Core, or abdominal, exercise is integral to almost every movement because it helps with so much: balance, coordination, and flexibility. It also improves your performance with cardio workouts. Although your abs may recover more quickly than other muscles, remember that they still need rest too.


Triceps kickback

Starting position: Stand up in split-stance position, with your right leg forward, holding a dumbbell in your left hand. Place your right hand on your right thigh and slowly lean forward to 45 degrees while keeping your head in line with your spine. Keeping your left arm close to your body, bend your left elbow so that your forearm is vertical to the floor. Keep your abs engaged.

Kickback: Extend and straighten your elbow while keeping your upper arm close to your torso. Slowly bend to bring back to starting and repeat.

Modification: For more advanced kickbacks, keep your feet together, use a weight in each hand, and lean over so that your torso is parallel to the floor. Or for more support, use a weight bench and place your opposite knee on the bench.


Modified push-up

You can do push-ups anywhere. The push-up is one of the best exercises for arm strength while working your entire body. Don’t be intimidated — you can start on your knees and then build up to regular pushups on the balls of your feet. Targets: arms, butt/hips, chest, shoulder, core, full body.

Starting position: Go down on your hands and knees and place your hands on the floor directly beneath your shoulders, fingers facing forward. Adjust your knees so that your torso is in a straight line with your head, with no bend in your hips.

Down and up: Keeping your elbows close to your body, slowly bend them to lower your body to the floor (just touching or hovering above) without allowing your hips to sag. Imagine you have a cup of water on your lower back. Push back up, maintaining that same rigidity.


Regular push-up

To do a regular push-up, start in plank position. Get on your hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders, fingers facing forward. Extend one leg and then the other behind you so that your feet are together, toes tucked, heels reaching way back. Your head and spine should be aligned. Engage your core throughout the exercise to protect your lower back.

Holding in plank pose can help define your abdominal muscles and prevent back injury. For an easier pose, come down to your forearms. For a more difficult plank pose, lift one leg up at a time and hold for 10 seconds before switching legs.


Spinning planks

Building on what you learned with the previous description of planks, you can try this more advanced full-body exercise that uses your own body weight for resistance.

Starting position: Start in a plank position. Shift your weight to the right side and rotate your left arm up to the ceiling while balancing on your right foot. For a more advanced pose, lift your left leg slightly. Hold for 5–10 seconds (one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, and so on).

Flip: Continue to rotate your left arm back to the floor so that your stomach is facing the ceiling. Push your hips up and tighten your core so that your hips don’t sag. This is a reverse plank.

Reverse: Now, keep your left arm on the ground and begin to rotate your right arm up so you’re in a side plank on the opposite side. Hold for the same amount of time you did on the right side. Return to standard plank position. Lower your knees if you need to rest. Otherwise complete 5 full rotations.


Dumbbell press

This is my go-to all-around arm and back strength exercise. If you don’t have weights you can add resistance by taking an old t-shirt, twist it up until it’s a straight line, and hold each end with one hand, close enough so there’s tension.

Starting position: Lie on your back with your knees bent so that your feet are flat on the ground. Hold one weight in each hand and bring them in front of your chest. Your upper arms should be parallel to the floor (either resting on the floor or hovering slightly above) and your lower arms vertical, palms facing away.

Press: Press the dumbbells upward until your arms are fully extended and parallel to each other. You can rotate your palms to face each other at the top. Slowly lower dumbbells back to starting position and repeat.


Supine bicycle crunches

These are the most fun abdominal exercises and are also effective for working your abdominal muscles, including your obliques, which are the sides of your core.

Starting position: Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pushing into the floor and hands behind your head. Bend your knees and lift your legs up to a 90 degree angle so your thighs are perpendicular to the floor.

Bicycle and twist: Simultaneously bring your right knee into your right armpit and extend your left leg out straight at a 45 degree angle to the floor. Rotate your torso to bring your left elbow towards your right knee. Hold this position for a moment, then alternate.