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Core Exercises for Women

You may or may not be after a set of six-pack abs like "Jessica Biel", but exercising and working your core is still very important.

Your core stabilizes every part of your body, which allows us to do everyday tasks more efficiently (1).

Whether it is carrying grocery bags from the store or mopping the floors at home, "the necessary motions either originate in your core or move through it."

No matter where motion starts, it ripples upward and downward to adjoining links of the chain. Harvard Health adds, "weak or inflexible core muscles can impair how well your arms and legs functions (2)."

Also, with a weak core, everything else in your body will fatigue much more quickly.

Contrary to the popular belief, your core extends beyond your abs and obliques.

Your core muscles include everything from your shoulders down to your lower back, obliques, hips, and glutes. Together they provide a muscular framework that protects your internal organs and aids movement (3). 

So it’s safe to say that core training should be an important part of your fitness routine.

But not all core exercises are created equal and as effective. While crunches and sit-ups are good, they aren’t enough to give you the core strength you need to keep you back injury-free and your body working at its optimal.

If you want to get a strong core and a tight midsection, try these five recommended core moves below —or try the killer 15-minute core workout at the bottom of the page.

1. Squats

Core exercise squats

Squats are a great functional exercise that works and strengthens the core muscles.

Squats help your body better perform real-life activities such as getting out of the car, carrying a child, or lifting something heavy off the floor. When you perform squats, you build muscles and strength your hips, legs, and abs. By squatting, these group muscles learn to work more efficiently and better support your hip, knee mobility as well as balance (4).

All of these benefits translate to your body moving better and easier in real world and everyday activities. 

To do a basic squat, stand as tall as you can with your feet spread shoulder-width apart. Contract your abs and lower your body as far as you can by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Pause, then slowly push yourself back to the starting position. 

2. Push-ups

Perfect push-up

Push-up is an exercise everyone is familiar with.

It's an advance version of plank with a dynamic vertical move. And if you are looking for one exercise to work your core, push-up is the move you need. 

Push-up works every muscle the plank works and more. In fact according to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Professor David N.Suprak and his team reported about 69.16 to 5 percent of you total bodyweight is used during the up and down movement of a push-up (5).

This makes the push-ups a full-body workout that’ll strengthen everything from your upper-body to your lower body, and everything in between, including your abs and core.

Push-ups train your muscles to work together and become stronger, very much like you do in every day tasks. If you want to strengthen your core and build definitions in your abs and even arms, then get ready to drop down and give me 20.

To do a basic puh-up—start in a plank position with the hands directly under your shoulders. Your hands and legs should be fully extended and shoulders should be directly above wrists.

Contract your abs and glutes. Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, bend your elbows out to the sides and lower your chest toward the ground. Stop when your chest nearly touches the ground. Your shoulders should in line with your elbows at this bottom position. Inhale and in one motion, straighten the arms to return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Continue for as many reps as you can without breaking your form.

If the regular push-up is too hard, bend your knees, so your knees are on the ground and perform the modified version.

3. Lunges

Lunges

The lunge is an exercise that mimics everyday movement like running, walking and going up the stairs.

It caters to your everyday needs while strengthening and toning the muscles of the hips, back, and core. It also improves your posture by working your core and all adjacent muscles. 

Since a lunge a is unilateral exercise, you’ll automatically improve your balance performing lunges.

To perform a basic lunge, start by standing with your feet together, shoulders back, and core tight. Lift your right leg off the ground and take a big step forward. Lower your body toward the ground until your right upper thigh is parallel to the floor and your right knee forms about a 90-degree angle. Straighten up by pushing through your right heel to return to stand. Do 10 reps per side.

4. Side Plank

Side plank core exercise

Plank is best known for working the core.

But did you know that plank actually engages more than 20 muscles, including your shoulders, back, arms, abs, and glutes? What’s even more impressive about this simple, static move is that planks allow you to work your core without the risks of hurting your lower back and neck and over stressing your hip flexor muscles (6).

This is the largest and most important differentiator between planks and traditional crunches and sit-ups.

This variation of the side plank targets your shoulders, waist, abs, back, outer thighs, and glute meds (the often underworked muscle on the side of the pelvis that helps stabilize your hip joint). And let's not forget, it hits your side abs known as obliques. 

To begin, place your right elbow on the ground. Extend both legs out, so your body forms one straight line. Balance on the outside edge of your right foot. 

Keeping your spine lengthened and your abs engaged, lift your left leg up just higher than your top hip. Flex both feet, and reach your left hand to the ceiling. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds.

Keep your waist up and lifted. Don't sink into your bottom shoulder the entire time. Switch sides and repeat.

5. Diamond Sit-ups

Diamond sit-ups

This variation of sit-ups is a great core exercise that works the abs through a larger range of motion.

To do this move, lie on your back, and open your legs into a diamond shape (aka butterfly legs) with the soles of your feet pressed together and knees out wide. Extend your arms overhead.

Inhale to curl your torso up, and tap the floor in front of your feet to stretch your glutes a bit. Slowly lower back to the starting position. This counts as one rep. Do 10 to 15 reps.

15-Minute Core Workout

15-Minute Core Workout for Women

The Takeaway

Your core is more than just your abs, and core training is not just limited to crunches, sit-ups, and planks. 

Core workout is essentially about performing exercises that engage all of your core muscles, which include your hips, glutes, abs, lower back and shoulders. These 5 recommended core exercises hit all of your core muscles. As a result, they will tone your abs and strengthen all those muscle groups considered part of your core. 




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