Beginner core workouts can be a great way for people new to training to ease into resistance training. These core exercises provided can be used to create your next beginner ab workout.
No spam – just thoughtful training advice
Core training should be built into any training regime that aims to improve health and wellness. Thankfully, there are many exercise variations suitable for beginners so you can take your time to develop your core musculature. Let’s look at 12 exercises you can use to start your core training today.
These exercises will be very simple and easy to perform for beginners, which will allow beginners to create physical adaptions immediately rather than putting emphasis on technique.
Using simple exercises is an excellent way for beginners to make physical progress, especially for those who are new to strength training or have limited experience with exercise. Simple exercises allow beginners to develop a foundation of strength, which can help them to progress to more advanced exercises over time.
One of the main benefits of simple exercises is that they allow beginners to create physical adaptations immediately, without requiring extensive technical knowledge or training. When beginners perform exercises that are easy to perform, they can focus on developing the muscle groups targeted by the exercise, which can lead to quick gains in strength and overall fitness.
In addition, simple exercises provide a low-risk, low-impact way for beginners to build confidence and improve their overall physical health. When beginners feel successful and see progress from their workouts, they are more likely to stick with their training program and continue to make gains over time.
However, it's important to note that even simple exercises should be performed with proper form and technique to avoid injury and maximize results. Beginners should take the time to learn how to perform each exercise correctly and avoid rushing into more advanced exercises before they are ready, hence why simplicity is such a crucial part of the beginners journey to a strong core.
A great deal of core exercises available on the internet will be too challenging for beginners. This can often create frustration or bad technique, resulting in inconsistent and ineffective training.
If we take an example of giving a beginner client a hollow hold rather than a deadbug hold , the hollow hold will lead to an inability to perform the exercise correctly as it is too difficult while the deadbug will lead to both improved strength and technique of a anterior pelvic tilt. This really puts emphasis on why exercise selection is so important, especially for beginners.
These exercises cover all the bases of the movements that can be used to train the core. They include
Getting a stronger core can be an excellent way to improve your posture, the core is the musculature used to maintain good posture throughout the day.
The core muscles play a critical role in how you hold your body in your daily life, this is know as your posture. Having weak core muscle will result in having poor posture which can lead to breathing mechanics and issues with both the cervical and lumbar spine .(1)
Poor posture can be a vicious cycle of weak and inefficient muscles that lead to even weaker and less efficient muscles, this can result in a lot of pain and fatigue if not addressed. This is why core training is so beneficial to beginners as it can dramatically improve posture.
Resistance training consists of many different movement patterns, these require a great deal of concentration and often core stability to maintain good positions. The core is such a large group of muscle that play a crucial role in almost all movements we produce, they allow the expression of strength in both the upper and lower body. Working on your core from the beginning will help you when learning other more complex movements like squatting and deadlifting.
If we look at the squatting movement pattern when the weight is anterior to the body, the core is an essential part of these movements being performed effectively and safely.
Both the Front Squat and the KB Front Rack Walking Lunge require huge amounts of lumbar stability to be performed with challenging loads. It is also crucial in movements patterns like the hinge. If beginners are able to develop this in conjunction with strengthening the key movement patterns with exercises that stress the core appropriately in a few months the core musculature can see huge increases in strength and stability.
Core stability also allows the development of intra-abdominal pressure , which can be very useful later if beginners want to move into lifting heavier weights. "Intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) is the pressure inside the abdominal cavity that acts like a weight belt to support the spine. During movement, your core muscles contract to create a natural weight belt, increasing IAP and providing spinal stability. Proper IAP is important for lifting heavy objects, maintaining posture, and preventing low back pain.” (2) This is why using core exercises from the beginning will enable excellent technique going forward in your strength and conditioning journey.
We use our core musculature all the time, picking up something heavy whilst moving home, standing up out of a chair. Having a strong core will enable you to have a sense of ease throughout your day.
Research (3) has shown that core instability strength training, like the exercises proposed in this article, can improve trunk muscle strength, spinal mobility and dynamic balance, all of which are crucial to health and day to day life. These improvements in strength and mobility can translate to better posture, less back pain, and increased overall functionality in day-to-day activities.
Furthermore, having strong core muscles can also improve your athletic performance, whether you're a weekend warrior or a competitive athlete. When you have a solid foundation of core stability, you can produce more power and generate more force in movements like running, jumping, and throwing. Training the core musculature is a great idea for people of all ages and ability.
