If you’re new to exercise, you may be wondering where to start.
A good place to start is with your core, because it is at the center of everything you do.
That’s why incorporating some of the following key exercises for beginners can not only help you reach your fitness goals, but help you prevent injuries in and out of the gym.
What is your core?
When you think of the word “core,” you might imagine six-pack abs.
But a strong, healthy core is much more than having a washboard stomach, says Julia Halpin, a NASM-certified personal trainer based in New York City.
Your “core” includes all the muscles in your trunk – they surround your abdomen allowing you to twist, bend, rotate and hold your stomach, support your spine and help with posture.
Why do you need a strong core?
“A strong core is essential to getting stronger and more fit, safely and effectively (without injury),” says Halpin.
Your core is your center, and it helps support and stabilize your body, which is important for joint health, says Halpin.
We need that steady step when we work out—whether we’re jogging, lifting weights, or doing yoga—and when we do everyday activities, like carrying our kids, picking up groceries, and even vacuuming.
If you’re new to working out (or think you have a weak core), these core exercises for beginners will help you develop a strong core and get you started.
These are basic steps that will work your whole core, without overcomplication.
And, as a bonus, you can do them from the comfort of your own home, with no equipment!
- Start in a push-up position and then lower onto your arms instead of your hands, keeping your elbows aligned directly under your shoulders.
- Squeeze your glutes and close your core to lock your body in a straight line from head to heels (imagine someone is about to punch you in the gut).
- Hold this position for 30 seconds to start, working up to 90 seconds. Rest for a minute. Repeat three to five times.
- Assume a forehead plank position: arms and balls of your feet on the floor, shoulders directly over your elbows, head neutral and your entire body from head to heels.
- Roll onto your left leg, and rotate your hips and chest so that your right hip points toward the ceiling. Raise your right hand up in the air. Your left arm should be perpendicular to your body, with your fingertips pointing in the direction you are facing.
- Keep your body straight and your core engaged. If you want to switch, drop your left knee to the mat for stability.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds to start, work up to 90 seconds, then switch sides. Rest for a minute. Repeat three to five times.
- Get down on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. This position begins.
- Keeping your back flat and core braced, simultaneously straighten your left leg behind you and your right arm straight in front of you.
- Pause, and then return to the starting position.
- Repeat with your right leg and left arm.
- Do equal reps on both sides.
4. Bent leg lift
- Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the ground, a few inches from your hips. You can place your hands under your back for support.
- Engage your core and lift your feet a few inches off the ground so that your shins are parallel to the ground. Support your lower back with your hands.
- Reverse the motion and tap your feet back on the ground.
- Hold this movement for 30 seconds to start and work up to 90 seconds to build strength.
5. Bending knee wiper
- Lie flat on your back on your mat, with your arms extended by your sides. Lift your legs up, bring them together, and bend them so they form a 90-degree angle with your shins parallel to the floor and your knees stacked over your hips.
- Engage your core so your back is pressed flat on the ground.
- As you exhale, lower your knees to the right, keeping your feet together. Don’t drop them so far that your shoulders come off the ground.
- Return to center on an inhale, then exhale and repeat on the left side.
- Do 30 seconds to start, work up to 90 seconds.
6. Dead bugs
- Lie flat on your back on the floor with your arms straight out in front of you in line with your shoulders and your legs bent at 90 degrees as if you were sitting on a chair. Press your low back into the floor and brace your core to maintain this flat-back position throughout the exercise.
- Slowly lower your right leg and left arm to within a few inches of the floor (your arm should end up above your head, not out to the side). Go as low as you can without letting your back come off the floor.
- Pause, and then squeeze your abs to slowly reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
- Repeat with your left leg and right arm. Continue alternating sides. Do 30 seconds to start, work up to 90 seconds.
- Lie face down on the floor with your arms extended in front of you (palms down) and your legs extended behind you. This position begins.
- Lift your arms, chest and legs off the floor, keeping your neck in line with your spine.
- Pause, and then return your arms and legs to the starting position.
- Do 30 seconds to start, work up to 90 seconds.
Tips for starting a core exercise routine for beginners
Many core exercises for beginners involve cues to engage or engage your core.
This action provides stability, says Halpin, and helps you move properly.
“Before doing crunches or planking or any other core-focused exercise, it’s important to be able to pull your belly, belly button into the spine,” he advises.
If you are struggling to understand what this means, follow these pointers
- Take a big breath, let your belly expand, then exhale with a little force.
- Feel your stomach pull back in, and tighten your ab muscles.
Halpin recommends starting with two core workouts a week, which shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.
“Work your way up with frequency and intensity as your body gets stronger overall,” she says. “The body takes time to adapt to new things.”
Over time, as your core gets stronger, you may notice that your workouts and your daily life feel easier.
That’s the goal, says Halpin: “You want to build ‘muscle memory,’ so you don’t have to think about it all the time and your body works better.”
This will help you become proficient at activating your core so that you don’t have to focus so much on consciously engaging it in everyday life. Victory!