bodyweight core exercises
Fitness

22 Killer Bodyweight Core Exercises For Abs

A strong, chiseled, and agile core is the power base of the body. When your core is powerful, the rest of your body will be too. In order to get a great core workout, you don’t need to join a  gym or buy an abdominal muscles training gadget. In fact, your body provides everything you need to work every area of your core.

In this article, I lay out the 22 most effective bodyweight exercises for a powerful core.

1. Crunches

Muscles worked

Abdominis rectus, external obliques, internal obliques

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie on the floor with your knees bent and hands at the sides if your head with elbows out. Keep your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Curl your shoulders up to contract your abs. Keep your lower back on the floor.
  3. Lower and repeat.

Tips 

Perform the standard crunch exercise slowly and deliberately. Contract the abs in the top position. Do not put hands behind your head.

2. Bicycle Crunch

Muscles worked

Abdominis rectus, external obliques, internal obliques

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie on the floor on your back with hands by your ear and legs extended and a few inches off the floor.
  2. Now draw your right leg into toward your torso as you bring the left elbow toward the right knee. Reverse and repeat with the other side, drawing your left knee to your right right elbow.

Tips 

Tightly tense your abs in the contracted position, pulling in your belly button. Do not clasp your hands behind your head. Focus on core contraction.

3. Russian Twist

Muscles worked

Abdominus rectus, external obliques, intercostals, internal obliques

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Sit on your butt with your knees slightly bent and your hands clasped in front of your waist. Arch your torso back slightly.
  2. Rotate to the left and drive your hands down to touch the floor, in the process bringing elbow to knee.
  3. Return to the start position and repeat in the right side.

Tips 

Perform your reps in a fluid motion; keep your torso in the slightly arched position throughout. Keep your core tight.

4. Plank

Muscles worked

Abdominus rectus, external obliques, intercostals, spinal erectors

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie on the floor resting on your forearms and toes. Your body should form a straight line from head to toe.
  2. Look directly ahead and tense your core muscles.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds.

Tips 

Progressively extend the time that you are holding the plank position to increase core strength, aiming for 120 seconds. Keep your core tight throughout.

5. Side Plank

Muscles worked

Abdominus rectus, external obliques, intercostals, spinal erectors, internal obliques

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie on your side with your legs staggered and your body resting on your bottom forearm. 
  2. Lift your hips into the air and raise your top arm to full extension above your head.
  3. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
  4. Lower and repeat.

Tips 

To develop a strong core, keep your body rigid and your core tight throughout the movement.

6. Plank Walkout

Muscles worked

Abdominus rectus, external obliques, intercostals, spinal erectors, internal obliques

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Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Get down in the standard plank start position, resting on your palms and toes, with feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Extend your left leg out laterally.
  3. Follow through with your left arm, then your right limbs.
  4. Walk out 5 steps and then take 5 steps back to the start position.

Tips 

Maintain a rigid body and tight core; keep your butt down.

7. Shoulder Tap

Muscles worked

Abdominus rectus, external obliques, intercostals, front deltoids, internal obliques

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Get down on the floor in the standard plank position, resting on your palms and toes, feet together.
  2. Bring your right hand up to touch your left shoulder.
  3. Lower and repeat with your left hand.

Tips 

Keep your core tight throughout the exercise. 

8. Butterfly Sit Ups

Muscles worked

Abdominus rectus, internal obliques

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie on your back with arms extended overhead, hands together and the soles of your feet touching each other so that your legs are in a clamshell position.
  2. Bring your body up as you lift your arms toward your toes. Extend all the way so that your hands touch your toes.
  3. Lower and repeat.

Tips 

Tightly contract your entire core in the end position. Do not put hands behind your head.

9. Wheelbarrow

Muscles worked

Intercostals, external obliques, deltoids, internal obliques

Equipment used 

Partner

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Get down on the floor resting on your palms and have your partner hold you feet. Extend your arms and walk your hands out so that your body is at a slight angle.
  2. Walk forward with your hands 5 steps.
  3. Do 3 sets of 5 forward steps.

Tips 

Maintain a rigid body, contracting the entire core; take large steps with your hands.

10. Vertical Crunch

Muscles worked

Rectus abdominus, external obliques, internal obliques

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie on the floor on your back with arms at your sides and knees bent, feet together.
  2. Hinge at the hips to draw your knees up to chest level.
  3. Lower until your feet are just off the floor.
  4. Return and repeat

Tips 

For a stronger core, perform the exercise slowly and deliberately; maintain a neutral position through your spine.

11. V Up

Muscles worked

Rectus abdominus, external obliques, internal obliques

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie on an exercise mat on your back with legs extended and arms by your side.
  2. Now hinge at your hips to bring your straightened legs up until they are perpendicular with your torso. Straighten your arms up toward your legs.
  3. Now begin pulsing up toward your toes by contracting your abdominals. 

Tips 

Bring your head up on each pulse. Contract the entire core throughout.

12. Scissor Kicks

Muscles worked

Rectus abdominus, intercostals, external obliques

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie face up on an exercise mat, with your hands together under your tail bone. Straighten out your legs and lift your head to look down at your feet.
  2. Now begin a horizontal scissor action to cross your legs over and under each other. 

Tips 

Keep your head up throughout the exercise. Focus on core contraction. Maintain a neutral spine.

13. Plank Jacks

Muscles worked

Rectus abdominus, spinal erectors, external obliques

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Get down in the normal start push up position position. Your points of contact should be your palms and toes, with feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Kick your legs apart.
  3. Bring your legs back together and repeat.

Tips 

Perform this exercise in a fluid movement; keep your butt down; focus in core engagement; maintain a neutral position through your spine.

