The 5 Best Core Exercises for Beginners, According to a Trainer

man and woman doing incline plank on park bench
Resist the urge to hold your breath during core exercises. Breathe steadily in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Image Credit: m-gucci/iStock/GettyImages

How do you run a mile for the first time? Maybe you jog a quarter mile or do a walk-run combo. The bottom line: You likely won't run the whole mile on the first try — and probably shouldn't.

All of the best new workouts start slow and core sessions should be no exception. Although advanced ab exercises (like hanging leg lifts or barbell rollouts) may look impressive, everyone starts at a fundamental level. Simply put, you've got to master beginner ab exercises before you can tackle the tough ones.

When you're starting with core workouts for beginners, what makes an ideal core routine?

First, the best core exercises for beginners effectively work your abs, but are still simple to do and hard to mess up. That means they can help you stay injury-free as your muscles get stronger, says Carolina Araujo, CPT, a New York-based certified personal trainer.

Second, when you put your beginner core moves together, they should train all of the muscles that make up your core, including your rectus abdominis (six-pack muscleslo), transverse abdominis (deep abs), obliques, lower back and hips.

These five beginner core exercises check all of those boxes and then some, Araujo says. Bonus: you can do them all at home with a few feet of floor space and a chair.

Tip

When getting started, try two or three of these moves and focus on your form. Then, gradually add in new ab exercises as you grow more muscle and confidence. Try to work your core at least three days per week, and keep in mind that it's better to do several short workouts throughout the week as opposed to one or two long ones.

Move 1: Lying Knee Tuck

Move 1: Lying Knee Tuck
Image Credit: Carolina Araujo/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Beginner
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Begin lying on the floor with your legs straight and arms overhead.
  2. On an exhale, raise one knee and drive it up toward your chest.
  3. At the same time, use your core to raise your shoulder blades off of the floor and reach forward. Wrap your hands around your knee.
  4. Pause here for a moment and release, lowering to the starting position.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Move 2: Incline Plank

Move 2: Incline Plank
Image Credit: Carolina Araujo/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Beginner
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Start standing in front of an exercise bench or sturdy chair.
  2. Place your hands on the bench and slowly walk your legs back.
  3. Walk back until your body forms a straight line from heels to hips to head, shoulders stacked over your palms.
  4. Hold, then walk your feet forward to return to the starting position.

Tip

As you hold this beginner core exercise, keep your back flat, tailbone tucked and glutes squeezed. Hold as long as you can maintain good form and take breaks as needed.

Move 3: Arms-Only Bird Dog

Move 3: Arms-Only Bird Dog
Image Credit: Carolina Araujo/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Beginner
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region [ "Core", "Upper Body" ]
  1. Get on all fours on the floor with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees.
  2. Keeping your back neutral and neck long, raise one arm straight in front of you.
  3. Pause here for a few moments, then bring your palm back to the ground.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Tip

Work to not let your torso sway from side to side as you raise and lower your hands. If this core exercise feels easy, you're likely leaning back into your hips. Shift your weight forward so that your shoulders stay stacked over your wrists at all time.

Move 4: Glute Bridge

Move 4: Glute Bridge
Image Credit: Carolina Araujo/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Beginner
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region [ "Core", "Lower Body" ]
  1. Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, feet flat on the floor and knees bent.
  2. On an exhale, squeeze your glutes and press your heels into the floor to drive your hips up toward the ceiling.
  3. Raise your hips until you form a straight line from knees to hips to chest.
  4. Pause here for a moment.
  5. Reverse the motion to lower to the starting position.

Move 5: Seated Side Bend

Move 5: Seated Side Bend
Image Credit: Carolina Araujo/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level Beginner
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Begin seated at the edge of an exercise bench or in a chair with your arms at your sides.
  2. Keeping your bottom glued to the seat, gently lean over to one side and reach toward the ground with that side's hand.
  3. Reverse the motion to raise to the starting position.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Tip

For this exercise, concentrate on using your obliques to help shift your body from side to side. Only go as low as you can with control.

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