6 Exercises That Will Strengthen Your Entire Core

By Elizabeth Millard, A.C.E.-certified trainer, RYT-200 yoga teacher |

Your core supports you in numerous ways — and it only takes about 10 minutes for you to return the favor, with this fast and efficient workout.

10 minute core workout

Fitness experts love talking about the importance of core strength — and for good reason. Your core is involved in every single movement you do, both in and out of the gym.

Without your core muscles, you wouldn’t be able to stand upright or get out of bed, much less go for a swim or dance the night away at your grandchild’s wedding. In fact, there’s evidence linking a weak core to everything from a higher fall risk to chronic low back pain to digestion woes.

That’s why building and maintaining a strong core is so important. But sit-ups won’t cut it.

Your core includes much more than your abs. It’s also the muscles in the butt and hips, in the middle and upper back, and around your spine. So, building a strong, stable core means doing exercises that challenge all of those important muscle groups, like the six moves below.

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How to Do This 10-Minute Core Workout

To build a strong, stable foundation for your body, add these six core exercises into your weekly routine, on non-consecutive days. You can also pick three or four moves to tack onto the end of a walk or other cardio workout.

Go at your own pace, focusing on proper form, and engaging your core muscles. The entire sequence should take just a little more than four minutes, so do two rounds to get to 10 minutes.

As always, safety is key. Get your doctor’s OK before beginning a new exercise program. If you have a chronic condition (including osteoporosis and arthritis), balance issues, or injuries, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

What you need:
Space to move
Comfortable clothing
Pair of light dumbbells or kettlebells, optional
Sturdy chair for support, if needed
Water to sip, as needed

Tip: You can do the two floor exercises on a firm mattress, if that’s more comfortable for you.

Recommended FREE SilverSneakers On-Demand Class: Functional Core Strength Seated Exercises

Exercise #1: Farmer’s Carry

How to do it:

  • Hold a light weight in each hand (or even two small bags of groceries).
  • Walk for 10 to 15 feet with the weight at your sides, keeping your shoulders square and upright.
  • Set the weights down, turn around, pick them up and carry them back. That’s 1 rep.
  • Do 3 reps.

Exercise #2: Standing Knee Driver

How to do it:

  • Stand tall with your feet about hip-width apart and your arms bend at about a 90-degree angle at your sides.
  • Shift your weight onto your right foot and hinge at the hips to bring your upper body forward slightly.
  • Keeping your chest up, step back with your left foot to tap your toes on the floor behind you.
  • Then drive your left knee forward in front of you.
  • Continue bringing your left foot back and then driving your left knee forward.
  • Once you’re comfortable, pump your arms back and forth at the same time.
  • Continue for 15–30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat on your right side.

Exercise #3: Modified Bird Dog Standing

How to do it:

  • Stand facing the back of a sturdy chair, keeping both hands on the chair.
  • Keep your neck and spine straight and knees slightly bent.
  • Brace your abdominals and lift one arm and opposite leg until they’re in line with your spine.
  • Pause, then return your hand and foot to the starting position. That’s 1 rep.
  • Do 5 reps. Switch sides and perform 5 reps with the opposite arm and leg.
  • Repeat 2 to 3 more times with each side.

Exercise #4: Fake Side to Side Throw

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent.
  • Hold a small weight in front of your chest with two hands, arms fully extended. If you have any shoulder issues, use a book, water bottle, soup can — or your own bodyweight.
  • Tighten your abdominals and twist your torso to one side; pretend like you’re going to pass the weight to someone beside you.
  • Keep your feet glued to the floor.
  • Twist your torso to push the weight back to center. That’s 1 rep.
  • Do 10 to 15 reps to one side before repeating on the other.

Love these exercises and want more? Take a Core Conditioning (Express) online class with SilverSneakers Live. View the schedule and RSVP.

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Exercise #5: McGill Curl Up

This exercise was designed by a renowned spinal researcher, Stuart McGill, Ph.D., who created the move as an alternative to crunches for those who have lower-back concerns.


How to do it:

  • Lie flat on your back on the floor with one leg extended straight out in front of you and the other bent with foot flat on the floor. (You can also do this move on a firm mattress.)
  • Place your hands, palms down, on the floor underneath your low back, and raise your elbows just off the floor.
  • From here, squeeze your abs to raise your head and shoulders a few inches off the floor.
  • Hold for five seconds or as long as you can while maintaining good form, then slowly return to start.
  • Perform 8 to 10 reps, then repeat with the opposite leg extended.

Exercise #6: Half Dead Bug for Lower Abs

Dead bug typically involves moving both your arms and legs. By holding the arms stationary and only moving your legs, you can better isolate the lower abs.


How to do it:

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Raise your bent legs up so that your knees are stacked over your hips, keeping a 90-degree bend in your knees.
  • Brace your core to press your low back into the floor; make sure to maintain this flat-back position throughout the entire exercise.
  • With your palms facing each other, bring arms up to point toward the ceiling.
  • Without moving your arms, straighten your left leg and bring it toward the floor (try not to let it touch).
  • Pause, then bring your leg back to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the opposite side with your right leg.
  • Continue alternating legs for 15–30 seconds, or as long as you can maintain good form.

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