No matter where you are in your fitness journey, chances are you wouldn’t mind a little more definition in your midsection. Whether you have a six-pack or a beer belly, those abs could probably be a little bit sharper. Not to mention, developing better core strength is crucial to improving your overall strength, athleticism, and protecting you from injuries. The good news? Your abs and core muscles can handle a lot of training with just a little space at home, and no equipment. In this article, we will discuss the 11 best core strengthening exercises that you can do from the comfort of your home.
Planks are the mother of all core-strengtheners. They not only work your abs and obliques but also challenge the core muscles deep inside your body. Planks can also reduce back pain and improve your balance and posture. Start by getting down into pushup position, with your feet behind you and your hands under your shoulders. Lock out your arms and legs, squeeze your core muscles, and hold your body stiff for as long as you can. To challenge yourself even more, try a forearm plank with your arms out in front of you, with your forearms on the ground for support and your elbows under your face instead of aligned with your shoulders.
2. Side Planks
To target your obliques even more, try this challenging variation. Start from the plank position and rotate onto one side. Prop yourself up on your elbow and one foot with your body straight and stiff. Remember to squeeze your core as you hold this position for as long as you can. Switch sides and repeat to avoid creating muscle imbalances.
3. Reverse Crunches
When it comes to abs and core strength, reverse crunches are a lot more challenging than regular stomach crunches. Lay on your back with your knees bent in a crunch position. Place your hands flat on the ground by your side and lift your pelvis, bringing your knees up towards your face, then back down again. Engage your lower ab muscles to do the work, not your back. Repeat for a few sets of 12-20 reps.
4. Flutter Kicks
Lower abs are a problem area for many people, and flutter kicks are an effective exercise to work them hard. Lay flat on your back in leg raise position, with your hands at your sides or pressed into the floor. Raise your legs together about 6 inches off the ground, then alternate lowering one and raising one a few inches in rapid succession. It should look like you’re kicking the air, and it should give you quite a burn in your abdominal area.
5. Arms High Sit-Ups
Arms high sit-ups are a lot harder than regular sit-ups. Lay down on the ground in sit-up position, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor in front of you. Raise your arms up to the sky and keep them elevated as you perform a few sets of sit-ups. Engaging your arms in this way makes the move extraordinarily difficult and taxing. You’ll get a lot more mileage out of this move compared to traditional crunches.
The L-Sit is an outrageously difficult exercise, but if you can build your strength here, the benefits are phenomenal. To perform an L-Sit, you’ll need a stable surface to press off of—like the floor or on a pair of dumbbells or two sturdy chairs. Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Lock your arms in place by your sides with palms on the ground or surface and press. Bring your legs into the air, perpendicular to your upper body, using the tension from your locked arms. Hold this position as long as possible for an intense strength-building workout.
7. Stomach Vacuums
The transverse abdominis is an overlooked muscle group in the core that plays a vital role in stabilizing your body, creating good posture, and holding your belly in tight to your spine. To strengthen this muscle group and get a flatter stomach, try stomach vacuums. Stand straight and tall, exhale all the air out of your body, and simultaneously pull your belly in tight. Imagine sucking your belly button back into your spine. You’ll feel your transverse abdominis engage. Hold as long as possible, rest, and then repeat.
8. Star Planks
Planks are so effective that you should utilize multiple variations of them in your routine. The star plank engages similar muscles to the traditional plank but is a lot harder to hold for an extended period. From the push-up or standard plank position, walk your feet out wide, and your hands follow suit. Your body should form an X-position. Elevate your core off the ground, squeeze tight, and hold for as long as possible.
9. Boat Pose
Yogis know a lot about core strength, and boat pose is an excellent exercise for building exceptional balance and core power. Start in sit-up position. Crunch yourself up toward your knees, then lift your feet off the floor until they’re about level with your face. Balance on your butt, squeeze your core, and hold this position as long as you can. Your body should form a V with the only point of contact being your butt on the ground. Holding boat pose should be extraordinarily challenging.
10. Mountain Climbers
Ab work alone won’t shred stomach fat. But when you combine abs and cardio, that’s when you’re onto something magical. Mountain climbers fit the bill if you’re looking to blast your core and work up a good sweat. Get down into plank position with your arms locked and your body tight. Drive one knee at a time off the floor, up towards your chest, and then back to its original position. Repeat in quick succession. It should look like you’re climbing a hill, and it should exhaust you in a matter of seconds!
11. Russian Twists
Finally, let’s give the obliques a little more love. To perform Russian twists, get down into sit-up position and perform a crunch towards your knees. From here, lean back so your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the floor, clasp your hands in front of you, and twist side to side in rapid succession. You’ll feel your obliques engage after just a few reps. For a more difficult variation, lift your feet off the floor similar to the boat pose while performing the move or use a heavy medicine ball for added resistance.
The biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to six-pack abs is a low body fat percentage, and you can achieve this by sticking to a smart diet and building full-body strength. However, if you want to improve your athleticism, overall strength, or even your longevity, you can afford to work your abs a bit more frequently— 3-4 times per week is perfect. If you hit them hard enough, you’ll probably see some great improvement in definition. Cranking out endless crunches is one way to go about core training, but there are so many better and more challenging moves you can try without ever having to leave your living room. Give them a shot!