Best core workout: get a six pack and improve your performance with this core exercise routine

This core workout will smoke your abs, strengthen your shoulders and improve your posture too

best core workout
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Training your core is beneficial for many reasons: even just doing planks for 60 seconds a day can improve your posture and balance significantly, let alone following the best core workout, as described below. Truth to be told, it is not the easiest of workouts, especially if you have a weak core, but once you mastered these core exercises, you will see a range of benefits.

What is 'core' anyway? Core muscles are the muscles surrounding your lower torso, including the abdominal muscles, the obliques and the lower back. Many people fall into the trap of only training their abs for those six pack gains, but you need to pay attention to your lower back muscles as well if you truly want to master exercises like pushups.

If you struggle to keep your body straight when you do pushups or having trouble keeping your back straight when you sit, those can be signs of a weak core. Following a core exercise routine has a range of health benefits as well as being able to keep your body straight: having a strong core means you can lift heavier in the gym (or at your home gym), have a better posture when you sit for longer periods of time and it can even alleviate some forms of back pain.

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best core workout

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How to perform this best core exercise

There are five exercises in the set, each to be performed for 40 seconds, followed by 20 seconds rest. Repeat this set at least twice for the best results. Leave a 60 second rest period in between sets. Completing one set shouldn't take you longer than approx. five minutes. The workout patters is as follows:

  • Plank – 40 seconds
  • Rest – 20 seconds
  • Ab rollout – 40 seconds
  • Rest – 20 seconds
  • Mountain climbers – 40 seconds
  • Rest – 20 seconds
  • Russian twists – 40 seconds
  • Rest – 20 seconds
  • Good morning – 40 seconds
  • Rest – 60 seconds
  • Repeat once more

There are plenty of workout timer apps available for free but you can also just use a running watch with stopwatch function to time your sets. To be able to do all the exercises, you will need an inexpensive ab roller (here is how to use an ab roller) and some resistance bands, dumbbells or kettlebells.

Best core exercises

(Image credit: Future)

1. Planks

Planks look simple yet are notoriously hard to perform. In reality, planks are one of the most efficient exercises out there to strengthen your core, not just your and but your lower back too. Doing planks is a fast track to six pack gains, better than doing crunches for sure.

All you have to do is to keep your body straight for as long as you can, preferable at least 30 seconds but feel free to hold it for longer if you can. Plank varieties include high planks (arms extended, starting position of a pushup), low planks (resting your body on your elbows), knee planks (resting your lower body on your knees as opposed to your feet) and side planks (one arm supporting your upper body, facing sideways). 

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(Image credit: Future)
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(Image credit: Future)

2. Ab rollout

Ab rollers are wonderful and if you haven't learned how to use an ab roller yet, it's time to pick up some knowledge. Doing ab rollouts anywhere, let it be the gym or at home, is an absolute power move and the ultimate party trick (along with being able to do pistol squats).

Just like planks, the ab rollout exercise looks pretty simple: hold the roller with your hands, legs bent in the knees, then push the roller forward until your nose almost touches the ground. Once there, pull the roller back towards your knees. Sounds simple enough? It really isn't and we wouldn't recommend it to anyone who hasn't got at least a moderate amount of core strength.

best core workout: mountain climmbers

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3. Mountain climbers

Mountain climbers work pretty much your whole body, but especially your abs and obliques, your quads and hamstrings, and basically your whole upper body for stabilisation.

You start off in the standard push up position. To perform a mountain climber, drive your knees up towards your chest, one at a time, in quick succession. You want to keep your body in a pushup position, all the way through the exercise, so don't bob your hips up and down as you're tucking your legs in.

Try to do mountain climbers as fast as you can without compromising on technique. It is a high-intensity exercise, after all. You'll see that even 15 seconds of mountain climbers can be very tiring.

best core workout: russian twists

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4, Russian twist

To perform a proper Russian twist, sit down on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Clasp your hand together and lift your feet off the ground, using your core to balance.

Then, turn your shoulders and move your fists from one side of your body to the other, over your knees. A variety on the theme is to touch the floor on both sides as you twist your body, your hands doing a semi-circle over your knees.

For added resistance, you can hold either a dumbbell or a kettlebell in your hands as you twist.

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(Image credit: Future)
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(Image credit: Future)

5. Good mornings

Good mornings are brilliant for strengthening the lower back and better still, you can perform this exercise using bodyweight only, or you can use resistance bands, barbells or dumbbells for added resistance if you wish.

All you need to do is to keep your back straight as you lean forward, as far as you comfortably can, and then straighten back up. If you are using a barbell, make sure you don't rest the bar on your neck but on your traps instead. If you are using dumbbells, hold them up shoulder height and keep them there as you lean forward. Make sure you really squeeze your abs to maintain balance.