How can I strengthen my core?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Try the following moves to make the center of your body strong.

Plank: Get into a push-up position with your elbows and toes on the floor, while pushing the area between your shoulders toward the ceiling and keeping your stomach pulled in toward your lower back, to support it. Keep your buttocks tight and your eyes looking at the floor (ignore what your family is doing to distract you). Hold the position for as long as you can. If you can last more than one minute, make it more difficult by dropping your chin 20 times out in front of your interwoven hands, or by trying to balance on one foot.

Bicycle: Lie on the floor with your hands resting lightly behind your head. Raise your feet off the ground and bend your right knee and pull it toward your chest. Simultaneously twist your opposite shoulder toward this knee, keeping your elbows out of your line of vision. Switch sides back and forth. Keep your lower foot suspended in the air as you switch sides. Then hold to one side, reaching your shoulder toward the opposite knee for 30 seconds. Switch and then hold to the opposite side for 30 more.
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Lie on your back with your fingers laced behind your head, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your right leg straight up toward the ceiling, ankle bent. Using your abs, lift your upper body toward your right toe. Pretend there's a string in your belly button that is pulling your stomach down toward the ground. Cradle your head in your hands as if it were an egg, and keep your neck relaxed. Work up to 25 reps each leg. To make it harder: Straighten the lower leg, and keep it one inch off the ground throughout.

Strengthening the core has endless possibilities.  Each and every exercise that is completed has some form of a modification and this modification may help make the exercise easier or more challenging. Below will be two examples of exercises to complete:

  • Plank – A standard plank is very challenging even for very fit individuals.  To start lay face down on the ground.  Take both of your arms and lock them along your sides, keep them parallel.  Following, take your toes and tuck them under flexing your feet towards you.  Next, engage your abdominals and squeeze your glutes.  Lift your body, breath, and hold.  Attempt to hold for :30 seconds or build up to :30 seconds.  If you are unable to lift then hold yourself in a more extended position, have your arms fully extended in a push-up position, and be sure your arms are straight down at chest height.  If too easy, then hold for longer!
  • Bridge – Lay on your back, bend your legs bringing your heels close to your hips.  Engage your abdominals and lift your hips off the ground, driving the weight through your heels.  Form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees squeezing your glutes then entire time.  Return just prior to the starting position and complete 10-15 repetitions.  If you want a challenge, complete single-leg bridges.
William B. Salt II., MD
Having a strong mid-section or core supports your back muscles and  reduces your risk of injury. Here are two exercises directed to core strength.

Abdominal crunches
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Put your hands lightly to your ears. Crunch up about thirty degrees from the floor by using your abdominal muscles.

Arm and leg lifts
Place both hands and knees on the floor with your arms and thighs parallel to each other and perpendicular to the floor. Make sure that your knees are directly under your hips. Your hands should be under your shoulders. Looking at the floor, keep your head in line with your spine and back straight. Lift one arm and the opposite leg slowly off the floor and extend them straight out so that your leg, back, and arm are roughly in one line. Slowly lower them to the starting position. After one set, switch positions and use the other arm and leg in opposition.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.