Complete 3 rounds
This sample beginner core workout includes a variety of core stability exercise that service the core muscles in their entirety rather than just putting emphasis on the ab muscles.
The bear crawl hold works the entire body and is a great way for beginners to learn to take their bodyweight whilst progressing their anterior core muscles. The Half Kneeling Halo Rotation requires a resistance of rotation which will develop the core muscles in a very different way to the bear crawl hold. While the side plank kneeling leg raise will challenging both the obliques by holding the position and the muscles in the hip joint through lifting the leg. In terms of sets and reps, perform 3-5 rounds of this circuit with a repetition count that you find challenging but sustainable.
Strengthening a weak core follows the same principles as strengthening a strong core
Have a look through our training application , we reach these three criteria and more.
Some signs that indicate you might have a weak core musculature are different depending on which population or group we are discussing. Elderly people who struggle getting out of bed could be a sign of a weak core, whereas for an athlete who struggles to maintain good positions during strength training may also be considered to have a weak core in comparison to his or hers piers.
A much more general sign of having a weak core is getting lower back pain from walking or from standing too long. If you have a very sedentary job and don’t to any resistance training it is very likely that you’ll get some lower back pain at some point, training the core musculature can help prevent this.
A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science in 2020 found that core stabilization exercises were effective in reducing pain and disability in patients with chronic lower back pain. (4)
Core and ab training can be done as a stand alone training session or integrated into a full body resistance training regime. Both are great ways to build this style of training into your week. Above we have an example of a stand alone core session, these can be done 1-2 times a week.
The most important thing beginners can do to improve their core is to get habituated at consistently doing the basics very well. If you’re able to learn all the movement patterns required to perform good technique in the gym, whilst simultaneously improving your core strength, then you’re on the right track.
Remember this kind of endeavour takes a great deal of time, especially if you’ve been living a relatively sedentary lifestyle prior to training to strengthen your core. That’s not to say that it can’t be done, by using workouts for beginners and specifically beginner core workouts, everyone will be able to see progress in their core strength but the most important ingredient in any sort of progress of this kind is patience.
The body can take a long time to adapt to the stimulus you present to it and the same is true for the abs, no matter how many sets you throw at it, it’s going to take time, remember that during your sessions you may find yourself getting frustrated wanting faster results - be patient.
For true beginners core stability exercises are not even required to see great progress in the core musculature. You’ll be presenting the body with such a new stimulus that the basic movement patterns will also have a large impact on core strength and core stability, doing these movement patterns in conjunction with core training will be essential to your long term success with physical training.
If your just getting into exercises, but have a long sporting history, are still very active in your day to day life and have little to no movement issues, you may still be considered a beginner, but will be able to attempt more challenging exercises than the ones on this list.
However if you’ve had a long period of inactivity, are overweight or obese you may need to start with the easier exercises to ensure you can complete them with good technique. This is an important distinction to make because although someone might consider themselves a beginner, and they may well be a beginner at these specific types of movement, they will still have the movement capabilities to try some intermediate exercises.
Building core strength is a gradual process that requires patience and consistency. For beginners, it's important to start with basic exercises that target the stomach and core muscles. Here is a basic guideline of how a beginner might try and stay very healthy:
This is by no means simple but a worthy goal for anyone trying to improve their health. Remember, getting “abs” or a “flat stomach” is much more about having a balanced and healthy nutrition plan than the type of exercises you use. Yes, doing exercise that will burn calories will help with your calories balance but you can’t outrun what you put in. A great deal of self reflection can be required to lift your nutrition to better levels.
Yes. The erector spinae, a group of muscles that run parallel to the spine and help maintain proper posture and alignment, are a key component of the core and can easily be strengthened using core exercises. These muscles are a very important part of a health and fitness. A superman hold is a great example of an exercise that strengthens the erector spinae, I find it especially effective for beginners.
The pallof press is one of the best core exercises for beginners due to its simplicity. It requires a great starting position that can be found by almost anyone with some good cues and the straightening of the arms. This exercises causes band to pull the body into rotation, which you must resist by keeping the shoulders square. The intensity can be modulated either through changing the band to increase band tension or by moving further away from the fixed point of the band, either way through increasing band tension.
The plank is another excellent exercise for beginners who are looking to improve their core strength. It is slightly more difficult than say the pallof press or some of the more simple exercises in the list as it requires very good pelvic positioning, without this pelvic positioning it is not a very effective exercises. That being said many beginners are able to figure out the pelvic positioning and either way you need to start learning this technique with some form of core exercise and the plank is a great example. Some overweight beginners may find this exercise too challenging and should put emphasis on core exercises that use external loads like the pallof press rather than the plank.
