Essential Bodyweight Core Exercises - Routine, Tips and Mistakes

10 Essential Bodyweight Core Exercises – Routine, Tips and Mistakes

Are you looking for a great workout of bodyweight core exercises you can do at home or almost anywhere?  These exercises are great to add to a workout or do them all as a single routine.  Most can be done without any equipment, for more of a challenge, you will need a stability ball.

Don’t Think That Your Core is Only Your Stomach and Lower Back.

Bellow is a list of muscles that make up your core.  The core is not a medically define terms, so there are many differences in opinions on what your core is. If you were to ask different health and fitness experts, what muscles are included as part of the “core,”, you would get many different answers.  Though most of them would contain the major muscles of your midsection.  In general, your core muscles run the length of your torso; and stabilize your spine, pelvis, and shoulder.  Your core maintains a solid base of support for your body. These essential bodyweight core exercises work the following muscles:

Your List of Core Muscles

  • External Obliques are the largest and outermost of your three flat muscles of your lateral anterior abdomen.
  • Internal Obliques are the intermediate muscle of your abdomen, lying just underneath your external oblique and just above your transverse abdominal muscle.
  • Rectus Abdominis is a paired muscle running vertically on each side of the anterior wall of your abdomen. The rectus abdominis muscle is the most well-known abdominal muscle and is often referred to as the “six-pack” due to its appearance.
  • Erector Spinae is not just one muscle, but a bundle of muscles and tendons that runs along your neck down to your lower back.
  • Transverse Abdominis is a muscle layer of the anterior and lateral abdominal wall which is layered deep below the internal oblique muscle and wraps around your spine for protection and stability.
  • Multifidus is a lean muscle deep in your spine; it spans three joint segments and works to stabilize your joints and rotate your spine.
  • Hip Flexors are a group of muscles that act to flex the thigh bone to pull your knee upward.
  • Gluteus medius and minimus are located at the side of your hips.
  • Gluteus maximus, hamstring group, piriformis are located in the back of your hip and butt area and down the back of your upper leg.
  • Hip adductors muscles are a group of muscles of your thigh.

Why Your Core Muscles So Important

Your core muscle stabilizes your spine, pelvis, shoulder, and provides a solid foundation for moving of your arms and legs. Without our core muscles, we would not be able to stand upright or walk on two feet.  Having a strong core is the foundation for most athletic activity.  When you have a strong core, you will be better at most movements, shift body weight, transfer energy, and moving in every direction. Additionally, a strong core will distribute the stresses of weight in lifting and protects your back. Equally, important a strong core can reduce the chance of injuries.  Many people who suffer from back problems could overcome their issues by strengthening there core.

List of 10 Essential Bodyweight Core Exercises

Most athletes rely on bodyweight core exercise routinely, possible even during every training session.  Another beautiful thing about these core exercises is you can do them almost anywhere.  Many require no equipment, and the others require only a stability, or exercise ball. These are not written in any specific order, so you can mix them up, pick a couple each day or do them all as listed as a routine.

1. Stability Ball Jack-Knife

Stability Ball Jack-Knife is a prevalent stability ball abdominal exercise that targets your central and lower abdominals. You will need good to above average core strength to do Jack-Knifes.

Exercise Ball Jack-Knife Execution

  • Get into a push-up position with your hands on the ground and the top of your feet on the ball.
  • Maintaining your hands in place, bend your knees with your abs, and bring the ball toward your chest.
  • Hold the contracted position for a second
  • Finally, roll the ball back out to starting position and repeat.

Stability Ball Jack-Knife Tips

  • Focus on squeezing your Abs. You should focus on squeezing your abs throughout the entire movement. Keeping your abs pulled in as you extend your legs. 
  • Keep you Back Straight. The goal is not to arch your back during the movement. 
  • Increase the Challenge. If you find this exercise too easy, first of all well done, you have a strong core.  Secondly, to increase the intensity roll the ball out so that only your toes are resting on it.  Conversely, if you want to make it easier, bring the ball in closer to your ankles.

2. Stability Ball Stiff-Legged Pikes

Stiff-Legged V Bends are performed similarly to Stability Jack-Knife, but you want to keep your legs straight while moving your hips towards the ceiling. Stiff-Legged V Bends targets your central and lower abdominals.

