Most people think of getting toned abs or a six-pack when looking for exercises to build the core. But surprisingly, there is more to this fitness goal, and you do not have to limit yourself to sit-ups and crunches.

The best way to strengthen your core is to do several exercises that target your abs and entire torso.

That’s because your core is not just your abdomen. It comprises several other components that also need proper exercise.

So, read further to learn more about the core muscles and why you need to strengthen them.

Then, scroll down for my list of the best core exercises, from beginner to advanced.

What Makes Up Your Core?

Your core includes the muscles of your neck down to the pelvis. And your abs are only part of this large muscle group.

Specifically, these muscles are your:

  • Traverse abdominis. This muscle is at the front and side of your trunk and works as a pelvis stabiliser.
  • Internal and external obliques. These muscles run diagonally from your ribs to your pelvis, allowing you to move your trunk from side to side.
  • Rectus abdominis. This one is at the very centre of your core and is more popularly known as the six-pack muscle. It lets you bend your upper body forward.
  • Multifidus. This muscle runs along and supports your spine.
  • Erector spinae. This muscle covers the central portion of your back and helps you stand straight.

Why Should You Exercise to Build Your Core?

Clearly, the core is quite large, and workouts for this muscle group should not centre on your abs alone.

More importantly, a holistic approach to core strengthening gives you benefits other than a well-toned midsection.

These include:

  • Better daily functioning. Everyday activities, like house cleaning, require bending, twisting or reaching overhead. And a strong core helps us do all these without injury.
  • Reduced low back pain. Your core muscles include your spine and back. And a balanced core lets you stand taller and improves your posture, resulting in less muscular strain.
  • Enhanced weightlifting power. Training your core is one way to strengthen your chest and become better at doing free weight and pull-up exercises. Remember, your entire torso makes up the core.
  • Improved athletic performance. The combined benefits of a strong core, including low back pain, good posture and well-built muscles, help athletes perform better. That’s because the power they need to move their arms and legs relies on their core strength.
Superman Core Exercise

What Exercises Build the Core?

A strong core is not exclusively for gym enthusiasts and seasoned athletes.

We all need a healthy back, chest and abdomen to perform various tasks.

And good thing the best core strengthening exercises are adaptable to everyone’s fitness level.

Check out this list and see which one suits your capacity.

Use this exercise guide to level up your core training, too.

Also, note that this list is mostly floor exercises, so you might want to grab your yoga or exercise mat.

Beginner Exercises to Build the Core

If you’re new to core-strengthening moves, practise tightening your core first.

Inhale and bring your belly button towards your spine and hold this position.

Keeping your core tight like this engages the muscles more and make the exercises effective.

1. Superman

This beginner core exercise strengthens your lower back. Have two rolled towels ready for this move.

  • Lie on your stomach, then insert one rolled towel underneath your hips and another on your forehead. The towels should soften your landing while protecting your back and head.
  • Get into the “Superman” position with both arms extended to the front. Tighten your core.
  • Now, raise your arms and legs off the floor as if flying. You can also lift one arm and leg at a time.
  • Let your body hover for a few seconds before returning to starting position.
  • Repeat as many times as you like.

2. Glute Bridge

Your butt or gluteal muscles support your back. And so, a strong core naturally needs well-built glutes, too.

  • Lie flat on the floor with bent legs. Tighten your core and glutes.
  • Then push your hips up by driving through your heels. Your knees should be in line with your shoulders.
  • Hold for a few seconds, about three deep breaths, before returning to starting position.
  • Repeat as many times as you like.

3. Dead Bug

The dead bug is an excellent ab exercise to gauge your current core strength.

Doing it won’t give your muscles a burning sensation, though.

Still, the slow movements allow you to establish deep core muscle strength.

  • Lie flat on the floor, extend your arms toward the ceiling, and bend your knees to a 90-degree angle.
  • Keep your core and glute muscles tight and your lower back flat on the floor.
  • Next, slowly straighten your right leg, then simultaneously lower your left arm overhead. Keep both a few centimetres from the ground.
  • Pause for a few seconds, then return to starting position.
  • Repeat the same move with your left leg and right arm, and continue as many times as you like.
Forearm Plank

Intermediate Exercises to Build the Core

Challenge your core with these intermediate moves when ready.

4. Forearm Plank

Forearm planking may look like an easy, static exercise. But it can put your strength and endurance to the test.

The best thing about this exercise is it engages your entire body.

And aside from toning your core, it also improves your posture and balance.

  • Lay your forearms flat on the floor with your hands facing forward. Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders.
  • Stretch your legs out behind you with your toes on the floor. Your body should stay straight, from shoulders to heels.
  • Keep your head and neck neutral by looking down at your hands.
  • Hold this position as much as possible, squeezing your core, glutes and quads.
  • You can also try other variations of this core exercise, like the side plank or the forearm plank rock.

