A strong core is foundational to overall fitness. Each of these exercises targeting the core can be modified for anyone, from a complete newbie to total gym rat.
A good indicator of core strength, the plank satisfies a range of fitness levels. It’s easy enough to be performed by most beginners while remaining challenging even for long-term users. It requires great effort without any movement and teaches the importance of good form.
Lie face down on the floor. Supporting your weight on your forearms and toes, raise your body off the floor while keeping a straight line from head to ankles. Keep your eyes on the floor. With your core, glutes and legs engaged, hold your position as long as possible (up to two minutes). Your body will begin to tremble at some point; stop the plank as soon as your back lowers.
Too hard? If you’re new to planking, accept that you may not be able to hold form for more than 10-20 seconds. Take note of how long you plank and aim for a couple of additional seconds every day. You also can use an altered plank with your knees resting on the floor (with either forearm or straight-arm hand support).
Too easy? First, check your form. To achieve proper form, beginners especially may need to watch the shape of the spine and slightly lower or curl in hips. Small adjustments to correct your form can make the plank a lot more challenging. Still not enough? Straighten your arms to raise your body higher. Once you can hold a static plank for two minutes, try exercises that up the ante by adding movement, such as plank jacks or plank pushups.
This exercise strengthens the core while testing balance (control in a fixed position) and stability (control during movement).
Sit on the floor with knees bent. Feet should be resting lightly, and your weight should be planted on your glutes. Straighten and raise your arms beside your knees. With a straight back, slightly lean back and raise your legs together into a straight position so your body forms a “V” shape. Hold for 2-10 seconds and lower your legs back to the bent position. Repeat 10 times.
Too hard? Start with a goal of balancing in the boat position for 10-20 seconds without movement. Add in raise-lower reps when your body feels stable enough to handle the movement.
Too easy? Check your form: Make sure your legs are straight, your torso is fully extended and your spine is straight from your lower back to your head. Still want more? Recline your back closer to the floor and keep legs straight between each rep, pausing for 1-5 seconds before raising the back and legs to the “V” position.
Often used to target the glutes, pelvic floor and lower back pain, the bridge can be easily adjusted to satisfy a range of fitness levels.
Lie on the floor with knees bent and feet planted firmly. With arms by your side and shoulders planted to the floor, raise your hips and lower back toward the ceiling. Keep your body in a straight line from mid-spine to knees. Hold for a second with glutes engaged, lower and repeat 10 times.
Too hard? Start with a goal of balancing in the bridge position for 10-20 seconds without movement. Intensify the bridge by holding for a few seconds, then rolling the hips forward to further engage your pelvic muscles and glutes. Add in raise-lower reps when your body feels stable enough to handle the movement. Minor adjustments like widening or narrowing your stance or using straighter legs in the starting position can target different areas and make you stronger overall.
Too easy? There are many ways to make the bridge more difficult by adding weight on the hips or movement that challenges stability. For example, from the raised bridge position, raise one bent leg to 90 degrees from your spine and lower it. Alternate legs while maintaining the bridge. Intensify by straightening the leg being raised. Or, you can add in alternating overhead reaches to add greater stretch to the hips and quads.