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Full-Body Core Exercises

author image Max Roman Dilthey
Max Roman Dilthey is a science, health and culture writer currently pursuing a master's of sustainability science. Based in Massachusetts, he blogs about cycling at
Full-Body Core Exercises
Core exercises can be so much more than crunches. Photo Credit: Dirima/iStock/Getty Images

Your core isn't just your abs! It includes your back and hip muscles, too. That's why it's important to develop your core strength through full-body exercises. But you don't have to hit the gym every day, either.

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Your own bodyweight can provide all the resistance you need to strengthen your abs, lower back and pelvis. Developing core strength provides a strong, stable base for powerful movements in your arms and legs, improving physical fitness and decreasing risk of injury when exercising.

Skip the Sit-Up

For years, the king of core workouts was the traditional situp. However, research points toward stability exercises, such as the side-plank, as a better alternative to the classic sit-up.

In a study conducted by the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, situps were responsible for a surprising 56 percent of injuries during the Army's three-part physical fitness test, in a pool of 1,500 U.S. Army soldiers.

Other full-body core exercises, such as the front plank, side plank and quadraplex, are considered a safer and more effective alternative, giving you a core workout without the additional risk of a back injury.

Just because you're not moving doesn't mean you're not getting a crazy good ab workout.
Just because you're not moving doesn't mean you're not getting a crazy good ab workout. Photo Credit: undrey/iStock/Getty Images

The Front Plank

The front plank is the quintessential full-body core workout, and may be easier to perform than a push-up. Start by laying on your stomach with your arms tucked underneath your body and palms flat on the floor.

Next, lift your body off the ground, supporting your weight on your elbows, forearms, and hands. Your hips and shoulders should be aligned, and your body should form a straight line from your ankles to your head.

Hold this position as long as you can; when you have to, take a break until recovered, and then repeat. If you're having trouble with the full forward plank, you can try the workout with your knees on the ground and work your way up to a full plank.

How long can you hold your side plank for?
How long can you hold your side plank for? Photo Credit: dolgachov/iStock/Getty Images

The Side Plank

Drawing from the yoga pose vasisthasana, the side plank is a full-body core exercise that utilizes a static position to develop strength. To perform a side plank, lie down on your right side and place your right hand flat on the floor underneath you.

Straighten your right arm so that you're lifting your torso and hips off the ground. Your right arm should form a straight line from your shoulder to the floor. Keep your body straight so that your knees, hips, torso and shoulders are all aligned, engaging your abdominals.

You can raise your left arm straight into the air for balance. Hold the pose for one minute, or as long as possible, and then switch sides.

The quadraplex is also sometimes called bird dog.
The quadraplex is also sometimes called bird dog. Photo Credit: Travis McCoy/LIVESTRONG.COM

The Quadraplex

Developed as part of the U.S. Army's "4 for the Core" workout system, the quadraplex is a dynamic full-body exercise that engages the core and helps train your coordination and balance.

Start on your hands and knees with your back parallel to the floor, then slowly lift your left leg and right arm until they're pointing straight out. Hold this position for five seconds without arching your back, and then slowly return to the starting position.

Then, alternate with your right leg and left arm. Repeat for up to one minute or longer for a deeper core workout.

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