Looking for a ripped six-pack or at least a flat, toned tummy? You’re not alone. A lean midsection is the ultimate goal for many men and women, and it might be closer than you think. The best thing about developing a core workout routine at home is that unlike some other major muscle groups, most movements targeting the core are just as effective without special equipment, like weights, Bosu mats, and core balls. That means that you can get the same results at home as you can in the gym without the hassle of a daily commute and packing your gym bag. If you’re looking for a lean midsection, check out these six core workout routines to try at home.
Targeted Muscle Groups
Before we dive into the specific exercises, let’s talk about the different groups of core muscles you’ll be targeting as you work your core. Contrary to popular belief, your core is composed of more than just the “six-pack” of muscles most people think of. Elements of the core include:
- Rectus abdominus: The rectus abdominus are the quintessential “six-pack” abs you think of when you think of your core. The muscles of the rectus abdominus run from your breastbone down to your pelvis.
- External obliques: Your obliques consist of the muscles that run along the sides of the body along the rib cage and beneath the arms. Your external obliques are beneath the “love handles” that so many women are seeking to get rid of.
- Internal obliques: We can’t see the internal obliques, but they’re important stabilizing muscles that are found under the external obliques.
- Transversus abdominus: The deepest layer of the abdominal muscles, the tranversus abdominus runs horizontally around the midsection.
- Erector spinae: The erector spinae muscles run down your back from the base of your neck down to your sacrum and help the body to stand up straight and bend backwards.
- Multifidus: The multifidus muscles stabilize our spines and support the vertebral joints, allowing for rotation and flexion of the spine. These muscles also run down the spine from near the cerebral vertebrae to the sacrum.
- Quadratus lumborum: These muscles allow the spine to twist and turn while bending. They begin at the top of the pelvis and attach to the top of the lumbar spine and lowest ribs.
As you can see, there’s a lot more to the core than just your abs. Having a strong core means you’ll also have a strong back, which can help prevent back pain in the future and limit your risk of injury.
Six Effective Core Workouts to Try at Home
Now that you know which muscles you’ll be working, let’s dive into how to work them. All of the exercises below can be performed at home with no equipment needed besides a yoga mat and a towel.
- Alligator drag: To perform an alligator drag, begin in a plank position with the hands underneath the shoulders and legs extended long (the body will look like one long straight line) with your feet on a towel. Using your hands, “walk” forward, dragging your lower body behind you and keeping your feet on the floor. Make sure to keep your core engaged and glutes contracted as you crawl forward for 10 to 20 “steps.” Rest and then “walk” back to where you began. This exercise is extremely difficult, so don’t worry if you can’t do a full 10 to 20 steps right away or if you need to modify the movement. To make this exercise less challenging, drop your knees down to the ground and place the towel under your knees.
- Side plank: The side plank is one of the classic core exercises known to be most effective, and with good reason. To do a side plank, lay on one side of your body with your elbow beneath your shoulder and your forearm extended away from your body at a 90 degree angle. Stack your feet on top of each other and then tighten your abs as you draw your hips up off the floor. Your body should form a diagonal line from your feet to your shoulder. Hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds and switch sides. To make the exercise less challenging, you can plant your bottom knee on the floor for additional support. To make the exercise more challenging, lift your top leg and extend your top arm above your head, or dip your hips up and down.
- Lateral plank walk: For this move, the classic plank position gets ramped up a bit. Start in a plank position (similar to a push up position) with your hands underneath your shoulders and legs extended long behind you with the toes touching the ground. The body should look like one long diagonal line. Engage your glutes and core as you move your right hand and right foot out to the side about a foot, taking a “step.” Next, bring your left foot and left hand over in the same direction so you’re back to a plank position. Take several steps out to the side, then head back in the other direction. To make this exercise less challenging, drop down to your knees. To make the movement more challenging, lower down onto your forearms.
- Leg raises: Lie face up on the floor with your legs extended out long in front of you. Pull your belly button in towards your spine, pressing your lower back into the floor. Holding this position, lift your legs and feet a few inches to one foot off the floor, then pulse the feet up and down for 30-60 seconds. To make this exercise less challenging, lift your legs higher in order to keep your lower back pressed into the mat. To make the exercise more challenging, hover your feet just a few inches off the floor. Remember, only try this if you are able to keep your lower back pressed firmly against the floor!
- Bicycle crunch: Bicycle crunches are one of the best core burners out there because you work each layer of the core with this movement. Start by lying face up with your legs in a tabletop position (knees directly over the hips, shins parallel with the floor). Place your hands behind your head and bring your elbows out wide to the side, cradling the head. Use your abs to bring your shoulders up off the floor until you feel your abs contract in a crunch. Bring your left knee into your body as you extend the right leg out long, and at the same time, bring your right elbow across your body to touch your left knee. Repeat the same movement with the opposite elbow and opposite knee while maintaining a crunch position. To make this movement less challenging, plant your feet on the ground and just focus on twisting your upper body from side to side. To make the movement more challenging, move through the motion super slowly, giving your body time to feel the burn.
- Boat pose: This classic yoga move is a lower abs torcher! Start by sitting upright with the knees bent and feet on the floor. Lean back until you’re at a 30 to 45 degree angle, balancing on your rear end. Lift your legs off the floor until your shins are parallel with the ground, forming a “V” with your body. Extend your arms out and hold for 30 seconds. To make the exercise less challenging, keep your feet on the floor and focus on maintaining the angle of the upper body. To make the exercise more challenging, extend your legs out long towards the ceiling or drop both your upper body and legs closer to the floor, making the “V” wider and further challenging your core strength.
Ramp Up Your Results
The unfortunate reality is that the best core exercises in the world won’t get you the abs of your dreams if you don’t eat right. After all, as the saying goes, “abs are made in the kitchen!” Without a healthy, balanced diet, you won’t see the definition you’re looking for no matter how many crunches you do. To start cleaning up your diet, focus on eating meals composed of whole grains, lean meats, fruits, and veggies, and try to cut out the junk food and excess sugar. As an added bonus, you’ll not only start to trim belly fat, you’ll also be fueling your abs workouts properly, which will help you to have more energy throughout the day. If you feel intimidated by the idea of cleaning up your diet and nutrition, you don’t have to tackle it alone. Online fitness communities like Body FX not only offer tons of exciting workout videos, they also provide personalized nutrition plans, daily coaching, and the opportunity to connect with other people who are also prioritizing their health and wellness. As you begin to master the movements on this list, you’ll be able to find new routines to challenge yourself and get closer to the six-pack abs of your dreams with the guidance of an online fitness community.