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What are the Different Types of Core Training Exercises?

By M. J. Memon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are a wide variety of core training exercises. They often fall into at least one of two groups: core strengthening exercises and core stability exercises. Core exercises may be performed with body weight alone or with the aid of equipment. Some exercise systems, such as Pilates, focus on core conditioning. Core training exercises, such as ab exercises, are also used to condition the body for enhanced physical appearance and ability.

Strengthening exercises for the core are designed primarily to increase the strength of the core muscles. This allows for better athletic performance and easier performance of many physical tasks. Common exercises include the plank, the bridge, push-ups and the crunch. Numerous variations of these core exercises exist to increase conditioning, provide a greater challenge and reduce boredom. Variations of the plank often involve adding motion from an arm or leg.

Stability training routines tend to focus on exercises and stretches that that will aid proper posture and prevent injury. Back pain is often associated with weak core muscles and can be alleviated by performing core exercises. This form of training involves many of the same exercises as core strength training.

Most core training exercises require proper positioning to avoid injury and derive full benefits from the exercise. In stability training, there is often a greater focus on proper contraction of the core and alignment of the body. A static plank, in which the exerciser takes care to maintain a neutral spine and tucked pelvis, can be held for up to several minutes. This can work the core and help the body to become more limber.

Many forms of equipment can be used to aid core training. The most common ones, such as a stability ball or wobble board, force the exerciser to move on an unstable surface. Using an unstable surface can also force the body to utilize core muscles during exercises that normally do not involve the core. For example, doing some types of arm exercises on a stability ball will require use of the core muscles.

A number of exercise systems such as yoga and Pilates focus on core training exercises. Most Pilates exercises, such as the hundreds, combine breathing rhythms with core contraction. Yoga also emphasizes breath work and positioning, and many yoga positions work the core. Both these systems can be done without equipment, but a class or instruction through a Digital Video Disc (DVD) is advisable, especially for the beginner.

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Discussion Comments

By Sara007 — On Aug 26, 2011

Pilates is one of the best things you can do if you want to find quality core training exercises. I love how in Pilates the focus is making long and lean muscles.

Some of the best Pilates exercises for abs are done on the mat in my opinion and include the roll up, the hundred and the criss cross. To really get your heart rate up and to work your abs the swimming pose and double straight leg lowers can be added to your routine.

With Pilates you'll notice your core gets stronger quickly and you get more of a dancers physique.

By manykitties2 — On Aug 25, 2011

For those that are interested in really toning their core with training exercises you should book an appointment with the trainer at your gym. I managed to get a free session with a trainer because I was a new member at my gym and it really helped me to properly target my core.

For an ultimate beginner my trainer recommended using the available machines to keep my form perfect. To help with my lower abs I was put on the Roman chair and for my upper abs and side muscles I was told to use the ab machine. While I have heard that traditional crunches and such are better, I like the machines because I don't have to worry as much about doing things incorrectly.

By runner101 — On Aug 25, 2011

@bluespirit - If you want a rock hard core I would go with either the ab wheel or stability ball.

The ab wheel looks basically like a 4-5 inch wheel with a little handle bar going through the center.

You put your hands on the handle and following the instructions and positions as given with the wheel, you wheel yourself back and forth and when happens is that you have to maintain balance and core strength as you roll back and forth. To me, a person who could do a ton of crunches, this was a difficult core workout.

The stability ball exercises will keep you a bit more entertained than the ab wheel (there is only so much you can do with a wheel and a handle)! However, with the stability ball you can use it in so many different ways to train not only your core but also so many other muscles that you are less likely to get bored.

I know some people who sit on stability balls while and work and this has also helped their core as it involves more muscles than simply sitting in a chair.

By bluespirit — On Aug 25, 2011

I have always done core exercise training in the form of crunches to increase my core strength, but I am getting bored and burnt out of the crunches although I have always tried to do a variety of them.

Any suggestions for other type of core exercise training? And I should note, I am not a fan of push-ups or planks...

By Sinbad — On Aug 24, 2011

I love to do core exercises (I know it sounds silly to actually enjoy exercise but I promise this one is easy), and actually one of the core workout that I love to do can be done while doing exercises at home, standing at home, or just cleaning around the house.

The exercise I do is simply bettering your posture and flexing your abdominal muscles at pretty much all times. It sounds weird I know. But I do it now and do not even notice I am doing it. I had heard about flexing your abdominal muscles to increase the "workout burn" of your walk, and started doing it for that, and the next thing I knew I was always doing it.

Although it is not going to give you a six pack it gives me great posture and makes me more aware of my breathing and abdominal muscles.

By chivebasil — On Aug 23, 2011

It doesn't really matter what kind of core training exercise you do as long as you do something.

I see so many guys in the gym these days that only workout superficial muscles like their biceps or their calves. These guys might be big and look strong, but their core is weak. The have essentially moved all of their strength to the extraneous parts of their body. Not only is this a misguided way to workout, it is also dangerous.

The problem is that now these guys have these massive arms but week middles. They think they can lift a ton but when they go and try they throw out their back or strain their stomach. Core fitness is crucial for overall fitness. Being strong is about more than looking good in a t-shirt.

By truman12 — On Aug 23, 2011

For my money the best core training exercise is the plank and the many variations of it that have been developed.

To do a plank you basically get into a pushup position but with your arms bent so that you are resting on your forearms. You hold the position for as long as you can stand it while keeping your abs sucked in and the middle of your torso tight.

You can switch it up by putting weight on your back, using one foot instead of two or performing the exercise on your side. After a few weeks of regular planking you will notice a stronger and tighter core for sure.

By SZapper — On Aug 22, 2011

@Monika - That's cool. I don't think everyone would want to try a pole dancing class though, even if it is good for your core.

Aerial acrobatics are good for your core, and they are a little bit less scandalous than pole dance classes. I take lessons on the aerial hoop, and most of the moves take a lot of core strength and stability. I can tell me core is much stronger since I took up aerials as a hobby!

The best part is, it doesn't even feel like exercise. It just feels like fun!

By Monika — On Aug 21, 2011

This may sound weird and trendy, but pole dancing is awesome for your core. A good friend of mine teaches at a pole dance studio and she is in fantastic shape!

She convinced me to try a few classes, and my abs were so sore after I was done. I also noticed a lot of ladies that were regulars of the class were extremely toned. I think if I kept it up I'd probably have killer abs just like my friend.

By dfoster85 — On Aug 21, 2011

@Kat919 - Congrats on your new baby! So exciting!

I was in the same boat during my pregnancy, but it turns out that crunches aren't necessarily the best exercise for anyone, man or woman, pregnant or not. The repeated bending of the spine isn't great for it and some also say that the movement weakens the muscles of your pelvic floor (and if you want to be able to job comfortably ever again, you can't have that!).

Te good news is that some of the best core training exercises are totally safe during pregnancy. You can do planks and push-ups (which are a lot like planks if you hold your body still). If these get harder for you, you might want to do push-ups and planks with your hands on a coffee table or sturdy desk.

For your lower back, there's the good old cat exercise, which involves extending one leg and the opposite arm.

It's hard to find a good pregnancy workout video if you've been at all fit because many of them are just way too easy, but there are some out there. I liked the Shiva Rea prenatal yoga and Erin O'Brien's workout, which is cardio and strength training. Both of those have good core work.

By Kat919 — On Aug 21, 2011

I'm pregnant with my second child right now and can't do my usual core strength exercises. I used to do a lot of crunches and cobra poses (which involves lying on my now-expanded belly). What are some alternatives that are safe to do while you're pregnant?

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