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Woman doing press-ups

Best home core exercises

This routine is focused on working your anterior core muscles, which primarily help stabilise the hips and spine, along with keeping your spine from over-rotating and hyper-extending.

Repeat all the exercises one after the other. You'll want to aim to complete a second circuit.

The bug

Prop: Pillow.

The purpose of the exercise is to create lumbar pelvic dissociation, which simply means moving the limbs while stabilising the spine. In other words, you're activating your anterior core muscles to avoid arching your back while moving your extremities.

Position: Lie supine with your legs in the air, knees bent at 90 degrees in line with your hips. Your arms are in the air, hands in line with shoulders, holding the pillow between both hands. Pull your ribs in and down. Your lower back is flush to the floor.

Movement: On an exhale, extend your left leg parallel to the floor as you simultaneously reach the pillow over your head while maintaining a stable pelvis and neutral spine. Inhale to return. Your goal is to resist arching the lower back and avoiding flaring the rib cage. Work alternate legs, slowly and with control.

Aim for 16-20 reps.

The plank

Alongside the bug, the plank is the foundation of your core training, as it naturally challenges the trunk to stabilise and resist movement. Your main job in both is to avoid arching your back.

How do I plank? Come into a full plank position, elbows directly under your shoulders, hands clasped together. From here, actively depress your shoulders (pulling down motion) and think of pulling your elbows and forearms together, creating tension without movement.

Now turn your focus to co-contracting the muscles of the lower body, by pulling up the front of your thighs and straightening your knees, while squeezing the inner thighs towards each other. Tense your glutes strongly and pull your lower belly in.

Finally, focus on pulling your elbows towards your toes and your toes towards your elbows, keeping your glutes engaged. You will feel an increase in abdominal engagement.

Take 10-15 strong forced exhales, maintaining this posture. Be mindful to inhale fully and slowly. Rest and repeat 3-4 more times. You can increase the breaths, but remember that keeping the tension and form is more important than the time maintaining the posture.

Note: Long holds are not really necessary. The core is not meant to switch on for extended periods - when does life ever require you to engage your core for a record-breaking amount of time?

Plank pillow passes

Prop: Pillow

When we add movement to the plank it naturally becomes a challenging stability exercise. You will not only be resisting extension forces (anti-extension) but also rotation forces (anti-rotation), meaning that as soon as you raise your hand from the ground you are resisting the urge to rotate.

Position: Place your pillow to the side of your right ribs. Come into a full plank position with your feet hip-width apart and shoulders directly above your wrists. You want to create a strong body by pulling up your thigh muscles, squeezing your glutes and bracing your abdominals. Pull your shoulder blades down, and actively push your hands into the ground to help stabilise the shoulders' girdle.

Movement: Squeeze your glutes, and without rotating your hips lift the left hand from the floor, reaching to the right to grab the pillow and pass it through to the left side. Now, still keeping the stable hips, lift the right hand and reach through to grab the pillow and pass it through to the left side.

Make sure you keep a strong body throughout, avoiding any movement at the hips. If you're finding it hard to resist your body's desire to rotate, take your feet further apart to create a more stable base. You can also bring them closer together to create a more athletic challenge.

Aim for 12-16 repetitions. If you lose the form, pause, reset and repeat.

Side plank

If the front plank is the foundation of your core training, the side plank is the framework targeting your lateral core. The aim of the side plank is to resist bending (dropping your hips to the floor). This is one of the best exercises you can do to target your lateral core muscles.

Position: Come onto your side with your elbow stacked below the shoulder, your forearm facing out and your feet stacked on top of each other.

Movement (anti): For this exercise, your goal is to resist against lateral flexion forces, meaning you are working not to let gravity pull your hips down. You want to focus on staying engaged through your midline to fight these forces, keeping your hips up and in line with the rest of your body.

Take 10-15 strong forced exhales, maintaining this posture. Be mindful to inhale fully and slowly.

Pillow scissor curls

This is a strong lower abdominal exercise that requires you to focus hollowing into the lower abdominals.

Position: Lie supine with your legs in the air, knees bent at 90 degrees in line with your hips. Your arms are in the air and your hands are in line with your shoulders, holding the pillow between both hands. Pull your ribs in and down. Your lower back is flush to the floor.

Movement: Hollow your lower abdominals as you curl up and reach the pillow around the back of the right leg, while simultaneously extending the left leg. Your gaze is towards the pillow. Be mindful to flatten your lower back towards the floor.

Aim for 8-10 each side.

For more at-home workouts, see the Monday to Friday exercise plan for inspiration.

A London-based personal trainer and lifestyle management coach, Christina Howells has a proven track record, with over 25 years of personal fitness industry knowledge. She has a BSC in Exercise and Sport Science and an MSc in Sport and Exercise Psychology.

Find out more about Christina Howells.