Stability Ball Pikes Execution

  • Start from a push-up position and place your feet on the stability ball. Keeping your arms straight, and abs tight.
  • While keeping your legs straight, pull your hips toward the ceiling by using your abs.
  • Hold for 1 second, then slowly roll the ball back to the starting position.  Remember to keep your abs tight as you extend your legs.  Maintaining a flexed stomach will ensure your back doesn’t arch.
  • Repeat.

Stability Ball Stiff-Legged V Bends Tips

  • You should focus this exercise entirely on your abs.  As you roll the ball, you should feel a strong abdominal contraction.
  • Increase the challenge by elongating the movement.  The further you roll out the ball, the more difficult the exercise becomes.
  • If you find it challenging to get both feet on the ball because it keeps rolling side to side.  You can start with your stomach on the ball.  Then walk your body forward by taking steps your you hands until your legs, then feet are on the ball.

3. Twisting Supermans

Superman with a Twist is an excellent core exercise for your lower back.  Your legs and arms provide all the resistance, so you don’t need any equipment for this exercise.

Twisting Supermans Execution

  • Get into your Superman position by lying down on your stomach and raise your arms, legs, and chest off the floor.   Extending your arms in front of you like you are superman.
  • Now for the twist, similar to swimming, raise one arm higher than the other by twisting to one side.
  • Return to center and twist up to the other side, and then back to the center.
  • Lower torso back to the floor to complete one rep.
  • Repeat.

Twisting Supermans Tips

  • Hold each position for an equal pause before returning to start position.  For more of a challenge pause longer.  To make it easier, return your hands and feet to the ground between each rep, and pause for one second at the bottom.  To make it harder, don’t let your hands and feet touch the ground, but drop them close to the ground.
  • Change the rhythm by beginning each rep with the opposite side as the previous rep.  You will be ensuring that each side is worked evenly.  You will tend to use the momentum of the liftoff for the first side.

4. Plank on a Stability Ball

There are two main ways to do this plank. One, you can place your forearms on the stability ball with your feet on the ground. Or the reverse, you can place your feet on the stability ball with forearms on the ground. Plank on a stability ball is one of the most versatile core exercises because there are so many advance movement variations you can add as you get stronger.

Plank on a Stability Ball Execution Arms on the Ball

  • Start by kneeling on the floor with the ball in front of you.
  • Place your forearms on the ball.  You can grasp your hands together with your elbows out at a V, or you can have your forearms parallel.
  • Lift your knees and walk your feet back until only your toes are touching the floor.
  • While keeping your abs and glutes tight and not aching your back hold the plank position.
  • Relax, and then repeat for desired reps.

Plank on a Stability Ball Execution Feet on the Ball

  • You can start with your stomach on the ball and walk your hands out until only your feet are on the ball.  
  • Lower your body by bending your arms and stabilizing yourself on your forearms.
  • Again keeping your abs and glutes tight and a straight back, maintain this position.
  • Relax, and then repeat if desired for more reps.

Stability Ball Plank Tips  

  • Making a V or A with your forearms on the ball and grasping your hands together can make stabilizing yourself a little easier.
  • Set a goal or timmer.  If your goal is 30 seconds, it will get harder near the end.  This is true with whatever your goal is.  If you make your goal 60 seconds psychologically, you will anticipate the end, and it will get harder.  This is true for any hold exercise.  If you don’t set a goal, it is likely that you have a goal in your mind anyway and you don’t even know it.  So consciously set a goal that will challenge you. 
  • If you find planking on the stability ball too challenging, start with a standard plank on the ground until you are comfortable using the ball.
To raise the difficulty, add these variations

Move the stability ball from side to side shifting your weight from one leg to the other. 

Place only one foot on the ball and raise the other up.

Switch to a bridge position by stabilizing on your hands and not your forearms.

5. Bicycle Abdominal Crunch

You will find that the Bicycle Abdominal Crunch is among the best exercises for working your Rectus Abdominus. The Bicycle Crunch is not only an excellent exercise for your abs, but it also targets your External and Internal Obliques.

