You are here
8 Brilliant Ways to Exercise Your Core Without Even Realizing It
Dread crunches and planks? There are other ways to carve your core, according to FITNESS advisory board member Michele S. Olson, PhD, professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery. Besides, "while crunches rely only on one set of abdominal muscles, the six-pack rectus abdominis, other moves challenge the back and sides, too," she says. Try these 10 exercises to sculpt your stomach—and entire body—fast.
Tighten up those arms and obliques with this balance-focused kettlebell move. Start on your knees and work your way up to performing this row on your toes.
Targets triceps, chest, abs, and obliques
- Holding handle of kettlebell in left hand, start on floor in full push-up position, balancing on hands and feet with arms extended, left palm facing in and right palm flat; step feet out wide.
- Bring kettlebell by ribs, left elbow bent directly behind you. Return to start.
- Repeat, this time rotating torso to left as you lift kettlebell so that shoulders are stacked, kettlebell in front of chest. Return to start to complete 1 rep.
- Do 10 reps. Switch sides and repeat. Do 2 sets.
Burpee Push-Up Jack
Blast fat from head to toe with this multitasking cardio and strength combo move that requires a strong core to keep you stable throughout the dynamic movement.
Targets shoulders, chest, arms, abs, butt, and legs
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms by sides.
- Lower into a squat, placing palms on floor in front of feet, then jump feet behind you into a full plank position with feet together.
- Bend elbows to lower chest toward floor as you hop feet out wider than shoulder width (as if you're doing a jumping jack).
- Push up to return to plank as you jump feet back together.
- Jump both feet forward to outside of hands and quickly return to standing; repeat. Continue for 1 minute.
- MAKE IT EASIER: Skip the push-ups as you jump your feet out.
Two-Way Wood Chop
Mix a side lunge with an overhead raise to take your core through the range of motion it often experiences during daily life (think: picking up your gym bag, snagging that last jar of coconut oil off the low supermarket shelf).
Targets shoulders, obliques, butt, and legs
- Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, holding a single dumbbell with both hands, arms extended slightly in front of you.
- Shifting weight to right leg, bend right knee as you bring dumbbell to outside of right knee.
- Pivoting on right foot, swing dumbbell diagonally up to left as you turn slightly to left.
- Reverse movement to lower weight by right knee again.
- Do 10 reps; switch sides and repeat. For the next set, begin chop high with dumbbell over shoulder rather than low and with dumbbell near knee.
Warrior 3 Deadlift
A strong booty bolsters your core and improves balance with every step. This yoga-inspired strengthener rocks your entire backside from hips and glutes to hamstrings, while forcing you to engage your core.
Targets butt and hamstrings
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms by sides, a dumbbell in each hand; place right foot behind you slightly, toes on mat.
- Standing on left leg, knee slightly bent, hinge forward from hips as you raise right leg behind you until body is parallel to floor, arms hanging down.
- Hold for 1 count, then return to start, tapping right foot down. Continue for 30 seconds; switch legs and repeat.
Power Deck Squat
Your core muscles keep you stable and balanced when you're sitting down in and standing up from a chair, so it's clear why this floor-to-standing move is a winner. Try it without a weight at first and use your hands to help you pop back up, if needed.
Targets abs, butt, and legs
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding ends of a single dumbbell with both hands directly in front of chest, elbows bent by sides.
- Keeping dumbbell close to chest throughout, lower into a deep squat. Then sit on floor and, maintaining a tuck position with chin toward chest, roll onto middle of back and then upper back (don't roll onto neck).
- Using momentum, roll forward to return to squat, and then jump up.
- Do 6 reps.
- MAKE IT EASIER: Instead of jumping up, return to standing.
- MAKE IT HARDER: Press dumbbell overhead before you jump up from squat position.
This isn't just for the CrossFit crowd! Hit your arms, back, butt—oh yeah, and your abs—with this fun kettlebell exercise.
Targets shoulders, back, hips, butt, and legs
- Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, holding handle of kettlebell with both hands, arms in front of thighs, palms in.
- Squat, keeping chest open and back flat, and hinge forward from hips as you swing kettlebell with control through legs behind you.
Reverse Lunge with Punch and Front Kick
A traditional weighted lunge already works the core muscles. Add a front shoulder press and leg kick to really up the ante.
Targets shoulders, biceps, triceps, abs, butt, and legs
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand with feet hip-width apart, arms by sides.
- Lunge back with left leg, bending right knee 90 degrees as you lower left knee toward floor. At the same time, bend elbows to bring dumbbells up to chest level, then extend arms forward to shoulder height in a slow jab motion. (Keep head, shoulders, and torso above hips.)
- Stand up, kicking left leg forward to hip height, toes pointed, as you lower arms to sides. Do 15 to 25 reps; switch sides and repeat.
- MAKE IT EASIER: Rather than kicking leg forward, bring knee up to hip height.
Explosive plyometric (jumping!) exercises like this are abs-olutely awesome for your stomach and back muscles.
Targets abs, butt, and legs
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms by sides. Lower into a deep squat and bring hands together in front of chest.
- Jump as high as you can and land in lunge position with left leg forward (bend both knees 90 degrees).
- Jump as high as you can again and land in squat position.
- Repeat the lunge-squat jump combo, landing with right leg forward. Continue for 45 seconds, alternating sides.