the top.

 

 

 

 

Medicine Ball Slams Exercise

Primary Muscles Worked: Abdominals

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate

About Exercise: When it comes to developing functional and explosive strength in your core, it doesn’t get much better than this. Medicine ball slams will allow you to be as explosive as you can on each repetition. You want to keep your core tight each time, but as you go through the exercise, you are looking to slam the medicine ball into the ground as hard as possible. So whether you are an athlete training for a sport, want to develop more functional strength, or are looking to let off a little steam, this is one of the best core exercises to use.

 

 

 

 

Bird Dog Exercise

Primary Muscles Worked: Lower Back

Difficulty Level: Beginner

About Exercise: Also an excellent yoga pose, this exercise will focus on the lower back muscles. Many of these core exercises also incorporate the lower back muscles, but this exercise will specifically help to isolate and strengthen your lower back. This is not a complicated exercise, but it really focuses on having proper form and technique. So as you go through this exercise, make sure to lock in on your form, make smooth, controlled movements, and focus on steady breathing.

 

 

 

 

Side Plank Rotation Exercise

Primary Muscles Worked: Obliques and Abdominals

Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Advanced

About Exercise: This exercise is another excellent side plank variation. It will start in the traditional side plank position, but it will also call for rotating and reaching down with your top hand. This motion will make balancing even more difficult, but it will also ad a rotating aspect to the exercise, better working your abdominal muscles. So if you have already mastered the traditional side plank exercise or are just looking to mix things up, this core exercise is an excellent way to do that.

 

 

 

 

Standing Cable Oblique Crunches

Primary Muscles Worked: Obliques

Difficulty Level: Beginner to Intermediate

About Exercise: This exercise will require gym equipment, but it is a great core exercise for isolating and strengthening your oblique muscles. The cable will also allow you to choose the right amount of weight each time so that you can focus on having the perfect form for each repetition. Because as with all of the core exercises on this list, the better your form is, the more you will get out of it.

 

 

Best Core Exercises Conclusion

Having the right know-how can make all the difference, which this list of the best core exercises was designed to do. With these twenty different ab exercises, you will know precisely how to develop and strengthen your midsection. Before you know it, you will be one step closer to accomplishing your fitness goals, and people will be asking you how to get their core looking like yours!

Whether you are looking to lose weight, protect and strengthen your lower back, prepare for a sport, etc., all it takes is a steady commitment to spending time using these different exercises. It doesn’t have to be for hours and hours each day either. Put on some of your favorite music, and knock out 20 minutes of core exercises.

If you are looking to spend some time focusing on the nutrition side of your fitness, make sure to visit our lists of the best smoothie recipes, best salad recipes, and best snack ideas. These lists will make sure that you are fueling your body with the right things and will help slim and tone your midsection even more.

Have you tried any of these core exercises? We would love to hear your feedback in the comments below. Also, if you have any questions about the exercises, our team of experts will help answer those.

 

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