• 5 Moves to Build Core Strength

    Core strength goes way beyond six pack abs and endless crunches. It’s time to think outside the box.

    In this post I’m sharing five simple – though challenging – core strengthening moves to build stability and balance.

    Sprinkle these exercises into your weekly fitness routine, and watch your core strength skyrocket*.

    Oh, and you’ll never have to do a single crunch.

    Here’s a preview:

    Why Core Strength Matters

    First – let’s get this out of the way up front – having a strong core (trunk) is way more important – and functional – than just having a ripped six pack.

    A strong core includes your back, glutes, and abdominal muscles, both deep and superficial.

    What we typically think of as the six pack – the rectus abodiminus – is only one muscle involved in core strength, and it’s located on the very surface.

    Building a strong trunk – one that’s capable of helping you maintain good sitting and standing posture – requires that you go deeper and start thinking of your back and butt, too.

    And if you want to add fitness or sport on top of your normal routine, core strength is even more critical.

    It makes for better core-to-extremity power transfer, like what you need when doing a clean & jerk, jumping for a layup, or swinging a kettlebell.

    And it ensures that your posture stays stable and your spine keeps its integrity as you move through ranges of motion with your bodyweight or an external load.

    What Not to Do When You Want a Strong Core

    So now that you know why a strong core matters, let’s talk about what not to do.

    Everyone’s go-to moves for this is either the sit-up or its more “modern” counterpart, the crunch.

    First, the tendency is to yank on your head and strain your neck in these movements. Not good.

    Endless sit-ups and crunches won’t effectively work your back or glutes, and now you know that those are key to core strength, too.

    Involve your trunk muscles in as many compound movements as you can to take advantage of stability building potential, not just building rounder muscle bellies.

    These 5 moves build core strength fast without painful crunches or sit-ups...best part is you can do these at home in just minutes a day! | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    Second, many people’s daily lives of sitting, hunching, and otherwise poor posture means that working your core strength only every so often isn’t enough.

    Don’t make the mistake of doing core work once a month, then wondering why your back is chronically sore.

    Finally, avoiding core work because of injury past and present isn’t necessarily going to fix your problems and result in less pain.

    Yes, listen to your health care practitioner and do your rehab. But if you’re outside of acute care, there are still ways to build core strength that won’t aggravate your injuries. Find a good movement specialist who can help you get back on track.

    5 Moves to Build Core Strength

    With the above in mind, I’m going to describe the five core strengtheners shown in the video above.

    (These moves are just scratching the surface of what’s possible!)

    There are ways to scale each move up or down, and though you want to challenge yourself, you don’t want it to be so hard that you can’t maintain good form.

    Click here to play the video and see these in motion.

    Hollow Holds

    These 5 moves build core strength fast without painful crunches or sit-ups...best part is you can do these at home in just minutes a day! | StupidEasyPaleo.com

     

    Lie down with your back on the floor. Draw your abdominals in and tuck your ribs down. (Don’t allow your ribs to flare out.)

    Extend your arms over your head and with your legs out in front of you, point your toes. Raise your arms and legs slightly off the floor.

    The goal is to feel like one solid, rigid, concave shape and not to break the posture.

    Start with 15 second intervals and go up from there.

    Make it harder: Hollow Rocks

    Get into the hollow hold and add a gentle rock forward and backward.

    Keep the hollow shape throughout. If you can’t maintain it while rocking, go back down to hollow holds.

    Bird Dog

    These 5 moves build core strength fast without painful crunches or sit-ups...best part is you can do these at home in just minutes a day! | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    The bird dog move is so great for people with back issues and folks looking to build core strength.

    This modification works you balance, too!

    Get on your hands and knees. Keep your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders.

    You should look like a table from the side.

    Tighten your abs and keep your pelvis neutral. (This isn’t a cat-cow from yoga!)

    Slowly, raise one arm and the opposite leg until both are straight. Lower down. Alternate sides.

    Make it harder: Crunch It

    Raise one arm and the opposite leg. Then, carefully draw the elbow and knee into your belly.

    The goal is to touch the elbow and knee, then lower. This takes so much balance!

