Core workouts: standing ab exercises for a stronger core

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Give your core stability and balance a great workout with these expert-approved ab exercises. 

If you think about core workouts, your mind probably goes straight to old faithfuls like planks and crunches. But your core is also vital to keeping you upright, helping you maintain good posture, and controlling your movements when walking or running. Surely, then, it only makes sense to work some standing ab exercises into your fitness routine. 

Standing exercises are great for your core stability and can really help you improve your balance, because you need to make sure your abs stay engaged to keep you standing strong and upright. While there is no need to completely ditch the floor workouts in favour of more vertical alternatives, it is a good idea to throw some into your sessions to mix up your training session. That way, you’ll ensure your muscles get a well-rounded workout.

We asked fitness trainers to tell us their favourite standing ab exercises. Give them a try when you’re next in the gym or doing an at-home workout. 

Core workouts
Core workouts: standing exercises are great for your core stability and can really help you improve your balance

Standing side bend with dumbbell

According to Kerry Dixon, a personal trainer and founder of The Athlete Method, and Folusha Oluwajana, a doctor and personal trainer, this is a great exercise for building up the strength in your side obliques and improving posture. It’s also easy to do and requires very little equipment, so even if you don’t have access to dumbbells at home or the gym, you can hold something like a bottle of water in each hand to similar effect. 

Start by standing with your feet hip width apart, arms down by your sides, dumbbells in hand, and your core engaged. From here, simply bend to the right from your waist without leaning forward or back, until you feel a slight stretch in the oblique muscles on the left side of your body. Kerry recommends repeating a set number of reps on each side, for example ten, and then repeating on the other side. 

Standing side crunch with dumbbell

Another of Kerry’s favourite exercises is the standing side crunch, which again can be done with small weights. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart, your arms extended out sideways from your shoulders, and your elbows bent at a 90 degree angle, so that you are holding the weights roughly at head height. Then, “using a dumbbell in each hand, engage your core and move your left elbow to meet your left quadricep by bending from the waist”. 

While you bend, you need to lift your leg up so that your elbow and thigh meet in the middle. This will force your obliques to work and will require good balance. Return to your starting position, and then repeat ten times, before doing the same on the right side.  

Lunge with knee drive

For this exercise, start out in a low lunge position, with your left leg bent at a 90 degree angle in front of your body and your right leg straight behind. Then, you need to “engage your core and lift your left knee forwards and upwards towards your chest”, explains Kerry. Your right leg will straighten as you move through the exercise and you should lift your arms over your head, too. You should end up standing up straight while balancing on your right leg, with your left leg extended out in front of you and bent at the knee. 

Hold for a second, then return to your starting position with as quick and controlled a movement as you can, and repeat ten times. Once you have completed your reps, do the same on the other side. This is an “excellent way to actively work your pelvic floor and front abdominal area”. 

Core workouts: lunge with knee drive

Dumbbell woodchop

Folusha’s other standing ab exercise of choice is the dumbbell woodchop. “This exercise challenges the core in the rotational plane”, she explains, and it “translates well to everyday activities”. It can be done with a dumbbell or similar weight. 

Hold your dumbbell with both hands on one side of your body, standing with feet shoulder width apart, and then bend at the knees into a squat position. As you stand back up, “swing the dumbbell up and across your body until it is raised overhead above your opposite shoulder, while twisting your torso to the opposite side”. It may help to lift your heel off the floor as you twist. Then, reverse the action to return to the starting position, “using your core muscles to control the movement”.  

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Image credit: Getty

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