Make Your Core Work for Everyday Life

By the Editors of SilverSneakers |

These five moves will build your functional core strength and stability—so you can stay mobile.

Whether you’re moving forward, backward, or side to side, your core plays an important role.

“Our core is literally the center part of our body that produces all of the movement that we do,” says SilverSneakers fitness expert David Jack. A strong core also provides stability, which helps you stay steady on your feet and avoid falls.

Because your core—which includes all the muscles that surround your spine, hips, butt, and rib cage—is so important, it deserves extra TLC.

That’s where these five exercises come in. These are some of Jack’s favorite moves to “train the core the way life requires us to move—in different ways and with different levels of stability and strength.”

How to Use These Core Exercises

Each exercise invites different core muscles to get in on the action. You’ll feel the burn in your arms and shoulders, but Jack reminds us that each move is really training your core how to be in better control of your body’s movements.

“We’re training the core to control and direct things around us, so we can move safely” in our daily routines, he says. Do these exercises at least a couple of times per week, and you’ll start to notice an improvement in your strength and balance.

You can use just your hands and arms for resistance or a very light dumbbell—even a book or soup can will do. If using a dumbbell, pick a weight that’s light enough for you to complete eight to 10 reps with proper form.

Move slowly and with control. Keep these pointers in mind:

  • Keep your core engaged by imagining you’re about to receive a punch in the gut.
  • Squeeze your glutes, like you’re making a small fist with each butt cheek.
  • Push down through your feet to find stability.

If you need to make the moves easier, try them without a weight, or do them seated.

As always, safety is key. These exercises may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

Exercise #1: V Swing

Do 4 to 5 reps on each side

How to do it: Hold a light weight between both hands at waist level. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your knees bent. Engage your core and bend slightly at your hips, as if you’re going to sit back.

Keeping your back straight and chest lifted, bring the weight to the side of one hip and turn your torso slightly in that same direction. Bend your knees and push the weight down and back slightly, driving your feet into the floor.

As you come up to standing, rotate your torso back to center while pressing the weight up to chest level. Pause, return to the side hip stance and repeat. Do four to five reps. Switch sides, and repeat for four to five reps.

Make it easier: Skip the weight, and use only your hands and arms for resistance. You can also try it seated.

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Exercise #2: Side to Side

Do 8 to 10 reps

How to do it:
This is a variation of the V Swing. This time, instead of working one side at a time, alternate from side to side. Do eight to 10 reps.

Make it easier: Skip the weight, and use only your hands and arms for resistance. You can also try it seated.

Exercise #3: Front Raise

Do 8 to 10 reps

How to do it: Hold a light weight between both hands at waist level. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your knees bent. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes.

Keeping your core engaged, slowly lift the weight up to your chest. Pause, and slowly lower it down to the starting position. During the move, only your arms should be in motion. Do eight to 10 reps.

Make it easier: Skip the weight, and use only your hands and arms for resistance. You can also try it seated.

Exercise #4: Raised Side to Side

Do 8 to 10 reps

How to do it: Hold a light weight between both hands at chest level. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your knees bent. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes.

Moving only your arms, slowly press the weight off to one side, stopping at the point when you feel as if you want to lift one foot for balance. Pause, return to center, then press the weight to the other side. Continue alternating for 8 to 10 reps.

Make it easier: Skip the weight, and use only your hands and arms for resistance. You can also try it seated.

Exercise #5: In and Out Press

Do 8 to 10 reps

How to do it: Hold a light weight between both hands at belly level. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your knees bent. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes.

Press the weight out in front by extending your arms, keeping your elbows slightly bent. Pause, then slowly pull the weight back in. Continue alternating for 8 to 10 reps.

Make it easier: Skip the weight, and use only your hands and arms for resistance. You can also try it seated.

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