The side plank kneeling leg raise is a perfect introduction to the side plank position for those who have never worked in it and also a great way for a beginner to improve their hip stability and strength. This exercise may appear simple but can be very challenging for beginners, both for their obliques and the muscles in this hips, so if you are a beginner or you coach beginners, consider using between 6-8 repetitions per side. The entire movement should be performed with control, the leg should not be flung into the air and come crashing back down, this is a way to conserve energy, but if it is required then the exercise intensity needs to be reduced.
The single arm KB farmers carry is one of my favourite exercises in the entirety of our library, is is great for both beginners and advanced individuals to gain full body strength but specifically core strength and stability. Not only does it improve the strength in the obliques, but in the small muscles that stabilise the knees, hips and ankles. Finally it also works the grip strength and upper back. I include this in all my beginners training programmes.
The superman hold is one of the most effective core exercises for beginners looking to improve their lumbar strength. Lumbar spine strength and muscles are a crucial part of both strength and conditioning but also living a healthy and pain free lifestyle. Making this exercise a go to for health training programmes. It really needs to be done with intention, creating tension in both the glutes and the lumbar spine to lift the shoulders and the legs. If this exercise is done without intention it can seem very “easy” if you are a beginner and it is easy then you’re probably doing it very wrong.
Walk outs are a brilliant way for beginners to experience taking their own bodyweight for the first time. It can seem very unnatural if you have been sedentary for a long time. To modulate difficulty of this exercise, you can narrow or widen the stance of the feet, the wider they are, the easier it is too stabilise. Another way to make this exercise more difficult is to add a pause to the end or to add a press up to the end, depending on the ability of the person performing the exercise. This exercise can be a little too easy for some athletic beginners, but it can also be too hard for overweight beginners who should either approach it carefully and only walk out to where they feel comfortable or change for a different exercise.
These are not as easy as they may look, don’t be fooled by their simplicity, maintaining a press up position for an extended period of time whilst moving from four to three points of contact is not an easy feet. It’s important to move slowly with control, this exercise is challenging because your body has to stabilise with three points of contact, so moving fast will just cause poor technique and reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.
Deadbugs are a classic core exercise for beginners. They allow us to learn the correct pelvic positioning (posterior pelvic tilt) for the majority of the anterior core exercises all whilst challenging the muscles of the anterior core. They importance of the pelvic positioning on this exercise cannot be understated, if it is the base of exercises to come it needs to be perfected. Thinking about pushing the lower back into the floor can be a great way to conceptualise the pelvic tilt position we are looking for. Finally it is very important to not lower the hand or foot to such an extent that it pulls the lower back from the floor.
The bear crawl hold is another great way for beginners to build the basic proprioception of taking their own bodyweight in their hands. For some true beginners this will be too challenging. I love the exercise because of its simplicity, the position can be found while you are not under fatigue, all you have to do is lift the knees and off you go. It is important not to lift the hips as you get tired, this will cause the work to transition from the core musculature to the muscles in the shoulders.
The DB Single Arm Farmers March is another great variation for beginners, though it depends on the starting point of the beginner. This exercise may be a little too challenging if the beginner has been extremely sedentary for a few years, if not, there are many beginners who could use this exercise to great effect. The most important technical aspect of this exercise for beginners is to slowly transition the weight from one foot to the other rather than rushing the transition. If the transition is rushed it will not give you enough time to stabilise.
The half kneeling halo rotation is a great way for beginners to build a strong core, especially the muscles in their obliques. This exercise should be done with light loads to start with and then be progressively increased. If this exercised is rushed, or the weight is held too close to the body, the exercise will have little to no effect. Move slowly with control and maintain the weight an appropriate distance from your body.
The banded deadbug hold is a great progression from the deadbug hold or deadbugs. It needs the initial technique of the posterior pelvic tilt to be ingrained which can take a few weeks to month, but once that is the case then this exercise can be used to great effect, putting a great deal of stimulus on the anterior core. If you have a particularly weak upper body you may want to avoid this exercise because the band will pull to aggressively on your shoulders, however for many beginners this will not be the case.
If you enjoyed this resource you can find more below or try Programme, a fitness app that plans every workout for you – based on your progress, equipment and lifestyle.
This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.