    Dead Bugs

    These 5 moves build core strength fast without painful crunches or sit-ups...best part is you can do these at home in just minutes a day! | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    Lie down with your back on the floor. Draw your abdominals in and tuck your ribs down. (Don’t allow your ribs to flare out.)

    Engage your glutes, bring your pelvis to neutral, and push your lower back into the floor.

    Raise your arms straight up into the air over your shoulders, reaching, and keeping them engaged.

    Keep your legs bent at a 90 degree angle, and raise them up off the floor so your knees are above your hips.

    Slowly lower one leg down to the floor – can be straight or bent depending on your level – and bring it back to the starting position.

    Don’t let your lower back separate from the floor! Work to actively keep your lower back and abs engaged.

    Switch legs.

    Make it harder: Straight Legs

    Keep your legs straight through the entire movement.

    Planks

    These 5 moves build core strength fast without painful crunches or sit-ups...best part is you can do these at home in just minutes a day! | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    No discussion about core strength would be complete without planks.

    They come in a zillion variations, but the key is this:

    Create a solid, rigid plank position with your abs activated and your bum squeezed.

    I also crunch my ribs down which is something I don’t often see plankers doing.

    Start by popping up onto your elbows, neck neutral, butt in line with the spine – no downward dogs or saggy hips!

    Squeeze everything and hold. (Oh, and don’t forget to breathe!)

    Make it harder: Straight Arms

    Plank up onto straight arms. Or, do side planks.

    (Note: Straight arm planks form the foundation of push-ups and pull-ups. Click here to read more.)

    Lunge to Balance

    These 5 moves build core strength fast without painful crunches or sit-ups...best part is you can do these at home in just minutes a day! | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    This core strength move also challenges balance…and gives you some bonus leg work, too.

    Start with a solid standing posture:

    • Feet under hips.
    • Abs engaged.
    • Hips slightly tucked under to neutral.
    • Ribs crunched down.

    From there, lunge forward. On the way back, lift your knee and bring it toward your chest so you’re standing on one leg.

    Tighten your whole core and hold it. Return your foot to the starting position.

    Repeat by lunging to the side and then to the back.

    Make it harder: Speed

    Change direction faster!

    Put It All Together

    Core strength is something to work on regularly, every week.

    The super convenient thing for you is that none of these moves require weights, and they can all be done at any gym or in your home.

    Aim for one or two of these moves a couple times a week to start.

    For the Hollow Holds and Planks:

    • Start with 15 seconds and build up from there.
    • Try for 3 to 5 sets and adjust as you go.

    For the Bird Dogs, Dead Bugs, and Lunge to Balance:

    • Start with 3 sets of 8 to 10 per side.

    *As always, respect your body and don’t do anything that causes pain. (Some mild discomfort, sweating, and breathing hard is normal.) Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before beginning an exercise program.

    Pin this Core Strength Workout for later!

    These 5 moves build core strength fast without painful crunches or sit-ups...best part is you can do these at home in just minutes a day! | StupidEasyPaleo.com

    Questions about core strength? Leave them in the comments section below.

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    6 thoughts on “5 Moves to Build Core Strength

    1. Perfect! Just had a private with my Pilates instructor (not intentional… I was just the only one in class, so YAY ME) and we spent the whole time working on core, using quite a bit of exactly what you’ve covered here (no shock; I surround myself with brilliant people).

      Gonna keep this bookmarked so I can do my homework between classes. Here’s to getting that core to the place where it can compete with my sexy guns and badass thick thighs! XO

      1. That’s so great to hear Bon! The hollow hold/rocks also have crossover with gymnastics. Cool to see how the fundamentals of good solid core strength and movement transcend certain disciplines, right?

        I have no doubt you’ll get there!

      1. Hi connie Thank you for sharing your thoughts, I’m sure you’ll find more valuable information exploring the site. Have fun!

    2. You’re a bad ass, Steph! Thank you for this super helpful tutorial.
      Have been enjoying the podcast too…
      Oh, and the summit last spring was awesome – what a wealth of information from awe-inspiring women…
      Keep up the great work!

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