5. Floor L-Sits

The L-sits and its many variations are not for beginners.

But it’s an excellent core exercise involving your upper and lower-body muscles.

If you’re trying this move for the first time, check out this detailed page for the proper floor L-sit progression to practise.

Once comfortable, here’s how to do a full L-sit.

  • Sit on the floor with your legs straight and feet together. Your hands should be at the side of your hips with your fingers facing forward.
  • Now, press your shoulders down, and lift your butt and legs off the ground.
  • Hold this position for a few seconds while keeping your legs straight.
  • Return to starting position and repeat.

6. Jackknife

An advanced variation of the L-sit is the V-sit or the Russian lever.

This one takes even more strength and control and entails higher core compression.

But if you’re struggling with a proper V-sit, you can practise with the jackknife move.

Compared with the V-sit, the jackknife is less strenuous on the arms.

Also, it is more dynamic, so doing it a few times will get your heart pumping, too.

  • Lie on the floor, stretch out your legs, and extend your arms overhead. Position your upper arms close to your ears by letting your fingertips touch. Tighten your core.
  • Next, simultaneously lift your legs and torso off the floor. Your body should now form a V, like the folding blade of a jackknife.
  • Pause for a few seconds. Lower your body back to starting position. Then repeat as many times as you like.
  • You can also try the hollow hold jackknife variation, where you hold your V-shaped form for as long as possible.
Plank Pull Through with Dumbbells

Advanced Exercises to Build the Core

Weights, bars and other equipment can boost your core workout from semi-hard to advanced.

7. Plank Pull-Through with Dumbbells

This core exercise is a levelled-up version of forearm planking.

It is a challenging plank variation as you use your core to keep your body stable while lifting one dumbbell at a time.

  • Start with a high plank position. But instead of resting your forearm on the floor, replace it with a dumbbell on each hand.
  • Next, press down your left arm as you lift the other arm. It’s like a bench row exercise, but you’re using your body for stability, not an adjustable bench.
  • Slowly bring your arm down back to starting position. Repeat using the other arm.
  • Make sure to do your plank pull-through exercise with a manageable dumbbell weight. Ideally, get a pair of adjustable dumbbells, allowing you to switch to a heavier load when ready.

8. Hanging Leg Raises with a Pull-Up Bar

Here’s a core exercise to level up your floor L-sits.

9. Russian Twists with a Dumbbell, Kettlebell, Sand Bag or Weight Plate

Russian twists are ideal exercises for your oblique muscles.

These also warm up your spine in preparation for more advanced moves.

It’s also a good exercise for those into sports requiring rotation movements, like rowing and boxing.

Usually, people perform Russian twists with a medicine ball.

But you can swap it with any weight of your choice.

  • In a seated position, slightly bend your knees and lay your heels on the floor. Your upper body should be leaning a little to engage your core muscles.
  • Now, slowly twist your torso from side to side. Breathe and keep your core tight throughout.
  • When ready, hold a dumbbell or kettlebell with both hands and continue twisting from left to right.
  • You can also cross one ankle over the other, lift your legs slightly, and then twist.

10. Turkish Get-Up with a Kettlebell

This popular exercise not only builds the core.

It also improves your body strength, balance and range of motion.

Make sure to do this with a kettlebell weight you can handle.

  • Lie on the floor. Use your right hand to hold a kettlebell slightly above your right shoulder.
  • Now, extend your right arm, pushing the kettlebell up. Then, use your left arm and knee to prop yourself up and your right leg to push your body into a standing position.
  • Keep your eyes on the raised kettlebell as you do all the steps in reverse until you’re back to starting position.
  • Repeat as many times as you like.
Turkish Get-Up Exercise to Build the Core


Exercises that build the core are excellent add-ons to your workout routine.

These not only help develop a better-looking midsection.

But these also improve your overall performance in sports or day-to-day activities.

So, give your core muscles the attention and workout they deserve.

Start with core exercises that match your fitness level, then progress gradually.

And if you have pre-existing conditions involving your core section, consult your doctor or personal trainer before doing any new exercise.

1. Can an exercise bike work my core muscles?

A stationary bike may not work your core muscles enough to get a six-pack. But this exercise machine can surely strengthen them. One way to do that is by tightening your core while pedalling. Use an upright or recumbent bike type to target your core muscles, too.

2. Can rowing machine workouts train my core?

A rowing machine targets over 80% of your muscles, including your core. Specifically, you work your core muscles during the drive phase of a rowing stroke. Your abdominal muscles activate as they keep your body stable when you pull the handlebar close to your rib cage.