Perform the Bicycle Crunch as follows

  • Lie flat on your back with your hips bent about 90-degrees and feet off the deck and hands behind your head.
  • Curling your body forward, like in a crunch, and bring your left knee towards your right elbow and extend your right leg out.
  • Keeping your shoulders lifted off the floor, switch your crunch to right knee moving toward your left elbow and extend your left leg out.
  • Continue alternating from right to left bringing opposite knees and elbows together.  Remember to breath rhythmically during the exercise.

Tips for the Bicycle Crunch  

  • Do not rush the exercise; squeeze your abs with every rep.  You want to perform slow and deliberate movements focussing on working your abs.
  • Raise your shoulder blades off the floor as much as possible to fully contract your abs and obliques.
  • Isolate your abs as much as possible and do not let your arms and neck pull your elbow closer to your knee. 
  • Change the rhythm and tempo to vary the difficulty of the bicycle crunch. When you perform a slow tempo with fewer reps, it will produce better muscle growth. You can also perform the bicycle crunch at a fast tempo as part of a cardio or fat burning routine.

6. The V-Sit (Jackknife Sit-up)

V-Sit is another excellent abdominal and core exercise that works your Rectus Abdominis, External and Internal Obliques. The V-Sit will also engage your hip flexors.

Perform the V-Sit Like This:

  • Lye on your back with your arms stretched above your head.
  • Using the contraction of your abs lift your legs and body up to a 45-degree angle.
  • Reach your hands straight toward your feet.
  • Hold this V position while maintaining good core posture for a few seconds. You can hold this pose as an isometric exercise for longer as you grow stronger.
  • Relaxing your abs and lower your back and legs towards the floor.
  • Just before your shoulders and feet reach the floor, stop and hold this down position for a few seconds.
  • Using your abs pull yourself back up to the V-Sit and repeat for your desired number of reps.

Tips for V-Sit

  • Maintain your shoulders back.  Your natural tendance will be to curl your back to push your arms past your legs. 
  • Keep your back straight in an arch with good posture.  You are not working your abs more by crunching your stomach. Actually, you are reducing the strain on your abs pulling your weight above your butt and reducing the leverage resistance working your abs.

7. Lying Glute Bridge (Setu Bandhasana Yoga Pose)

Lying Glute Bridge is another excellent no equipment body weight only core exercise. The Lying Glute Bridge targets your Rectus Abdominus and your Gluteus Maximus. You also use some Secondary Muscles (Synergist and Stabilizers) such as the Erector Spinae, Transverse Abdominus, Gluteus Medius/Minimus, Hamstrings, and Adductors. 

Lying Glute Bridge is performed as follows

  • Lie with your back flat the ground or a mat.  Bend your knees with your feet flat on the ground hips width apart.  You can place your arms straight out or lye them beside your body.
  • Thrust your pelvis up toward the ceiling lifting your butt and lower back off the ground.  Your shoulder blades and feet should still be firm on the ground.
  • Hold the up position for a second or so flexing your glutes.
  • Lower your back down to starting position and repeat.

Lying Glute Bridge Tips

  • Maintain proper posture and avoid arching your back in the up position.  You may feel a tendance to arch your back, and this usually occurs when you attempt to push your hips as high as possible. You can maintain you back straight by contracting your abs as you lift your hips and keep them throughout the exercise.
  • Increase the Intensity with the stability ball.  You can make the glute bridge more of a challenge by placing your feet on a stability ball and pushing your hips up from there. You don’t want to use a huge ball, or you will push your body past a 45-degree angle and reduce the leverage.  In the up position on the stability ball, you will need to roll the ball from your heels to your toes.

8. Twisting Crunch

The Twisting Crunch is a go-to oblique exercise. But, the Twisting Crunch is also one of the most effective exercises at hitting your entire abdominal region, all at the same time.

You execute the Twisting Crunch Like this

  • While lying face up on the floor, bend right leg with that foot flat on the ground.
  • Raise your left leg up and rest your left ankle on your right legs knee.
  • Place your hands behind head, be careful not to pull your head with your arms.
  • While breathing out, contract your abs, and bring your right elbow to your left knee.
  • Hold slightly at the top.
  • Then breath in and slowly lowers your body to the starting position until your shoulder blades are resting on the ground.
  • Repeat with the same side until you have done your desired number of reps.
  • Once one side is complete switch sides by switching your feet and leg position.
  • Perform the same number of reps on the other side to work your body symmetrically.

