Build a Strong Upper Body With Core Stability Exercises

Build a Strong Upper Body With Core Stability Exercises

Core stability exercises do far more than help you achieve a chiseled look. It’s better if that’s a happy side effect rather than your sole purpose.

Your real mission is what the name implies — stability.

“When people think of the core, they often picture the standard six-pack abs, but those muscles are only one part of your core,” says Minneapolis-based trainer Aaron Leventhal, C.S.CS.

Encompassing the full “girdle” or “corset” that wraps around your midsection, these muscles include:

  • Rectus abdominis
  • Transverse abdominis
  • Internal and external obliques
  • Multifidus
  • Erector spinae
  • Pelvic floor muscles

When you work all of these in a way that strengthens multiple muscles, you gain greater stability overall, and that can have huge benefits, Leventhal says.

“You increase mobility, decrease the chance of back pain, have better posture and alignment, improve endurance and athletic performance, and lower your risk of injury,” he notes. “Core stability is key for any kind of movement, so it’s smart to work on it regularly.”

Ready to reap the advantages? Get started with these core stability exercises:

1. Side Plank Oblique Crunch

side plank oblique crunch oblique crunches

Stability takes center stage with this plank variation, which forces you to perform it in an already challenging position.

  • Lie on your right side (feet stacked) and prop yourself up on your forearm. Your elbow should be directly underneath your shoulder (keep the shoulder away from your ear). Lift your hips so that your body is straight from head to heels. Place your left fingertips behind your left ear. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your core braced, slowly bring your left elbow and knee toward one another.
  • Reverse the move to return to the starting position. Perform equal reps on both sides.

2. C-Sit Tap

Just leaning back in a C-sit will be a burner for your core muscles, and the twist will target your obliques.

  • Sit with your butt and heels on the floor, with your knees bent slightly and your arms extended in front of you, palms up.
  • Keeping your core braced, lean back slightly, and rotate to your right as you reach back with your right arm to touch the floor behind you.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat to your left. Continue alternating sides.

Pro tip: Find this move in The Master’s Hammer and Chisel.

3. Side Plank Hip Lifts

“This is helpful for your obliques as well as shoulder and hip stability,” says Cody Braun, Assistant Manager of Fitness at Beachbody. “That can improve stability throughout the whole kinetic chain.”

  • Lie on your left side propped up on your left elbow and forearm, shoulders stacked over your elbow, legs stacked on top of each other, and hold a dumbbell in place on top of your right hip.
  • Raise your hips so that your body forms a straight line from head to heels. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your core braced and your glutes engaged, slowly lower your left hip, tapping it gently on the floor.
  • Reverse the move, returning to side plank position.
  • Repeat for reps, then switch sides, performing equal reps.

Pro tip: You can find this move in 21 Day Fix EXTREME

4. Bird Dog

Bird Dog Exercise

“The bird dog exercise is classic for a reason,” says Leventhal. “As long as you take it slow and keep focusing on your form, this is a great one for core stability.”

  • Get down on your hands and knees with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your back flat and core braced, simultaneously extend your left leg straight behind you and your right arm straight in front of you, making sure the hips stay square to the ground.
  • Pause and then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat with your right leg and left arm. Do equal reps on both sides.

5. Reciprocating Slow Switch Kick

This supine move hits the anterior core — the six-pack — while teaching you to stabilize the spine as you move your hips.

  • Lie on your back in “banana” position: arms extended with your biceps near your ears, head off the floor, legs straight, feet together, and raised about 12 inches off the floor. Press your lower back into the floor. This is your starting position.
  • Keeping your upper body still, your legs straight, and your feet flexed (toes pulled toward shins), raise your left leg as high as possible.
  • Simultaneously lower your left leg back to the starting position as you raise your right leg as high as possible.
  • Continue alternating sides for one minute, performing equal reps on each side.

Pro tip: Find this move in SHAUN WEEK.

6. Bridge Burner

This exercise works the entire core, with an emphasis on the obliques and transverse abdominis muscles that flank your torso.

  • Lie on your back in “banana” position: arms extended with your biceps near your ears, head off the floor, legs straight, feet together and raised about 12 inches off the floor. (Advanced option: hold a medicine ball or dumbbell in your hands.) Press your lower back into the floor. This is your starting position.
  • Simultaneously raise your legs and your torso off the floor, forming a “V” shape with your body.
  • Balancing on your butt, bend your knees around 90 degrees and twist right, reaching both hands toward the floor beside your right hip, and repeat on the left. Repeat both twists.
  • Return to center, slowly return to the starting position, and repeat the sequence.

Pro tip: Find this move in Ab Ripper in P90X3.

7. Hip Escape Toe Tap

An MMA-inspired variation on the bear crawl, this exercise works the entire core for maximum stability.

  • Get on all fours in a bear crawl position — arms straight, hands directly below shoulders, and knees bent 90 degrees below hips with your knees a few inches off of the floor.
  • Keeping your left hand and right foot on the ground, rotate to your right, lifting your right arm, extending your left leg straight to the side a few inches above the floor, and tapping your toes with your right hand. Return to the starting position.
  • Repeat to the left, and continue alternating sides, performing equal reps on each side.

Pro tip: Find this move in CORE DE FORCE.