Health and fitness: Three good beginner core exercises |

Health and fitness: Three good beginner core exercises

Kyler Crouse
Special to the Tribune

I describe the core to my clients as the foundation of a house. You want the foundation to be strong so that you can add the walls and so on. If you don’t have a strong foundation (your core), the rest of the house (your body) may have problems (lost performance) and eventually it will fall (lead to injury). Although decline sit-ups and hanging leg raises are popular, they are not the best beginner exercises. These exercises are safe, can be done with little equipment and will help you build a strong foundation.

Push-up plank: A plank is an isometric core exercise that involves maintaining a strict, straight position for an extended period of time. I like to see my clients maintain a solid 30-second plank for three sets both front and side. This shows good core endurance and that the person is able to handle more advanced exercises.

How to do it: Plant the hands directly under the shoulders (slightly wider than shoulder-width apart) like you’re about to do a push-up. Ground the toes into the floor and squeeze the glutes to stabilize the bottom half of the body. Neutralize the neck and spine by looking at the floor about a foot in front of the hands. The head should be in line with the back. Hold the position for 20 seconds to start out.

Pallof Press: This is a great anti-rotation exercise. The core is a cross-hatched web of muscles and its main function is to resist movement. The core should be able to have complete mobility, but should be equally is strong to resist movement, extension, pelvic tilt, and transmission of hoop stress (rotary or anti-rotation motion).

How to do it: Use a resistance band, or a cable pulley at about belly button height, and wrap it around a stationary object. Focus on standing tall with slightly bent knees and chest up. Start with your hands by your belly button and then extend your arms. As you extend your arms out and increase the lever arm the more you have to resist the pull of the band wanting to twist you. Don’t allow it and bring your arms back to the starting position. Standing farther away will make the exercise more difficult. Also, you can make it harder by having your feet closer together to reduce your base of support.

Swiss Ball Rollout: This is a great exercise to work on core stability like the plank, but also add a little movement to make it fun. A study in 2010 published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that, “The roll-out and pike were the most effective exercises in activating upper and lower rectus abdominis, external and internal obliques.” The rollout is a great exercise to teach beginners core stability and it also really targets the abs so you can feel the burn.

How to do it: Sit on your knees in front of a Swiss ball and place your forearms and fists on the ball. Your back should be naturally arched. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes to protect your low back. Focus on keeping both areas tight for the exercise. Slowly roll the ball forward, straightening your arms and extending your body as far as you can without allowing your lower back to “collapse.” If you start to feel it in your lower back, you have rolled out too far. Use your ab muscles to pull the ball back to your knees.

As always consult your doctor prior to starting any exercise program, and if you are unsure how to properly preform any exercise seek the advice of a trained fitness professional.

— Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS, FMS is a personal trainer and strength coach that trains at Sierra Athletic Club and a training center instructor at Barton Memorial Hospital. Kyler specializes in performance enhancement and rehabilitation after injury. Visit for more information.

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