The four best core exercises for beginners involve choosing the right group to suit your needs. What comes to mind when you think of your core? If you’re thinking about your abs, you may want to discover more about core workouts before you dive into the strengthening exercises.
The four best core exercises for beginners focus on more than just your abs. You can sculpt beautiful abs with a good core workout, but you’ll need to do more to achieve a six-pack. Let’s show you which core exercises work and what they can do for you.
What Are the Key Core Exercises?
The four best core exercises for beginners only make up a small part of the top workouts. Here’s a quick overview of some key core exercises:
- Men: plank, side plank, reverse crunches, and Superman (2)
- Women: quadruped, modified bicycle crunches, pelvic lifts, and spider plank (11)
- Over 50s: partial crunches, bird dog, wall sits, and supine twists (5, 7)
- Over 60s: glute bridges, opposite arm, leg raises, modified plank, and dead bugs (10, 8)
How Can I Strengthen My Core as a Beginner?
Before we get to the four best core exercises for beginners, let’s take a look at a little information about the core and some of the misconceptions about core exercises.
Core Muscles Explained
Your core muscles aren’t just your abs. First Line Physio states that the major core muscles responsible for nearly every trunk movement in your body (12) are as follows:
- The transversus abdominus helps protect your spine
- The internal obliques on your sides contribute to spinal stability, flexion, and rotation
- The multifidus on the pelvic floor and in your lower back contributes to spinal stability
- The rectus abdominus (six-pack) between the ribs and pelvis helps you bend
- The external obliques on your sides stabilize the spine and help you bend and flex
- The erector spinae runs along your entire back and helps you bend and twist
- The quadratus lumborum in the abdominal wall supports, extends, and rotates the spine
- The hip flexors include the psoas, rectus femoris, pectineus, and sartorius. Surround muscles, including glutes, hamstrings, and quads, are also important for overall strength.
Core Training vs. Flat Bellies
Core training won’t give you a six-pack or swimsuit belly. WebMD says that you can exercise all you want, but you won’t sculpt the perfect stomach or abs (1). You must make dietary changes in order to burn belly fat, including eating lean protein and vegetables and reducing your junk food consumption.
Does Walking Strengthen Your Core?
Harvard suggests walking can strengthen core muscles, but adding weight can work better (6). The walk-and-carry exercise is when you hold dumbbells, kettlebells, or any weight in your hands while you walk. This teaches you to brace your core while walking.
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Best Core Exercises for Beginners at Home
Core strengthening exercises for beginners at home include four categories that suit men, women, and mature individuals. Everyone’s needs differ, so the top exercises for each group will also differ. You’ll find 12 core exercises in this article, but you should only stick to those that suit your needs.
Best Core Exercises for Beginners (Male)
WebMD suggests that the best core exercises for men involve training the transversus abdominus, obliques, rectus abdominus, multifidus, and erector spinae (2). They can improve core stability while also strengthening your body for other workouts. Complete two sets of 10-12 reps each.
Planking is the best core workout for the transversus abdominus (2).
- Lie face down and then raise yourself on your forearms
- Support your body with your feet while keeping your spine straight
- Hold a straight line for 15 seconds
- Inhale and exhale deeply to contract the core during the hold
Side Plank Variation
The side plank variation works your obliques (2).
- Lie on your right side with your legs straight
- Lift your body and rest on your right hand
- Raise your free hand to the ceiling and hold it for 15 seconds
- Repeat on the other side
Crunches work the rectus abdominus, but this is a variation (2).
- Lie flat with your knees bent and hands resting by your sides
- Roll your hips upward as you bring your knees over your chest
- Keep your heels against your buttocks until you slowly release
Superman is the ideal core workout for men to train their erector spinae and multifidus (2).
- Lie on your belly with your legs and arms stretched out
- Lift your arms and legs as far as possible
- Hold for 10 seconds and then release
Best Core Exercises for Beginners (Female)
WebMD recommends core exercises that improve posture and stabilize your body’s daily movement (11). You’ll complete two sets of 10-12 reps each.
The quadruped helps to stabilize your core while improving your balance, coordination, and strength (11).
- Assume a kneeling position on the floor
- Raise one arm straight in front of you and hold for 30 seconds
- Repeat the hold with the other arm
- Hold one leg straight out behind you for 30 seconds
- Repeat on the other side
Modified Bicycle Crunches
Crunches can help strengthen your core without straining your neck (11).
- Sit in a chair with your hands behind your head
- Gently twist your torso as you bring your left knee to your right elbow
- Repeat on the other side
Pelvic lifts are ideal for helping strengthen lower core muscles (11).
- Lie on your back with your arms spread slightly outward beside you
- Squeeze your core muscles tight as you raise your hips off the floor
- Stop and hold when your thighs and back make a straight line
Any plank variation can help improve strength and endurance in your core (11).
- Assume a push-up position before moving into a plank
- Your body must be straight with your elbows under your shoulders
- Raise your left leg and swing it toward your right arm
- Return your leg to its original position and repeat on the other side
Core Strengthening Exercises for Beginners with Back Pain and Over 50s
Core exercises for beginners over 50 are also suitable for those with back pain. WebMD suggests a few exercises that may help ease lower back pain (5). Perform two sets of 10-12 reps for each exercise.