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14. Superman

Muscles worked

Spinal erectors

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie face down on the floor with arms by your sides and legs extended, feet together. 
  2. From this starting position, arch your body to bring your shoulders and legs off the floor. Extend your finger tips back.
  3. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds.
  4. Lower and repeat.
  5. Perform 10 reps.

Tips 

This is a good exercise for deep core muscle strength; tightly contract the erector spinae muscles throughout this movement.

15. Bird Dog

Muscles worked

Spinal erectors, abdominus erectors, deltoids, external obliques

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Get down on the floor in a table top position, with your palms and knees on the floor.
  2. From this starting position, extend your right leg and left foot out to full extension. 
  3. Hold for 15 seconds.
  4. Lower and repeat with the opposite limbs.
  5. Do 10 reps on each side.

Tips 

This is an excellent move for the core stabilizers; point your extended toe back; keep your butt down; maintain a neutral spine.

16. Dead Bug

Muscles worked

Abdominus erectors, deltoids, external obliques

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie on your back with arms extended above your head and knees in the air at a 90 degree bend.
  2. From this starting position, extend your left leg and right arms down and out to full extension, keeping them off the floor.
  3. Return and repeat with the opposite limbs.
  4. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps n each leg.

Tips 

Perform the exercise in a slow, deliberate manner; maintain a neutral spine.

17. 3 Point Plank

Muscles worked

Abdominus rectus, deltoids, spinal erectors, external obliques

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Get down in the floor in standard forearm plank position.
  2. From this starting position lift your straightened left leg into the air so that you now have 3 contact points to the floor.
  3. Hold for a 30-45 second set.
  4. Perform 3 sets sets of 30-45 second holds.

Tips 

This advanced variation of the plank will engage your deep core muscles; maintain a tight core, pulling in your belly button; do not lift your butt into the air; maintain a neutral spine. This is a good balance training exercise. 

18. Mountain Climber

Muscles worked

Rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, internal obliques

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Get down on the floor on all fours, resting on your palms and toes and your feet shoulder width apart, in the standard start push up position.
  2. From this starting position extend your legs out to full extension.
  3. Drive your right knee toward your right forearm.
  4. Kick back and repeat with the left knee toward the left forearm.
  5. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Tips 

Keep your butt down the entire time; maintain a fluid elbow to knee motion as you complete your reps; maintain a neutral spine.

19. Reverse Crunch

Muscles worked

Rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, internal obliques

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie on your back on the floor with knees bent, feet off the floor with hands by your head with elbows out in standard crunch position. 
  2. From this starting position draw your knees toward your head as you curl upward.
  3. Hold for 1-2 seconds.
  4. Tense the abs in the top contraction position and return to the start position, keeping your feet off the floor.
  5. Do 3 sets of 15 reps. Your rest between sets should be 30 seconds.

Tips 

Do not clasp your hands behind your head as this could cause spinal problems.

20. Hanging Leg Raise

Muscles worked

Rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, internal obliques

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Equipment used 

Pull up bar

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Hang from a pull up bar with your legs extend and feet together.
  2. From this starting position hinge from the hips to draw your knees up to your torso to chest level.
  3. Hold for a 2-3 second count.
  4. Lower and repeat.
  5. Do 3 sets of 12 reps. Your rest between sets should be 30 seconds.

Tips 

Do not allow your upper body to swing throughout this bodyweight exercise; keep the entire body tight.

21. Flutter Kicks

Muscles worked

Rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, internal obliques

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie on an exercise mat on your back with legs extended and arms under your tailbone.
  2. Look down at your feet as you bring your feet off the ground.
  3. Now hinge at your hips to bring your straightened legs up and down alternately. Keep your feet off the floor at all times. 
  4. Perform 3 sets of 12 reps. Your rest between sets should be 30 seconds.

Tips 

Keep your abs contracted throughout the exercise; your shoulder blades should remain on the floor; maintain a neutral position through the spine.

22. Tabletop Leg Press

Muscles worked

Rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, internal obliques

Equipment used 

None

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie on your back a90 degree bend in knees.
  2. Hold your palms against your upper thigh.
  3. Push against your upper thigh as you resist so that there is no movement.
  4. Hold the push for 5 seconds
  5. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps. Your rest between sets should be 30 seconds.

Tips 

Maintain full force and resistance against the upper thigh for the full 5 seconds to increase time under tension. Keep your upper body down on the floor. 

Conclusion

Working your core involves doing exercises that target more than just your abs. An effective core workout will hit your obliques, intercostals, transverse abdominis, and spinal erector muscles as well as your rectus abdominis muscles.

You now have an awesome arsenal of 22 bodyweight advanced core exercises that you can do at home any time you desire. Combine 2 or 3 of these core moves into a 12 set core and abs workout routine.

Be sure to include exercises for the lower back, abs, and intercostals.

Your rep range should be between 15 and 30 per set. You can also combine 5-6 of these core exercises into a circuit of core exercises.

Combine your workout routine with a clean diet that emphasizes lean protein, low glycemic carbs, and healthy fats and your core will not only be powerful and muscular but also fat-free.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you do core exercises every day?

You should not do core moves every day. The core muscles are just the same as all muscles in your body; they need time to rest and recover. Working them every day will not allow for that to happen. Train your core every 5 days.

What are the core muscles?

The core muscles form a girdle around the middle of your body. They include the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques, the pelvic floor muscles, and spinal erectors. 

Do core workouts burn belly fat?

No core workouts do not burn belly fat. It is impossible to spot reduce body fat from any area of the body. The only way to get rid of fat from any part of the body including belly fat is to eat fewer calories than you burn off and burn off extra calories through cardio and resistance training. Do that consistently and your belly fat will gradually disappear.

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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