Posted on: July 29, 2020 at 4:37 pm

Having a strong, well-functioning core is so much more important than having a six-pack or a certain “look” in a bikini. No, having a strong core is vital to our health and vitality. All women, regardless of their aesthetic goals, should be working out their core regularly. These are the best core exercises for women no matter what your fitness goals are.

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What is “The Core”?

Your core muscles are far more than just the abs you see on fitness models. Those surface-level abs, called the rectus abdominis, are just the outer layer of your core set. While they look nice, the other, deeper layers of your core are far more important for your overall health. (2)

Your core set, or trunk, is made of these main parts (2):

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  • Rectus abdominis (outer layer) 
  • Transverse abdominis (inner layer)
  • Inner and outer obliques (the sides)
  • Erector spinae (the back)

All of these muscles work together to keep you upright and stable, as well as bend all sorts of ways and perform a variety of movements and actions. There are other muscles that contribute to the overall action of the core, for example, your lats, pectoral muscles, glutes, and hips muscles, however, when specifically addressing the “trunk” or “core”, these are the ones that we mean. (2)

Why Train the Core

Having a strong core is incredibly important for overall health. A strong core will:

  • Help you perform all other exercises and activities better. (1)
  • Prevent injury during exercise. (1)
  • Keep you healthier and injury-free throughout your daily activities. (1)
  • Keep you strong and healthy into old age (a strong core means you are less likely to lose stability and fall.). (1)

As a woman, having a strong core will help in other areas of life like childbearing and childbirth. If you have a strong core going into these situations, you are more likely to have an easier time with it, as well as a faster recovery afterward. That being said, always talk to your doctor to determine what is best for you if you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or are less than a year postpartum. (3)

Read: Workouts for Women – The 5 Essential Strength Training Exercises

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10 Best Core Exercises for Women

Now that we’ve explained to you what the core is and why it is important that you train it, you are probably wondering what to do first. While there are thousands of YouTube videos, Instagram trainers, and Pinterest workouts available to you online, it can be hard to determine what’s best.

To make it easier for you, we’ve rounded up our top 10 favorite core exercises for women. Do these two to three times a week and watch as you get stronger and healthier.

1. Planking

We can almost hear your collective groaning! We know planking is challenging, but if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
There are two ways to do a regular front plank: on your forearms or on your hands. Neither one is better than the other, however, if you have wrist problems than the forearm version is going to be best for you.
To get into position, start in all fours with either your hands or your elbows directly under your shoulders. One at a time, step your feet out backwards so that both legs are fully extended, your weight evenly distributed between your hands/arms and your toes.
Your back should be perfectly straight, do not stick your bum up in the air. Pull your belly button into your spine, thinking about tucking your pelvis in towards your nose.
Keep breathing throughout the exercise, do not hold your breath. The form is extremely important, so as soon as you feel your back starting to sag or your butt floating upwards, drop down, rest for a bit, and then keep going. At the beginning you may only be able to hold the position for five to ten seconds at a time – this is perfectly acceptable.
Keep working until you can hold the position for an entire minute without breaks.
As you improve your front plank, you can start trying these plank variations to challenge yourself further.

2. Crunches

Crunches sometimes get a bad rap, however, when done properly they can be a highly effective core move.
To perform this move:
Lay on your back and bend your knees with your feet flat on the ground and aligned with your hips.
Cross your arms over your chest and tuck your chin.
Keeping your eyes looking towards the ceiling so that your neck is straight and in-line with your spine, squeeze your abs and lift your shoulders and upper back off of the ground, leaving your lower back and bum on the floor.
Hold this top position for a second, then slowly and controlled, lower your upper back and shoulders back to the ground. Repeat 10 times or as long as you can maintain proper form.

