Fitness

5 Exercises to Build Core Strength

5 Exercises to Build Core Strength

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A strong core improves posture, reduces back pain

Good old-fashioned sit-ups may not cut it when it comes to core strength.

Scott Mezzano, an exercise physiologist at Northwestern Medicine Executive Health and Northwestern Medical Group, shares how advances in exercise science have led to an updated set of exercises to build stronger abdominal muscles, which can help improve your posture, reduce low back pain and place less stress on your spine.

Your core — located between your shoulders and hips — consists of many parts and layers, including muscles that surround and protect your spine to support you during activities of daily living and exercise.

To help strengthen your midsection, try these 5 exercises, which are demonstrated by Kara Flexman, an exercise physiologist at Northwestern Medicine Executive Health and Northwestern Medical Group.

When performing these exercises, engage your core by drawing your belly button toward your spine.

Always speak with your physician before beginning a new exercise routine.

5 Exercises to Build Core Strength

1. Curl Up

This is the updated version of the traditional sit-up.

  1. Begin laying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands under your low back.
  2. Contract your abdominals by pulling your belly button toward your spine, and lift your head and upper back off the floor without allowing your neck or chin to move forward.
  3. Slowly lower to the floor with each repetition.

Complete two sets of 15 controlled repetitions.

5 Exercises to Build Core Strength

2. Bridge

Strengthen your muscles around your hips and increase stability in your pelvis.

  1. Begin laying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Contract your abdominals by pulling your belly button toward your spine.
  3. Use your glute muscles to push your hips toward the ceiling.
  4. Hold the top of the movement for one to two seconds to feel the activation of your glutes and abdominals.

Complete two sets of 15 controlled repetitions.

5 Exercises to Build Core Strength

3. Opposite Arm and Leg Balance

Strengthen and stabilize your core muscles while minimizing strain on your spine.

  1. Begin in a tabletop position with your hands and knees on the floor. Your hands should be aligned under your shoulders and your knees should be aligned under your hips. Maintain a neutral spine.
  2. Reach your right arm forward and extend your left leg behind you so that your back leg is parallel to the floor. Your hips and shoulders should face the floor throughout the movement.

Complete two sets of 10 controlled repetitions on each side.

5 Exercises to Build Core Strength

4. Side Plank

Target your lateral core and build stability in your internal and external obliques.

  1. Lay on your right side and place your right elbow under your right shoulder. Stack your left leg on top of your right leg.
  2. Pushing your right elbow into the floor, pull your hips toward the ceiling to create a straight line from the top of your head to your feet.
  3. Focus on bringing your belly button toward your spine and keeping your hips off the floor.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds.

Complete two sets on each side.

5 Exercises to Build Core Strength

5. Forearm Plank

Strengthen your abdominals, upper body and the muscles that support your hips.

  1. Begin with your elbows bent and place them directly under your shoulders. Maintain a neutral spine.
  2. Don’t allow your low back to arch or your hips to sink toward the floor. Activate your abdominals and glute muscles throughout the set.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds.

Complete two sets.

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