Twisting Crunch Tips

  • Another time you want to maintain proper spinal posture.  You want your abs and obliques to pull you up as high as possible. You don’t want your hands and arms to strain your neck and spine.
  • Don’t let your upper shoulders touch the floor during the exercise. Once your lower part of your shoulder blade touches the ground hold that as the down position to maintain tension on your abs.
  • Focus on twisting your torso with your abs by feeling the contraction in your stomach when you are in the up position.

9. The Side Plank

The Side Plank is an isometric hold exercise that builds core strength and mainly targets your obliques. You will work a lot of stabilizing muscles and develop better balance with the side plank.  The primary muscles you will use are the Transverse Abdominus, Gluteus Maximus and Minimus, Adductors, and your Obliques. You will also work some Synergists/Stabilizers (secondary muscles) such as your Quadriceps, and Hamstrings.

Perform Side Plank as follows

  • Start by lying on your side resting on your forearm and the side of your foot.
  • Place your elbow directly under your shoulder.
  • Place your top foot directly on top of your other foot.
  • Keep your body in a straight alignment with your head, neck, spine, and legs all straight.
  • Lift your hips and knee off the floor.  You can place your hand that is not on the ground on your hip.
  • Hold the up position for your desired time, focus on flexing your abs, and butt.
  • Alternate sides and repeat.

Side Plank Tips

  • Remember, when performing the Side Plank exercise, you always want to keep your whole body straight.
  • Set a goal time and timmer before you start.
  • Work both sides for the same amount of time to work both sides equally.
  • Do not sag in the middle by dropping your hip, focus on contracting your muscles to stay as straight as you can.
  • Use a mirror to ensure that your form is good.
Variation to Raise the Intesity.

Raise your upper leg off your lower leg in the up position, separate your hips and hold your foot elevated above your other leg.

Point your upper arm straight up in the air or reach forward past your head.

10. Plank

The standard Plank is a great stationary isometric hold exercise that you can do anywhere and can strengthen your entire core. You will primarily use your Erector Spinae, Rectus Abdominus, and Transverse Abdominus while performing a plank.  You will also work a large number of Synergist and Stabilizers use while performing the Plank such as your Trapezius, Anterior and Medial Deltoids, Posterior Deltoids, Rhomboids, Gluteus Maximus, Quadriceps, Rotator Cuff, Pectorals, Serratus Anterior, and Gastrocnemius.

Execute the Plank as follows

  • Lie face down on the floor as if you were going to perform a push-up.
  • Bring your elbows in close to your side and directly under your shoulders.
  • Keep your palms facing down and your elbows forearms and palms on the ground.
  • Keeping your legs and back straight, lift your entire torso off the floor onto your toes and forearms. Your head should be relaxed and looking straight down at the floor.
  • Hold this up position. Focus on maintaining a straight back, not bending at your waist. Don’t let your body sag in the middle.
  • When your desired time is up, relax and lower your body back down to the floor.
  • Relax and then repeat your desired number of reps.

Planking Tips

  • It is better to have good form than to perform the exercise for a long time with bad form.  If your form is failing and you are slouching, then take a break and do it again as long as you can with good form.
  • Set a goal and use a timmer.  You can place a watch on the floor in front of you before you start so you know how long you are going.
  • Use a mirror to check your form and not cheat and slouch.
Advanced Plank Variations

Single Leg Plank – lift one of your legs off the ground while performing the plank.

The Bridge Plank – for some people, this may be easier.  Also called the bridge is an isometric hold of the push-up up position.  For the bridge, you are planking on your hands instead of on your forearms.

Here are some other Great Core Exercises:

  • Lying Windmills
  • Pushup Plank
  • Supermans/Alternating Supermans
  • Butt Raises
  • Hanging Leg Raise
  • Ins/Outs
  • Reverse Crunches
  • Scissor Kicks/Over-Under
  • Sledge Hammer
  • Woodchoppers
  • Crunches

Building a Rockhard Core with these Bodyweight Core Exercises

You can do these exercises at home or almost anywhere, but the key is you have to do them. You can have a great core workout by performing just a few of these in a single routine.  Since you can perform most of these without any equipment, these are great exercises to start your day.  To raise the intensity, all you need is a stability ball, and you have a lot more variety and challenges.

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