3. Standing Crunches

This is a great exercise because it challenges your core strength and stability, as well as the stability of the muscles in your legs, ankles, and feet.
To perform this exercise:
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes turned ever-so-slightly outward.
Place your hands behind your head with your elbows pointing outwards, away from your ears.
Variation 1:
Bend and lift your left knee, twist your torso to bring your right elbow in the direction of your left knee. Hold the top position for a second before slowly untwisting and returning to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.
Variation 2:
Bend and lift your left knee, this time pointing your knee out towards the left. At the same time, bend laterally at your hip, using your obliques to pull your left elbow down to meet your left knee. Return to neutral and repeat on the opposite side.

Read: 10 Arthritis Exercises That Will Help Sore, Swollen, Cracking Joints Go Away

4. Bicycle Crunch

Another variation on a crunch, this is another exercise that is incredibly effective if done properly.
To perform this exercise:
Lie on your back with your legs stretched out and your hands behind your head, elbows pointing out the side.
All in one movement, lift your shoulders off of the ground and slightly lift one or both of your legs off of the ground. Bend your left knee in towards your chest and twist your torso to bring your right elbow across your body towards your left knee.
Hold the top position for a second, then un-twist and return to neutral. Repeat on the opposite side.

5. Toe Reach Crunch

To perform this exercise:
Lie flat on your back with your legs lifted straight in the air at a 90-degree angle to your torso. Flex your feet, pretending that you are pushing your heels towards the ceiling.
Raise your arms, pointing straight out from your shoulders.
Keeping your neck in neutral, pull your belly button in towards your spine and lift your shoulders off the ground to reach straight up and touch your toes.
Hold the top position for a second then slowly lower back down.

6. Leg Raise Reach Clap

This is a dynamic movement that will challenge your core through a range of motion.
To perform this exercise:
Lie on the ground with your legs outstretched and arms at your sides.
Lift your legs off the ground to be at a 45-degree angle, keeping your lower back pressed into the floor.
Pull your legs up a little higher to be at 90-degrees while also lifting your shoulders and upper back off the floor.
Reach forward with your arms and clasp your hands behind your knees before slowly returning to the neutral position.

7. Opposite Leg and Arm Lifts

This move is great for your deep inner core muscles provided you do it well and time it properly with your breathing.
To perform this exercise:
Start on all-fours with your hands and knees stacked under your shoulders and hips, respectively.
Pull your belly button into your spine and tuck your pelvis.
Take a breath in, then on the exhale extend your left arm straight ahead of you and squeeze your glutes to extend your right leg straight out behind you.
Do not let your body rotate, keep your hips squared to the ground.
Hold the position for one second, lower back to neutral, and repeat on the other side.

Read: 5 Best Exercises to Stave off the Effects of Aging If You’re Over 40

8. Single-Leg Stretch

To perform this exercise:
Lie on your back and lift your legs to a 45-degree angle.
Tuck your chin and raise your shoulders and upper back off of the ground.
Bring your left knee into your chest and hold it with your hands. Hold this position for two seconds.
Return to neutral and repeat on the opposite side.

9. Cobra

This exercise works the back core muscles as well as the abdominals.
To perform this exercise:
Lie on your stomach on the ground with your arms bent and elbows tucked in by your sides.
Squeeze your legs together, squeeze your glutes, and draw your belly button into your spine. Lift your chest and arms off of the ground.
Hold for a second or two, breathing. Slowly lower back down to neutral and repeat.

10. Russian Twists

One more exercise that works not just the abdominals and obliques, but also your deep hip muscles.
To perform this exercise:
Sit on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
Lift your feet up so that your shins are parallel to the ground, leaning back slightly. Pull your belly button into your spine, keeping your back straight and chest tall, not caved in.
Clasp your hands together and twist from your torso to one side, touch the floor with your hands, then return to center. Twist to the opposite side, return to center, and repeat.

The Bottom Line

Working out your core is an important part of overall fitness and will help improve your life far beyond achieving that highly sought-after six-pack. Do these exercises a few times a week and watch your health and fitness improve.

Keep Reading: 7 Simple Exercises to Restore a Weak Pelvic Floor

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Julie Hambleton
Nutrition and Fitness Enthusiast
Julie Hambleton is a fitness and nutrition expert and co-founder of The Taste Archives along with her twin sister Brittany Hambleton.

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