A woman doing a crunch in her bedroom

Core workouts: 4 of the best bodyweight ab exercises to build strength

Posted by for Strength

Bored of crunches? We recommend four of the best at-home no equipment moves to try for when you want a killer core workout.

There’s nothing quite like the rush of completing a heavy lift at the gym, but sometimes the barbell isn’t the best way to build strength. Working your core is a crucial part of strength training, and something that can be done with your body weight alone.

A quick rundown on your core: it’s the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen that all work in harmony. Making them stronger can lead to better balance, stability and, of course, strength

With these no-equipment moves, slow and steady wins the race: make sure that you keep core moves slow and controlled. Going too fast is basically cheating, because you’ll end up using momentum rather than your muscles.

Getting your form right is essential when working your abs. Make sure you ‘tuck your ribs in’ by driving them down towards the hips, rather than arching your back. And during moves that involve lying on your back, have an “imprinted spine” by tucking your tailbone under and keeping the lower back connected to the floor.


Plank variations

A woman doing a low plank on her forearms in her living room.
Core workout: the dynamic plank works your abdominals.

Don’t hate us, but it’s possible to make standard and side planks even more challenging. Just remember that they should always be slow and controlled.

Dynamic planks

Make your planks dynamic by adding in forward and backwards rocking motions.

  1. Come into a low plank position, resting on your forearms with your legs extended straight behind you. 
  2. Keep your belly button pulled towards your spine and your hips down.
  3. Rock onto your toes, keeping your back flat, so your shoulders and chest comes further over your arms. 
  4. Rock as far back onto the balls of your feet and repeat the rocking motion while maintaining your form. 

Elevated planks

You can also make planks harder by elevating a part of your body, like lifting off a hand or a foot. 

  1. From a high plank position, with your wrists under shoulders, and core engaged. 
  2. Slowly lift one hand from under you, avoiding rocking or collapsing your hips and chest to the other side. 
  3. Elevate it for a few seconds, then return. 
  4. Repeat on the other side. 

Russian twists

Target your obliques and deep abdominals with this side-to-side exercise. 

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs bent and toes on the floor.  
  2. Lean slightly back and, if you are doing the advanced version, let your toes come off the floor.
  3. Twist from your core to take your hands to one side, then twist back to the centre and to the opposite side. Keep your pelvis and hips straight as you do so. 

Dead bugs

Build stability while you strengthen the muscles with this move.

  1. Lying on your back and tuck your tailbone so there is no gap between your spine and the ground. 
  2. Lift your legs into a tabletop position so your knees are bent at 90°. Lift your arms so your fingers point towards the ceiling 
  3. Slowly lower one arm overhead so the backs of your hands come close to the floor. At the same time, straighten and lower the opposite leg so the heel nearly touches the ground. 
  4. Squeeze the core to return the arm and leg to the starting position and repeat on the other side. 

Bird dogs

We often forget the back of our core: our multifidus and erector spinae. Bird dogs, which are essentially the opposite of a dead bug, are great for working that section. 

  1. Come into a kneeling position with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. 
  2. Draw the belly button to the spine and keep your back flat. 
  3. Extend one arm out straight so it comes parallel to the floor, while also straightening and lifting the opposite leg. 
  4. Squeeze your glutes, back and core at the top, then slowly lower. 
  5. Repeat on the other side. 

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).

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