The Best Core Exercises For All Levels: A Physiotherapist Shares His Favourite Four

As a physiotherapist, people often ask me: “Nate, What are your favourite core exercises?”.

In this day and age, there are hundreds of exercises with so many variations it is hard to shortlist them. I chose these because they work the core in four very different ways.

Not only does the core include the better known transversus abdominis (your deep abdominals), it also consists of the multifidus (deep in your lower back), the pelvic floor, and diaphragm. In addition to strengthening your core, the exercises below challenge the outer abdominals (including obliques), lower back muscles, glutes and upper body.

1. Plank on ball

Start on your knees with forearms on the ball. Contract your abdominals tightly while drawing your belly-button inwards towards your spine and lift yourself up to the full plank position. Ensure to keep the back flat while performing this exercise – you shouldn’t feel any increased pressure or discomfort in the lower back. I prefer to perform 5-7 sets of 20-30 second holds interspersed within the workout I’m doing that day.

Plank on ball – Phase 1
Plank on ball – Phase 2

2. Pallof press:

(Anti-rotation press): Using resistance bands, or pulleys, anchor them at chest height. Grab the loop with both hands and while keeping it close to the body step away from the anchor point. With feet shoulder width apart, contract the core tightly and push the band straight out from the chest until elbows are straight and pause for 3-5 seconds. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps on each side. Not only will this anti-rotation exercise improve your core stability, but you will also feel it working your gluteals and shoulders.

Pallof Press – Phase 1
Pallof Press – Phase 2

3. Suitcase carries:

Grab a weight that is challenging to hold and stand upright with your core tight and shoulders back. Walk 20 steps in one direction and then 20 steps back before placing the weight on the ground, pick it up with the other hand and repeating the set. This is a great exercise that translates directly to real life and works your grip strength, shoulders, as well as obliques.

Suitcase Carry

4. Single leg bridge:

Starting on your back, lift one leg off the ground. Contract your abdominals tightly and with your other leg, push your hips off the ground. Pause for 2 seconds at the top before returning to the starting position. Make sure you keep your core tight so your pelvis doesn’t sag on the lifted side. Try to perform 10 straight reps on one leg. If this is too difficult you can start by alternating legs. Perform 3 sets of 10 on each side.

Bridge – Phase 1
Bridge – Phase 2