1.RKC (Russian Kettlebell Challenge) Plank
This is my personal favorite plank variation.
The general idea is that you are creating tension throughout your whole body by actively contracting your muscles. This should make you tremble and make it impossible to hold for an extended period of time.
We’re starting with a challenging and effective move that’s still fairly easy to master. Plus, you can modify it to accommodate your fitness level. As you improve and notice more strength in your core, increase the difficulty of the move so you can continue to challenge yourself and see results.
How to Do It:
- Start by lying on your back on the mat with your knees and feet lifted off the ground at a ninety-degree angle.
- Lace your hands behind your head to cradle your neck and head, but do not pull on your neck and head. Allow your elbows to fall out to the sides.
- Start by raising your shoulders and upper back up off the mat and leaning slightly to the left. At the same time, bring your left knee toward your chest, so your left knee and your right elbow come together.
- Do the same with the other side by bringing your right knee and your left elbow together.
This move I learned from Jillian Michaels. While this is an isometric exercise, requiring no movement, it’s a real burner. Make sure you keep your shoulders down and away from your ears and your low back glued to the mat.
These are reverse crunches which, as the name suggests, are the opposite of regular crunches. And unlike regular crunches, they help improve your posture.
They’re easier than some of the other exercises on this list, but they definitely shouldn’t be underestimated. If you’ve never done them before you will get sore.
It’s important that you keep your core tight throughout this exercise (tense it as if somebody was going to punch you in the stomach).
5.The Towel Plank and Knee-In
This one’s a favorite of boot camp instructors the world over because it’s hard. Not only are you improving the strength of your core by forcing the lower abdominals, obliques, and lats to extend and pull, you’re also strengthening your glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
This movement is the definition of a full core exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic, a core exercise is one that works the muscles of the abdomen, pelvis, hips, and lower back so they can all work in harmony. And again, once you master this move, there are lots of ways to play around with it so you’re always challenged.
This move really targets the low back. In fact, many people suffer from low back pain because their core (including their low back) is actually really weak. If this variation is too difficult, skip the “pull” part and just practice raising your arms and legs off of the ground.
Dead bugs look easy.
But if they feel easy, I can almost guarantee you’re doing them wrong.
Your back should be flush against the ground throughout, which is accomplished by keeping your core braced. And the movement should be slow and controlled.
8.The Russian Twist
An oldie but a goodie — a real goodie. This move will strengthen the obliques for a strong core that you’ll actually be able to feel when you move. It’s also an essential move for strengthening the muscles near your spine and alleviating back pain. Again, this move can be modified to fit your fitness level
How to Do It:
- Start seated with knees bent at roughly a ninety-degree angle and feet flat on the mat.
- Lean your upper body back so it’s at a roughly 45-degree angle with the floor.
- Bend your elbows and hold them out in front of your body or cross them in front of your chest if you prefer.
- Start moving only your trunk to the left. Keep your core tight and contracted, and make sure you aren’t just moving your shoulders and head. You should be rotating your entire top half to the left (as far as you can safely go), and your bottom half should remain frozen.
- Return to center position, and repeat to the right.
See how long you can do this move without shaking! If extending your legs is too difficult, you can do it with bent knees until you gain the core strength. As with the Hollowman, and all these core exercises for that matter, make sure that your shoulders stay down and away from your ears- no matter how hard it gets!
Ab wheel rollouts are thought to be the most effective core exercise in existence.
But as the name suggests, you need an ab wheel to perform them. You probably don’t have room for an ab wheel in your suitcase or backpack, so the next best thing is a suspension trainer (such as TRX).
Using a suspension trainer, you can perform fallouts, which challenge your core in much the same way as the ab wheel.
One added benefit of using a suspension trainer is that it is easy to adjust the difficulty of the exercise. If you stand close to upright it will be fairly easy, but if you lengthen the straps and lower yourself closer to the ground it will be much tougher.
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