To begin this post, I want to talk about something that is near and dear to me…core exercise. In this post, I will get into core exercises with no equipment required. I have outlined the, who, what, where, when, why and how of core exercises. This is just my opinion, but I hope to leave an impression on you. At the end of my post, I will outline, as the title indicates, great core exercises without having to use gym equipment. So, let’s jump right into this!
Who should be doing core exercises?
In my humble opinion (or IMHO as the kids are saying these days), everyone. Whether you are a stay at home mom, an elite athlete, or somewhere in between, everyone needs to do some sort of core exercise. Every day we do things without even thinking about it that takes core strength.
Bending over to tie your shoes, picking up toys (you really need to have your kids do this for you!) we engage our core to some extent. My point is, it can happen to anyone.
I have blown discs in my back at various times in my life. I once blew a disc in my back picking up my daughter. Another time I have no idea what I did. I was a young healthy 27-year-old man, and I somehow ended up with a blown disc in my lower back. I have also blown a disc by doing things that I probably had no business doing.
Exercises at the gym that serves no actual purpose in my everyday life, but I thought it was cool and my ego got the best of me. Had I been diligent about keeping a strong core, I may have been able to prevent some of this.
Now I have a much better appreciation for the importance of a strong core. I have no reason in my life to move buses, so why am I spending time doing deadlifts and such. If done properly, sure these are great for some people. I thought I was doing things to help my body, but I was only hurting it.
So, as far as everyday life, picking up your children, or lifting a load of laundry, reaching for the cup on the top shelf when you just can’t quite reach it. All of this requires core strength. When we lack core strength, our bodies will compensate, and that is not always good. Anyway, after what I have been through, I am a huge advocate for developing core strength. This doesn’t mean doing sit-ups or crunches until your belly hurts, or planking until the cows come home. You can do some things at home in under 10 minutes that can benefit you.
What core exercises should you be doing?
Well, there are a ton of exercises focusing on core out there. I have posted about the things that have helped me out. You can see my posts here, or here for a sampling of the things I do to build and maintain my core. Of course, there are a ton of core exercises out there. The goal is to commit to doing them on a routine basis.
If you have 10 minutes 3 or 4 days a week, that is a great place to start. The important thing is to start and be committed to doing it. You can also search my site for the word core exercise and see many different posts I have written, to get an idea.
Where can I do these core exercises?
Well, just about anywhere. If you have a gym membership, this is the first and most obvious place. The nice thing about a gym is they have a variety of equipment to use, and you can isolate different areas of your body. There are machines for low back exercises, upper back exercises, abs, legs, everything you would want to strengthen your core.
If you don’t have a gym membership, you can certainly do core exercises at home. You don’t even need any equipment to get started and honestly, there are things you can do without any equipment at all. In this post, I talk about doing a “swimmer” exercise that is a really, really good low back/core exercise. So you can even do some great core exercises in your living room. You can also get really creative and go to the park and do walking lunges, a fantastic core exercise that works so many different, critical muscles.
When should you work your core?
I say start with 3 days per week. If you have never done this before, try 10 minutes 3 days per week, doing some basic exercises that I will get into below. The most important thing is to be committed and do it consistently. If you are like me, I get up first thing in the morning and do some exercises. This really helps to wake me up and get my day started. If I don’t do this first thing, I will most likely not do it later in the day. Now I will most likely go to the gym and get a work out in, but not necessarily focus 100% on core. Although I do incorporate core work into my everyday workouts.
Why should you work your core muscles?
This post from the Mayo Clinic will explain some reasons why. To outline a few of the benefits, the core can help improve balance and stability and strengthen the muscles around the spine, to hopefully help prevent back injuries involving the spine. Core exercises can help you with everyday life as I mentioned earlier, helping with everyday tasks.
You also don’t necessarily need to go to a gym to do core work, a lot of stuff you can do at home, or at the park or wherever. Basically why you should do core work, is to help your body and maintain overall good fitness. The core is your base and focal point, of twisting, turning, lifting, etc, so let’s make sure we take care of it, so it can help take care of us.
How do you work core muscles?
Well, there are so many ways to work the core. I will share with you some of my favorites.
- Walking lunges are a fantastic core exercise. You basically take one step forward (left leg) you want to make an “L” shape with the leg stepped forward with. Your knee should be in line with your ankle. You don’t want to have your knee extending over, or out in front of your ankle, this put added pressure on your knee. Lower the back leg so that the knee almost touches the ground. You really want to feel this in the gluteus muscles of the leg you led with. When you raise up, really try to squeeze the glutes, and not push off with your knee. Also, keep your torso and spine as upright as you can. Now repeat on the other side. Walking lunges engage your butt, hip flexors, hamstrings, lower back, so many different areas if done properly.
- The “swimmer” exercise I alluded to earlier is one of my absolute favorite core exercises. You lay flat on your stomach, preferably on a mat, raise your legs behind you and arms in front of you…now swim! Basically think of being on a surfboard, trying to catch that awesome wave. You basically do that same motion, kick up and down with your legs, as you perform a back and forth motion with your arms (almost like a freestyle swimming motion with your arms). If you can’t do the shoulder work, just keep your arms elevated off the floor extended in front of you. You will feel this in your lower back, and after a while of kicking, the inner thighs should kick in. I do the shoulder work because it works my upper body as well. Hold for as long as you can. I do this for about 5 minutes 5 day per week. It’s a great way to start my day :).
- Planks if you can do them are great for the core. Some people may not be able to do this. When I was recovering from my back injury in 2015-2016, I struggled with these. I had to modify by raising my pelvic area higher, toward the ceiling to take pressure off my pelvis. If you are interested in a fun and interactive way to do planks, check out my post about the Stealth Core Trainer.
- Leg kickbacks are great for glutes, hamstrings and low back. This exercise starts on your hands and knees about shoulder-width apart. Keep your back nice and flat. Lift one leg, with knee bent, toward the ceiling, maintaining your straight back. You can raise your leg until your knee is about even with your hip. Try this 10-15 times on each side. If you can do more, great.
These are some of my favorite core exercises, none of which need to be done at the gym. These can all be done at home.
I really hope you have gained an understanding of why it’s really important (critical for me) to work on strengthening your core muscles. I am certainly an advocate if you can’t tell. Of course, I have been injured to the point that I don’t want to have that happen again, so I have extra motivation. But, I believe everyone can benefit from core exercise.
Once again, thank you so much for reading this post. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.