Partial crunches can help strengthen your core and back without placing additional stress on your lower back (5).
- Lie with feet flat and knees bent
- Place your hands behind your neck
- Tighten your core as you breathe out and raise your shoulders
- Lead with your shoulders, not your elbows, and repeat
Bird dogs can help strengthen the stabilizing muscles in your back and your core muscles. Perform this movement with control and only raise your limbs to safe heights (5).
- Kneel and tighten your core
- Lift one leg behind you, keeping your hips level
- Hold for five seconds and repeat on the other side
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Wall sits can help strengthen your core, glutes, and hamstrings while keeping your back stable (5).
- Stand with your back to a wall approximately 12 inches away
- Lean back until your back rests safely on the wall
- Slide down slowly as you bend your knees
- Press your back into the wall and brace your core
- Hold for 10 seconds
Pilates is an excellent way of strengthening your obliques, chest, and glutes (7).
- Lie flat with your knees bent over your hips
- Your calves will be parallel to the floor, and your arms will form a T-shape
- Exhale as you pull your core tight and tilt your pelvis to one side
- Keep your thighs together and exhale again as you return to the original position
- Repeat on the other side
How Can I Strengthen My Core at 60?
Core exercises for beginners over 60 require finesse to ensure you don’t push your core any harder than is necessary. Harvard suggests modified planks, bridges, and opposite arm and leg raises for seniors (10). You should complete two sets with 10-12 reps each for a total core workout.
Glute bridges are excellent for improving strength in your back, abs, and glutes (10).
- Lie on your back with your feet flat and knees bent
- Tighten your buttocks and brace your stomach
- Raise your hips until they form a straight line with your shoulders
- Maintain this position for 10 seconds
Opposite Arm and Leg Raises
This exercise requires slow and controlled movements to ensure the core contracts properly (10).
- Kneel on all fours with your head and spine aligned
- Extend your right leg behind you while reaching forward with your left arm
- Keep your hips and shoulders steady until both extend parallel to the floor
- Hold for five seconds and then repeat on the opposite side
Planks contract the core muscles effectively, but modified planks are more suitable for beginners over 60 (10).
- Kneel on all fours
- Brace your stomach and support your upper body with your forearms
- Keep your shoulders over your elbows
- Keep your back straight while your feet remain elevated
- Hold the plank for 10 seconds
Livestrong suggests dead bugs stabilize your core without hurting the lower spine with isolated movements (8).
- Lie flat on a firm, supportive surface
- Bend your knees as you raise them to a 90° angle over your body
- Raise your arms together with your legs so you look like a dead bug
- Slowly lower your left arm and right leg to the floor
- Bring them back before doing the same on the other side
For more core strengthening information:
What are the 5 fastest ways to strengthen your core?
The Mayo Clinic recommends five top exercises for strengthening your core effectively (4):
- Glute bridges and variations, such as bridge tucks
- Planks and variations, such as side planks and modified planks
- Abdominal presses, such as single-leg, double-leg, and opposite-leg and arm raises
- Crunches and variations, such as reverse crunches and bicycle crunches
- Quadruped and variations, such as bird-dog crunches
How long does it take to strengthen your core?
First Line Physio recommends performing core strengthening exercises 2-3 times weekly for 4-8 weeks to see improvements (12). You should stay consistent with your strengthening workouts in order to see results and feel improvements in your posture, balance, and strength.
How can I train my core at home?
Choose the four best core exercises for beginners that suit your needs, and then consistently perform them 2-3 times weekly with two sets of 10-12 reps each time (12). You can also do some cardio and incorporate whole-body exercises on other days, such as suitcase or farmer’s carry walking exercises (6).
What are the signs of a weak core?
The Mayo Clinic suggests poor posture, weakened whole-body muscles, balance issues, and lower back pain can be common indicators of a weak core (3). Core muscles are responsible for most movements, and signs of weakness in your body could indicate a weak core.
How can I engage my core all day?
Very Well Fit suggests practicing core-bracing techniques (9). Core bracing takes practice. You should pull everything tight from your ribs to your hips, including your stomach muscles, while maintaining a straight posture anywhere you sit or stand. This can be done all day.
The Bottom Line
Our four best core exercises for beginners in multiple groups will get you on the road to a stronger core, improved posture, and smoother movements in any other workout. Follow the core exercises that best suit your needs, and watch the benefits unfold with a consistent routine.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 9 Tips for Flat Abs (2022, webmd.com)
- Best Exercises for Men’s Core (2022, webmd.com)
- Core Exercises: Why You Should Strengthen Your Core Muscles (2022, mayoclinic.org)
- Exercises to Improve Your Core Strength – Mayo Clinic (2023, mayoclinic.org)
- Good and Bad Exercises for Low Back Pain (2023, webmd.com)
- How to Build a Better Core – Harvard Health (2021, health.harvard.edu)
- How to Do Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana) in Yoga (2020, verywellfit.com)
- How to Do the Dead Bug Exercise (2023, livestrong.com)
- How to Engage Your Core (The Right Way) (2021, verywellfit.com)
- The Best Core Exercises for Older Adults – Harvard Health (2021, health.harvard.edu)
- Top Core Exercises for Women (2023, webmd.com)
- What’s the Best Way to Strengthen My Core? – First Line Physio (n.d., firstlinephysio.co.uk)