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14 Core Exercises For A Strong Fitness Foundation, From Our Favorite Trainers 

mbg Health & Fitness Director
By Kristine Thomason
mbg Health & Fitness Director
Kristine Thomason is the health and fitness director at mindbodygreen.
Image by mbg Creative
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February 1, 2021
Welcome to mbg moves! We've been working out at home more than ever lately—and we know our readers are, too. To help keep your fitness routine feeling fresh, we're releasing a new at-home workout every Monday, to start your week off strong.
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Core strength is the foundation of every kind of movement, in both fitness and daily life. Lifting heavy weights? Holding an advanced yoga pose? Carrying your groceries or picking up a little one? Your core is a major player in keeping your body stable and secure through it all.

While engaging your core is a key component to most fitness moves, we've rounded up some of our favorite exercises that specifically home in on this essential body zone. (FYI: Core includes abdominals, back, glutes, and even pelvic floor muscles.)

Put a few of these exercises together for a core-specific workout, add them to a bodyweight routine, or simply break one out when you need a midday moment of movement:

1.

Half Pushup Hover

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  1. Get into a plank position, with your wrists directly under your shoulders. Engage your core.
  2. Bend your elbows, and slowly lower until your body is halfway toward the floor.
  3. Hold for a few breaths, then lower to the ground.
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2.

All Fours Core Work

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  1. Get on all fours and extend one leg long behind you. Be sure to have your hands under your shoulders and your left knee directly below your hip. Shift weight into the upper body but out of the shoulders.
  2. Drop your toes to the ground and lift them back up.
  3. Then, pull your knee toward your same-side armpit. Repeat this while making sure to keep your core engaged.
  4. After 30 seconds, extend your opposite arm forward. As you lower and lift your toe, lower and lift your hand, too. As you pull your knee in, draw your opposite elbow toward your ribs. Repeat while stabilizing through your core. Continue for 90 seconds.
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3.

Knee Catches

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  1. Lie on your back. Bring your arms to a low V by your side and lift your knees to tabletop. 
  2. Keep your ribs knitting down and your belly button driving toward the ground below you. 
  3. Starting with one leg, extend your foot out and down toward the ground, making sure to remain stable through your core. Repeat on the opposite side. Alternate between right and left.
  4. Next, bring your knees together, and slowly begin to drop both feet out and down toward the ground, making sure to inhale and exhale with the movement. Continue this sequence for 2 minutes.
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4.

Tabletop Triceps Pushup

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  1. Start on all fours, in a tabletop position. Stack shoulders right on top of the hands and hips right over knees.
  2. Keep your elbows pointed toward your knees. Inhale as you bend the elbows and bring your chest toward the floor. Go as far down as you can, try to line your nose up with your fingertips.
  3. Engage your core, and slowly lift your chest back up to start. Keep your chest open, but don't arch your back. Repeat for 8 breaths.
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5.

Single-Leg Tabletop Triceps Pushup

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  1. Start on all fours, in a tabletop position. Stack the shoulders right on top of the hands and your hips right over your knees.
  2. Extend one leg out, keeping it at hip height. Be sure the hips stay parallel. Keep your elbows pointed toward your knees.
  3. Inhale as you bend your elbows and bring your chest toward the floor. Go as far down as you can; try to line your nose up with your fingertips. Press the opposite shin into the ground.
  4. Engage your core, and slowly lift your chest back up to start. Keep your chest open, but don't arch your back. Repeat for 8 breaths.
6.

Plank With Shoulder Retraction

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  1. Get into a high plank position, with your hands stacked right under your shoulders.
  2. Engage your core to stabilize your plank.
  3. Inhale, as you allow your chest to lower and your shoulder blades to press together.
  4. Exhale as you lift your body back to a plank position, spreading your shoulder blades apart. Repeat for 5 breaths.
7.

Single-Leg Stretch Variations

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  1. Lie on your back. Find your neutral spine: Think of your pubic bone and hip points lining up in the same plane.
  2. Lift your legs to a tabletop position. Your shins should be parallel to the ground and knees stacked over hips.
  3. As you exhale, extend the right leg straight out at a diagonal, without leaning into that side. Then come back to tabletop with control.
  4. Repeat on the other side. Continue for 8 breaths.
8.

Bird Dog

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  1. Get on all fours, and place shins flat on the ground. Release your shoulder blades away from your ears.
  2. Inhale as your reach your right arm and left leg up, stretching away from your body. As you lift, don't arch your back or bring your leg too high. Tuck your pelvis and hug your abdominals in; squeeze your glutes for stability.
  3. Exhale as you return your arm and leg back to the ground.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side. Continue for 8 breaths.
9.

Knee Hover Tap

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  1. Start on all fours.
  2. Exhale to float your knees a couple of inches off the ground.
  3. Inhale as you slowly lower them to tap on the ground. Engage your core to stabilize the body.
  4. Continue for 8 breaths. 
10.

Bird Dog In Knee Hover

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  1. Start on all fours. Float your knees a couple of inches off the ground, and hold.
  2. Without shifting your hips, inhale and extend your right arm forward. Exhale as you crunch your abs and pull your elbow toward your torso. Reach it back out, then return it to the ground.
  3. Inhale as you extend your left leg out; squeeze through the glutes. Try not to lift your leg up much higher than your torso. Then exhale to curl your spine and crunch your body inward.
  4. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg. Continue for 8 breaths.
11.

Narrow Bridge-Lift Knee Fan

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  1. Lie on your back. Place your feet together so the inside edges of your feet are touching, knees are touching, and inner thighs are squeezing together. You should almost be able to touch the heels with your fingertips.
  2. Activate your core, keep your ribs knit together, and reach your tailbone toward the backs of your knees. Shoulders stay wide and down your back, and you'll soften your jaw and upper body. Squeeze your knees together as if you're holding a hundred-dollar bill between them.
  3. Begin to fan your knees out and in while maintaining a deep push into your heels. Drop your back closer to the ground if you begin to feel tension in your lower back.
12.

Donkey Kick

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  1. Get on all fours and come down to your forearms. Lift your armpits away from the floor, and shift your weight into your upper body.
  2. Lift one leg up and hold. Bring your leg to a 90-degree angle, flex the heel, and square off your hips.
  3. Pull your waist in, and lift the ribs off the floor.
  4. Then lower your leg to the ground, and lift it back up. Continue for 2 minutes.
13.

Crunch Variations

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  1. Lie on your back. Bring your hands behind your head. Lift your head, neck, and shoulders, and hold.
  2. Keep your chin off your chest, and drill the belly button toward the spine.
  3. Bring your legs into tabletop, or bring them to the floor. Lift your chest and shoulders as you exhale, and inhale on the way down. Continue for 2 minutes.
14.

Mountain Climbers

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  1. Start in a plank pose, with shoulders over wrists. Pull waist in, drag shoulder blades down the back, and engage the core.
  2. Fire up the belly by pulling one knee in, then the other. That's one rep. Continue for 2 minutes.
Kristine Thomason
Kristine Thomason
mbg Health & Fitness Director

Kristine Thomason is the health and fitness director at mindbodygreen. Kristine is a New York University graduate with a degree in journalism and psychology, and also a NASM-certified personal trainer. She has spent her editorial career focused on health and well-being, and formerly worked for Women’s Health and Health. Her byline has also appeared in Men’s Health, Greatist, Refinery29, HGTV, and more. In her current role she oversees, edits, and writes for the health, food, and movement sections of mindbodygreen.