8 Moves for a Stronger and More Stable Core

Your body's center is its powerhouse.

Forget six-pack abs. A strong core is about more than aesthetics. A strong core offers a host of health benefits. 

Your body's center is essential for everyday activities, such as sitting, standing, walking, and reaching. Any movement that involves lifting, twisting, or balancing relies on core activation. A strong core will provide a stable foundation for anything from sitting straight to carrying groceries.

Your core encompasses 29 different muscles on the front and back of your body, from your rib cage to the bottom of your butt. Some muscles, like the transverse abdominis muscle, which wraps around your spine and sides, are buried deep in your body. In contrast, others lie close to the surface, like the rectus abdominis muscle, which gives that well-known "six-pack" look.

So, here are the benefits of having a stable core and eight moves for strengthening your core and back.

Benefits of a Strong Core

Strong cores are associated with increased strength and coordination. And evidence suggests that increased core engagement and stability may reduce your risk of injury. For example, a review published in 2021 in the Orthopedic Research Online Journal found that older adults who completed daily core strength exercises experienced improved balance, independence, and quality of life.

Not only is it the center point around which your entire body moves, but it's also one of the most supportive areas. 

"When your core is weak, you're more at risk for injuries, especially in your back," Raven Jelks-Karpunin, a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor in New York, told Health.

Who Needs a Strong Core

Almost everyone can benefit from a strong core. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends that healthy adults under 65 years of age complete a strength-training routine that includes core exercises twice a week.

However, consult a healthcare provider before beginning a core-training program if you are recovering from an injury or surgery.

About This Core Routine

High-intensity, low-impact resistance exercises are about developing that functional core strength, said Jelks-Karpunin. You'll recruit and strengthen extra muscle fibers through slow, controlled movements that keep your muscles under tension.

Yes, it's hard (really hard). And your body will start to shake. But fight to finish each rep, and your core will thank you later.

"Until you push yourself to the absolute limit, you cannot get stronger," explained Jelks-Karpunin. In other words, failure is a good thing in this case.

"You want to get to that stage of muscle failure," added Jelks-Karpunin. "Strength training creates tiny tears in the muscles that your body repairs and rebuilds, making you better equipped for your next workout."

Jelks-Karpunin demonstrated a slow-burn workout created just for Health. And the only equipment you'll need is a set of gliders. 

Ready to give it a try? Here are the moves that you'll complete in the workout:

  • Plank to pike
  • Plank extension
  • Plank crunch
  • Straight-arm crunch series
  • Army crawl
  • Twisting high-plank crunch
  • Side plank with rotation
  • Twisted plank extension

But keep in mind: Some of the following exercises require two to three minutes of work. So, if you're new to working out or at an intermediate-level, you may need to reduce the time spent on each exercise. Or, take breaks in between sets. For example, perform each exercise in three one-minute sets.

Plank to Pike

  • Start in a forearm-plank position, feet hip-width apart. Keep your elbows shoulder-width apart and directly under your shoulders. Form a straight line from shoulders to heels.
  • Keeping your legs straight and heels elevated, contract your abdominals to lift your hips. Slowly drag the gliders toward your chest, stopping before your knees bend.
  • Lower your hips back to plank slowly, keeping your abdominals engaged.
  • Repeat for two minutes.

Plank Extension

  • Start with your knees on the gliders behind your hips and elbows shoulder-width apart and directly under your shoulders.
  • Keeping your hips slightly elevated and stationary, rock your shoulders behind your elbows, knees moving with the gliders. Bring your shoulders back over your elbows.
  • Repeat for two minutes.

Plank Crunch

  • Start in a high-plank position with your feet on the gliders and your knees slightly bent. 
  • Bend the knees, rounding the lower spine, to pull them toward the elbows.
  • Slowly straighten the legs to return to the plank position.
  • Repeat for two minutes.

Straight-Arm Crunch Series


Starting Position, Parts I–III: 

  • Keep your back flat against the floor, and bend your knees. Lift your legs to a tabletop and arms to the ceiling.

Part I:

  • Slowly lower your legs toward the floor and your arms toward your thighs, stopping before your back arches.
  • Bring your legs and arms back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for one minute.

Part II

  • Keeping your back flat against the floor, slowly your lower legs. Keep arms extended to the ceiling.
  • While lifting your legs back to the starting position, lower your arms toward your hips.
  • Lift your arms back up when extending your legs.
  • Repeat for one minute.

Part III: 

  • Lower your legs toward the floor and your arms toward your thighs.
  • Lift and lower the legs from right to left in a semicircle, or rainbow-shaped, movement, then back to the opposite side.
  • Repeat for one minute.

Army Crawl

hard core- core workout-health-mag-nov-2020
  • Start in a forearm plank, feet hip-width apart, elbows shoulder-width apart, directly under your shoulders, and feet on the gliders.
  • Lift your hips slightly, and tuck your tailbone.
  • Keeping your legs straight, begin to crawl forward on your forearms.
  • Reverse the action back to the starting point.
  • Repeat for one minute.

Twisting High-Plank Crunch

  • Start in a high-plank position, with your feet on the gliders.
  • Rotate your hips down to the right, and bend your knees to pull them toward your left elbow, slightly rounding the spine.
  • Slowly straighten your legs to return to a high-plank position.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Continue alternating sides for three minutes.

Side Plank With Rotation

  • Start in a side-plank position, with your right forearm on the ground, your legs straight, your feet stacked or staggered, and your left arm reaching toward the ceiling.
  • Reach your left arm forward and underneath your torso, lifting and rotating your pelvis slightly.
  • Repeat for one minute. Then, switch sides.

Twisted Plank Extension

  • Start on your forearms with your knees stacked on one glider behind your hips.
  • Keeping your hips slightly elevated and stationary, rock your shoulders behind your elbows, your knees gliding along on the glider.
  • Rock forward to bring your shoulders back over your elbows.
  • Repeat for two minutes. Then, switch sides.

A Quick Review

The exercises in this workout are designed to target the core and require just one set of gliders. 

Core training helps build strength, improve stability, maintain mobility, and reduce injury. Those muscles are constantly needed for sitting, standing, walking, and reaching. 

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Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Council on Exercise. Getting the answers to your core questions.

  2. Watanabe Y, Kato K, Otoshi K, et al. Associations between core stability and low back pain in high school baseball players: A cross-sectional studyJ Orthop Sci. 2022;27(5):965-970. doi:10.1016/j.jos.2021.05.010

  3. Kutty NN. The effectiveness of core strength training to improve functional mobility and balance in geriatric population: a literature reviewOPROJ. 2021;9(1). doi:10.31031/OPROJ.2021.09.000701

  4. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical activity guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition.

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