The 10 Best Core Exercises For Growth, Definition, And Strength

Many ask, “What are the best core exercises for men, or what are the best core workouts for men?” Likewise, women may ask, “What are the best core exercises for women, and what are the best core workouts for women?“

The best core workouts for anyone and everyone involve a mix of core exercises that require stabilization and the anti-rotation functions of the core as well as the dynamic movement of the core muscles, including flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation.

So, what are the best core exercises? How do you structure good core workouts?

In this article, we will discuss how to program the best core workouts and provide step-by-step instructions for the following core exercises for building strength and definition in your core muscles.

The bear crawl, a core exercise.

Let’s dive in! 

The Ultimate Core Workout

Here are some of the best core exercises to add to your core workout routine:

#1: Single-Leg Pallof Press

The Pallof press is one of the best anti-rotation core exercises.

Standing on one leg improves functional core strength because you are reducing your base of support, which requires much greater activation of all of your core muscles, as well as the stabilizer muscles in your hips and ankles.

Here are the steps for this core exercise:

  1. Attach a resistance band with a handle to a stationary object or use a cable pulley machine with the handle set at chest height. 
  2. Position yourself so that your body is angled 90 degrees from the anchor point of the band, so it should be to your right or left side.
  3. Hold the handle of the band at your sternum. You should be far enough away from the anchor point of the band so that there is significant tension on the band in the starting position.
  4. Stand on the one leg closest to the anchor, lifting the other leg off the ground.
  5. Engage your abs and glutes as you press the handle straight out in front of your sternum. Do not allow your arms to be pulled inward toward the anchor point.
  6. Complete 15 slow reps and then switch sides.

#2: Kettlebell Dead Bug Pullover

The dead bug with a pullover is a great core workout exercise to strengthen the deep muscles of the core and improve spinal stability. 

Here are the steps to perform this functional training core exercise:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees, shins parallel to the floor, and arms pointing straight up towards the ceiling, holding a kettlebell.
  2. Inhale, engaging your abs, then slowly lower one foot towards the floor until your toe nearly taps down while simultaneously extending the kettlebell straight back behind your head towards the floor without touching it.
  3. Keep the other leg and arm steady at the starting position.
  4. Raise the leg and kettlebell back to the starting position and repeat with the opposite leg.
  5. Complete 10-15 total reps on both legs.

#3: Bear Hold With Shoulder Taps

This core exercise works your entire body and requires you to keep your body as stationary as possible while you tap each shoulder, which is ultimately one of the key functions of the core.

  1. Kneel on all fours in a tabletop position. 
  2. Press your weight into your hands so that you can hover your knees just above the ground. Keep your toes on the ground.
  3. Engage your core to maintain this position while slowly bringing your right hand off the ground to tap your left shoulder. 
  4. Lower your right hand back to the starting position, and then repeat with the left hand. 
  5. Alternate sides while ensuring your back stays flat and neutral like a tabletop. 
  6. Complete 12-15 slow reps per side.

#4: RKC Planks

A plank.

Almost all good core workouts include at least one variation of a plank. The RKC plank is a super challenging anti-rotation core exercise.

Here are the steps to perform this core exercise:

  1. Begin in a forearm plank position with your elbows stacked under your shoulders and your core tight.
  2. Lock your hips and knees in place by squeezing your glutes and quads, respectively.
  3. Clench your fists together hand in hand as hard as you can as you pull your shoulders back and down away from your ears.
  4. Then, pull your elbows towards your feet while simultaneously pulling your toes towards your elbows as if trying to get up into a pike. However, because you are squeezing your glutes, you will remain in a flat plank with a super tight isometric squeeze. 
  5. Remember to breathe and hold for 15 to 30 seconds to start.

#5: Spider-Man Push-Ups

This is a challenging functional core exercise that works your abs, shoulders, hips, chest, arms, and glutes.

Here are the steps to perform this core exercise:

  1. Get in a push-up position with your hands placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your elbows to lower your chest towards the ground. As you do so, lift your right leg off the ground, bending the knee and hip and bringing your leg forward so that the right knee comes up towards the right elbow.
  3. Pause in the lowered position, keeping your leg up by your elbow.
  4. Press back up, returning your leg to the starting position.
  5. Alternate legs with each rep, aiming for 8-12 reps per side. 

#6: Russian Twists

This is a great core exercise for your deep core muscles and obliques.

Here are the steps:

  1. Sit on the floor and lean your torso back as you lift your feet off the ground, keeping your knees bent in a tuck position. Hold a medicine ball or dumbbell between both hands.
  2. Keeping your core tight, twist your upper body towards one side, bringing the weight to hover above the floor on that side of your hips.
  3. Then, rotate the other way.
  4. Keep rotating back and forth slowly and with control for 30-60 seconds.

#7: High Plank Clocks

The best core workouts include anti-rotation core exercises to help strengthen your core muscles for functional stability.

This particular anti-rotation ab exercise also strengthens your shoulders.

Here are the steps:

  1. Get in a push-up position with a resistance band around your wrists. Maintain tension in the band at all times.
  2. Keeping your body as still and stable as possible, step one hand out at a time to each position of the clock, Right hand to 1:00, then back to neutral. Then out to 2:00 and back to neutral. When you get to 6:00, switch to moving the left hand to 7:00, 8:00, and so on.
  3. Perform five full cycles of the clock.

#8: V Ups 

This is a great core exercise to target your lower abs. You can increase the difficulty by holding a medicine ball or dumbbell up overhead.

Here are the steps:

  1. Lie on your back with your arms extended over your head, holding a weight.
  2. Use your core to simultaneously lift your legs and upper body off the floor, folding your body at your hips into a V.
  3. Pause and then slowly lower your body back towards the floor without fully touching it. 
  4. Then raise back up.
  5. Complete 10-15 reps.

#9: Weighted Superman

It’s important not to neglect the lower back in your core workouts.  

As you get stronger, you can wear ankle weights and hold a dumbbell to make this bodyweight exercise more difficult.

Here are the steps for this core workout exercise:

  1. Lie on your stomach with your arms extended overhead, holding onto a dumbbell or medicine ball between your hands.
  2. Squeeze your glutes and lower back muscles to lift your upper body, head, chest, and lower body so that only your stomach and the top of your hips stay on the floor. Keep your arms straight when you pick up and lift the weight.
  3. Hold the top position for 2-3 seconds and then slowly lower back down.
  4. Complete 15-20 reps.

#10: Dumbbell Windshield Wipers

This is a great core exercise for your obliques, lower abs, and deep core muscles, such as the transversus abdominis and multifidus.

Here are the steps for this core workout move:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs straight up in the air perpendicular to the floor and your arms straight up above your chest, holding one end of a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your arms fixed in this position.
  2. Keeping your legs together and knees straight, use your abs to bring your legs as a unit down towards the right until they hover just above the ground without touching.
  3. Lift back up to the top position and then lower to the left.
  4. Complete 12-15 slow reps per side.

For more core workout ideas, check out our guide here.

A weighted superman.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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