Strengthening your core should be an essential time slot in your workout routine. Although, when you think about core exercises, you likely think of crunches. Crunches are mentally taxing and can put stress on your neck and back. There are many other core exercises for women that are more effective than crunches and can be more fun. The below five core exercises for women will help you build a stable body as well as a flat tummy. Best of all, these exercises are great for beginners as well as seasoned workout pros! Learning different core workouts at home is an effective way to remain consistent without having to go to the gym. Implement one or all five exercises into your fitness routine and reap the benefits of a strong core!
Your core is your entire support system, give it the foundation it needs to thrive!
The Importance of Strengthening Your Core
The importance of strengthening your core goes far beyond aesthetics. Yes, if you eat healthy, perform fat burning aerobic exercises, and consistently do ab exercises than your abdominal muscles will show. Although, that is not the only benefit. For athletes or those who are active, your core strength is crucial. For runners specifically, having a weak core can lead to more fatigue, injuries, and less endurance. If you are not an athlete or an avid runner, you still benefit immensely from the below ab exercises. More benefits include better posture, a healthy back, and decreased risk of common injuries.
The Mayo Clinic writes how core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work in harmony. All these aspects of your body working together gives you better stability and balance. If you are a powerlifter, you rely on your core to stabilize your body during those heavy compound lifts. Otherwise, the risk of injury is exceedingly great.
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5 Core Exercises for Women
1. Plank Variations
The best core exercise for women is the plank. It is a simple exercise but is extremely affective at targeting your abs as well as one of the few targeted ab workouts that can also be considered a semi-full body movement. Multiple parts of your body are being challenged when performing this exercise. If you notice yourself losing form the longer you hold the plank, then stop the movement. Although, try to distinguish between progressive bad form and just the difficulty of the workout. You want to work hard and push yourself to hold proper form for as long as you can. I recommend 1-2 minutes for beginners. It will seem like time moves slowly while you are planking so try not to fixate on the clock. I advise using a yoga mat beneath you when planking.
When you think of a plank, you likely think of the variation I am about to describe. Obviously, the simplest variation and the most common. Although, for this exercise to be effective, proper form is paramount. Start by placing yourself in a push up position, bend your elbows to the floor so your entire forearms are flat on the floor. This is technically called the elbow plank. Make sure your back is completely straight and you are tightening your core when you are planking.
The Side-to-Side Plank is great variation to the normal plank if you want to spice up your ab routine. Start in the normal plank position, instructions above. Once in the normal plank position, twist your hips to one side, trying to touch the outside of your hips to the ground. Once your hip touches the ground, come back to the center, and repeat on the other side. Only your hips should be moving during this exercise, your feet do not move.
I want to start off by saying that the plank walkdown can be difficult, so I advise being able to perform the normal plank variation for 1-2 minutes before graduating to the plank walkdown. Like the normal plank, proper form is pivotal for this exercise to be effective. It will be very tempting for your hips to sag but resist this and keep your body in a straight line. Start in the normal plank position, slide one hand back and position it below your shoulders. Use that arm to push up and follow the same motion with your second arm. You are now in the push up position with both hands directly below your shoulders. Reverse the above steps to get back into the plank position. Repeat this movement many times to feel the burn!
2. Dead Bug
The Dead Bug core exercise is a great ab exercise for strengthening the entirety of your core. It is a simple movement and a great alternative to those dreaded crunches. Best part about this movement is that there is zero strain on your back.
To perform this exercise, you need to lie on the floor with your back flat, pressing your lower back directly to the floor. Start by raising your legs at a 90-degree angle and raise your arms straight up. Contract your abdominal muscles and slowly lower one of your legs to become parallel with the floor while maintaining the bend in your knee. Once parallel with the floor, slowly raise the leg back up to the starting position and repeat with your other leg. When your second leg completes the movement, then that is considered 1 rep.
If you want to make it more challenging, do the same movement as the opposite arm but behind your head at the same time you are moving your leg. I personally like to do as many reps as it takes to reach “the burn” and then do 10 more reps. This makes for a challenging and rewarding ab exercise.
3. The Russian Twist
The Russian Twist ab exercise is my personal favorite and is one of the best core exercises for women. This movement is great at strengthening your obliques as well as adding considerable definition. This exercise can be performed at home, although, I do recommend buying a medicine ball to add some resistance to the movement.
To perform the Russian twist ab exercise, sit on the floor and bring your legs straight out, raising them above the floor. Have a slight bend in your knees and interlock your feet. Lean back slightly to engage your core and balance. Once in this position, twist your torso from side to side with your hands interlocked in the middle and swaying with your torso. When you start feeling the burn, it will be tempting to disengage your core to relieve some of the burn. Do not do this. Keep your core engaged for the entire exercise for optimal results.
If you are wondering what the best types of workouts to lose weight are, check out the linked article!
4. Ab Wheel Rollout
The best core exercises for women to do at home cannot be complete without including ab wheel rollouts! This is the only ab exercise that requires one piece of equipment. Luckily, ab rollers are cheap and easy to use. The great thing about the ab wheel exercise is that it strengthens your core as well as your lower back! When performed properly, this exercise is the most complete ab workout you can do because it causes contraction of a broad section of your abs. They are 100x better than sit-ups as a matter of fact in my opinion. This opinion is derived from many years doing sit-ups with minimal results, then when I introduced the ab wheeler, I started to see visible results in a few short months.
I know I sound like a broken record now, BUT proper form for this exercise is especially important to avoid injury. To do this ab exercise, start by getting in a kneeling position with both knees on the floor. I highly recommend placing the yoga mat under your knees for this exercise. Place the wheel in front of you, a little bit ahead of your shoulders. Before rolling out, tuck your upper abs into your chest to form a very slight rounding shape with your back. Do not round out your lower back excessively here. For the entire movement, you want to keep this position consistent. Now it is time to rollout. When rolling out, only go as far as you can handle. Do not extend yourself thinking the farther out you go the more work you are putting on your abs. Roll out and in while maintaining that tightened core, preventing a quick overextension of the lumbar spine. Go out as far as you can handle, especially as a beginner.
5. The Bicycle
Last but not least is the bicycle. This ab exercise is relatively easy to perform and has a very low chance of injury. This makes it an especially great exercise for pregnant women, women over 60, and seniors. This exercise primarily targets your upper abs, also called the rectus abdominis as well as your side ab muscles.
To perform this exercise, start by laying down on the floor with your back flat. Place your hands behind your head, legs slightly bent with your feet on the floor, and contract your core muscles. Raise one of your knees to a 90-degree angle and meet it with your elbow on the opposite side by rotating your torso. Once the elbow and knee touch, lower your leg to become parallel with the floor. Repeat this motion for the other side. This is one rep.
I hope you learned the five best core exercises for women at home and will implement one or even all five into your fitness routine, especially if you are a beginner. They days of doing a hundred sit-ups with no visible results are over. I guarantee that your inner body and your physique will thank you in the long run. Just like any muscle, it takes time and consistency to truly build strength in it. Be patient, stick to a schedule, and I guarantee you will see results! Happy training.