Core: Abdominal and Lower Back Exercises

You’ve probably heard that a strong core is essential to good health. Your body’s core muscles include the abdominal and lower back muscles, which support your spine and allow you to do everyday activities like sitting, walking, and standing. Needless to say, weak core muscles can make these routine activities difficult -- and lead to bad posture, backaches, and even injury.

In this article, we’ll show you how to strengthen your core with exercises that target hard-to-reach muscles from a variety of angles. The first exercise is a single leg kick. Don't arch your lower back during this move; keep it pressed to the floor to prevent injury.

Step 1

Assume start position by lying on floor and holding head, neck, and top of back off the floor.

Step 2

Keeping both legs straight, lift one up toward the ceiling while keeping one hovered above the floor.

Step 3

Gently pull behind the leg that is pointed up toward the ceiling, then switch back to the other leg.

Step 4

Keep your lower back pressed into the floor and keep your abs contracted.

For more great exercises to improve your strength and fitness, check out:

How to Do a Stability Ball Crunch with Medicine Ball

This core exercise is a terrific way to strengthen the midsection. You'll need a stability ball and a medicine ball for this abdominal crunch.

Step 1

Assume start position as shown by lying on floor and placing feet on stability ball.

Step 2

Lift medicine ball up and out towards or past knees.

Step 3

Make sure to lift head, neck, and shoulders off of the floor.

For more great exercises to improve your strength and fitness, check out:

How to Do an Elevated Leg Crunch

Make your core workout more challenging by adding this elevated leg crunch. Make sure you use a lightweight ball (not a medicine ball).

Step 1

Assume start position as shown by placing a non-weighted ball between your feet.

Step 2

Bring hands behind head for support, and lift head, neck, and shoulders off floor by contracting your abs.

Step 3

Return to start position.

For more great exercises to improve your strength and fitness, check out:

How to Do V Sit-ups

V sit-ups whittle your waist by targeting one side of the abdominals at a time. Control your muscles during the movement to get the best results from this core exercise.

Step 1

Assume start position as shown by laying on floor.

Step 2

Bend right leg, keep left leg straight and hold ball above head.

Step 3

Slowly lift left leg as you reach ball up toward your left foot.

Step 4

Return to start position and repeat with other leg.

For more great exercises to improve your strength and fitness, check out:

How to Do Advanced V Sit-ups

For advanced V sit-ups, you'll need two fitness items: a lightweight ball and a medicine ball. This core exercise requires coordination and concentration.

Step 1

Assume start position as shown by laying on floor.

Step 2

Bend right leg and place a non-weighted ball behind your knee.

Step 3

Keep left leg straight and hold medicine ball above head.

Step 4

Slowly lift left leg as you reach ball up toward your left foot.

Step 5

Return to start position and repeat on same leg 15 to 20 times.

Step 6

Repeat with other leg 15 to 20 times.

For more great exercises to improve your strength and fitness, check out:

How to Do a Cross-legged Crunch

In this variation of a traditional crunch, called a cross-legged crunch, one leg is crossed over the other. Make sure to do an equal number of repetitions with each leg crossed to work the core and abdominal muscles evenly.

Step 1

Assume start position as shown by laying on back and crossing your right ankle over your left knee.

Step 2

Support head with hands, and crunch straight up toward legs.

Step 3

Contract abs as you lift your head and shoulders off the floor.

For more great exercises to improve your strength and fitness, check out:

How to Do a Medicine Ball Reverse Crunch

Reverse crunches hone in on the lower abdominal muscles. Make your lower belly sleek and strong by doing reverse crunches with a medicine ball.

Step 1

Assume start position as shown.

Step 2

Lift feet off floor, pulling your knees up toward the ball.

Step 3

Return to start position.

For more great exercises to improve your strength and fitness, check out:

How to Do Bar Crunches

Abdominal crunches can be performed with different types of resistance. For these bar crunches, the resistance is provided by a weight bar. This is a terrific core/abdominal exercise to incorporate into your workout.

Step 1

Assume start position as shown by lifting legs up in air.

Step 2

Lift bar up toward feet by lifting head and shoulders off the floor.

Step 3

Return to start position.

For more great exercises to improve your strength and fitness, check out:

How to Do Oblique Bar Crunches

One way to develop an eye-catching midsection is to tone the obliques, which are the side abdominal muscles. Start by making these oblique bar crunches part of your core fitness routine.

Step 1

Assume start position as shown by lifting legs in air and holding bar overhead.

Step 2

Rotate bar to side by lifting right side of bar up toward right foot.

Step 3

Return to start position.

Step 4

Repeat on left side.

For more great exercises to improve your strength and fitness, check out:

How to Do a Bent Arm Plank

Strengthen the abdominal and back muscles with a bent arm plank. The key to getting the most out of this challenging core strengthener is to concentrate and hold the position.

Step 1

Get into plank position by supporting your body weight on your forearms and toes.

Step 2

Keep your abdominals contracted and your back straight, eyes ahead of you.

Step 3

Hold this position for as long as you can, building up to 1 minute.

For more great exercises to improve your strength and fitness, check out:

How to Do a Straight Arm Plank

In a straight arm plank, the hands are positioned under the shoulders. This core exercise builds the abdominals and back muscles.

Step 1

Get into plank position by supporting your body weight on your hands and toes.

Step 2

Hands should be placed directly under your shoulders.

Step 3

Keep your abdominals contracted and your back straight, eyes ahead of you.

Step 4

Hold this position for as long as you can, building up to 1 minute.

For more great exercises to improve your strength and fitness, check out:

How to Do a Plank on Stability Ball

If you really want to challenge the core muscles, try this plank on a stability ball. Maintain the position as long as you can -- up to one minute -- for maximum muscle toning.

Step 1

Get into plank position by supporting your body weight with your chest and forearms on the ball and your toes on the floor.

Step 2

Lift your chest off of the ball so your upper body weight is supported by your forearms.

Step 3

Keep your abdominals contracted and your back straight, eyes ahead of you.

Step 4

Hold this position for as long as you can, building up to 1 minute.

For more great exercises to improve your strength and fitness, check out:

How to Do a Cross-legged Oblique Crunch

Cross-legged oblique crunches are sure to power up your abdominal workout. Make sure you use proper form for this core exercise to avoid injury.

Step 1

Assume start position as shown by laying on back and crossing your right ankle over your left knee.

Step 2

Support head with hands, and contract your abs as you lift your head and shoulders off the floor.

Step 3

Bring your left elbow towards your right knee.

For more great exercises to improve your strength and fitness, check out:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lottie Olson is a nationally certified personal trainer with 10 years of experience in fitness and personal training. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh with a B.S. in Exercise Science and Fitness Management.