Training your core is about so much more than getting toned abs. Your core is responsible for helping you function on a day-to-day basis—things like allowing you to sit, stand, walk and more.

"Core strength allows us to move with more efficiency, increase our power and speed, and help us maintain good form during endurance sports," says Melissa Kendter, ACE-CPT and EvolveYou trainer. "When you solidify and strengthen your trunk, everything else feels easier."

Meet the experts: Melissa Kendter is an ACE-certified personal trainer and EvolveYou trainer. Michelle Marques is an ACE-certified personal trainer with experience at Equinox, Soho Strength Lab, and Dogpound.

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It also is crucial for improving your balance and stability, creating equilibrium in your body. "Core exercises train the muscles in your entire trunk area to work in harmony and lessen muscular imbalances," adds Kendter. "This leads to better balance and stability in our daily life with tasks, overall performance, workouts and sports. Everyday tasks will become easier."

So, what's best way to work your core? Focus on moves that hit all the muscles in your trunk. "Your core includes the abdominals, pelvic floor, lower back, hips and glutes, and is the foundation of all movements," says Kendter. "By only doing crunches, you’re only working your upper abdominal muscles. This can get quite repetitive, boring and can be a waste of time."

Ready to switch up your core workout?

14 Best Core Exercises For Strong Abs


Time: 15 minutes

Equipment: Mat, dumbbells

Good for: Core

Instructions: Choose one exercise from each group below, for a full core workout designed and demo'd by Michelle Marques, CPT.

A: Deadbug bodyweight, kettlebell bridge pullover, kettlebell deadbug pullover, single-arm floor press deadbug, glute bridge march

B: Side plank, stability ball rollout, inchworm, bird dog, bear crawl, stability ball stir the pot

C: Unilateral dumbbell march

Complete three sets of the indicated number of reps for each move. Once you've completed all sets of one move, continue to the next, in ABC order. Alternatively, incorporate these core exercises into a full-body routine.


1. Single-Arm Press

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  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in your left hand.
  2. Extend your right arm out to your side at a 45-degree angle from your body while you rack the dumbbell on right shoulder. This is your starting position.
  3. Brace your core and begin to raise the weight overhead, keeping your bicep close to your ear and palm facing toward you.
  4. Return to start. That's one rep. Continue for 10 reps on each side.

2. Deadbug

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  1. Lie on your back with your arms extended over your chest and legs bent 90 degrees (knees above hips).
  2. Keep your low back pressed to the floor, brace your core, then slowly and simultaneously extend and lower your right leg until your heel nearly touches floor and your left arm until your hand nearly touches floor overhead.
  3. Pause, then return to start and repeat with the opposite leg and arm. That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps.

3. Glute Bridge March

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  1. Lie on your back with your legs bent, heels under knees, feet flat on the floor.
  2. Extend your arms over your chest, palms facing. Raise your hips so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  3. Brace your abs and lift your right knee over your hip, maintaining the 90-degree angle of that leg.
  4. Hold for a moment, then lower your right foot. Repeat with the left. That's one rep. Complete 12 reps.

4. Side Plank

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  1. Lay on your side with your right forearm flat on the floor, elbow under your shoulder, and both legs extended, forming a straight line from your head to your feet. (Feet can either be staggered for more stability, or stacked for more of a challenge.)
  2. Engage your core and lift your hips off the floor. Hold for 30 seconds on each side.

5. Inchworm

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  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly bend over and touch the floor in front of your feet with both hands.
  2. Keeping your legs as straight as possible and core tight, walk your hands forward, without letting your hips drop, until you reach a high plank position.
  3. Pause, then slowly walk your feet toward your hands. That's one rep. Complete 10 reps.

6. Bird Dog

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  1. Get on all fours with your wrists stacked directly under your shoulders and knees under hips.
  2. Keeping your back flat, core engaged, and a slight bend in your elbows, extend your left arm out in front of you at shoulder height and your right leg straight behind you at hip height.
  3. With control, bring your extended leg back underneath you, stopping at your hips, and tap that knee with your opposite hand.
  4. Lower your leg and arm down, then repeat on the opposite side. That's one rep. Complete 10 reps.

7. Bear Crawl

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  1. Start in tabletop position at the back of your mat with your wrists under your shoulders, knees under hips, and your neck aligned with your spine.
  2. Keep a slight bend in your elbows. Raise your hips slightly to lift your knees off the floor while maintaining a flat back.
  3. Slowly walk your hands and feet forward to the top of your mat, then reverse the movement. That's one rep. Complete 12 reps.

8. Single-Arm Floor Press Deadbug

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  1. Lie on your back with your legs bent (knees over hips) and arms extended at chest height, holding a dumbbell in your left hand, palm facing away from you.
  2. Press your low back to the mat and brace your core. That's your starting position.
  3. Slowly and simultaneously extend and lower your right leg until your heel nearly touches floor as you bend your left arm until it touches the floor at a 45-degree angle from your body.
  4. Pause, then return to start. That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps on each side.

9. Kettlebell Bridge Pullover

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  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Hold a kettlebell in both hands, resting on top of your chest.
  2. Raise your hips so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  3. Lift the kettlebell into the air over your chest, then slowly lower it behind you until it nearly touches the ground without arching your back or splaying your rib cage.
  4. Engage your core and return the kettlebell over your chest. That's one rep. Complete eight reps.

10. Kettlebell Deadbug Pullover

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  1. Lie on your back with your legs bent at 90 degrees (knees over hips) and arms extended over your chest holding a kettlebell with both hands. That's your start position.
  2. Press low back in to floor, brace your core, then slowly and simultaneously extend and lower your right leg until your heel nearly touches floor while you lower the kettlebell overhead until it nearly touches the floor behind you.
  3. Pause, then return to start and repeat on the opposite side. That’s one rep. Complete eight reps.

11. Stability Ball Deadbug

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  1. Lie on your back with your legs bent at 90 degrees and arms extended over your chest holding a stability ball between your forearms and knees.
  2. Press low back in to the mat, brace your core, then slowly and simultaneously extend and lower your right leg until your heel nearly touches floor and your left arm overhead until your hand nearly touches floor behind you.
  3. Pause, then return both knee and forearm to the stability ball and repeat on the opposite side. That’s one rep. Complete 10 reps.

12. Stability Ball Stir The Pot

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  1. Place your forearms on a stability ball and extend your legs directly behind you into a high plank—your body should form a straight line from head to heels.
  2. Brace your abs and move your forearms in a full circle, so the stability ball moves as well, keeping the rest of your body still. That's one rep. Do 10 reps then reverse the circle for 10 reps.

13. Stability Ball Rollout

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  1. Start by kneeling on your mat and place your forearms on a stability ball.
  2. Slowly move your arms forward, until your body forms a straight line. Hold here for three seconds, then roll back until your hips are over your knees. That's one rep. Complete as many reps as you can in 30 seconds.

14. Unilateral Dumbbell March

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  1. Stand up straight, with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in your left hand and extend your right arm out to your side at a 45-degree angle from your body.
  3. Slowly lift your left leg up until your knee is at hip height.
  4. Then, with control, lower your leg down to the ground. Repeat on the other side. That's one rep. Complete 10 reps, switch hands with the dumbbell, and do another 10 reps.