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Best Core Exercises: 5 Powerful Movements That Aren't Crunches

two women doing high-five partner planks
A strong core will help boost your strength, enhance your well-being, and improve your overall fitness level!

by Mary Lambkin


If you've found yourself craving a core workout that goes beyond the crunch, look no further! We've compiled five of the best core exercises that are challenging, well-rounded, and way more fun than your basic sit-up and crunch.

Believe it or not, these movements don't require any equipment — although it might be a good idea to keep a stability ball, medicine ball, or dumbbells nearby if you're looking for an extra challenge. Incorporating the following exercises into your workout routine will not only result in improved core strength, but may also benefit your cardio workouts, strength training sessions, and everyday well-being.

1. Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers effectively work your abdominals while also benefiting your back, shoulders, and glutes! To get the most out of this movement, make sure to keep your lower back straight as you complete each "climb." Try to sustain a steady pace for 30 seconds, and rest in a stationary plank position whenever needed.

2. Russian Twists

This movement will challenge your obliques, which are located above your hips on both sides of your abdominals. Your other core muscles will love this exercise, especially if you ramp up the intensity by holding a weighted medicine ball. For an added challenge, try performing your Russian twists on a soft surface with your feet in the air, as this will cause your core to further engage in an effort to stay balanced.

3. Frankensteins

Even tough guys like Frankenstein rely on a solid core routine to keep their body strong! As one of the best core exercises out there, the Frankenstein looks deceptively easy. Once you get started, you'll likely be surprised by how much it will activate your lower abs.

As you raise one leg upward — kicking it straight up to meet your other hand — focus on maintaining good posture and a forward-facing hip. This will help engage more muscles in your core and lower body. After completing a set, remember to alternate your legs as you walk across the floor.

4. Lying Leg Raises

When you have your legs raised in the air, see if you can do a slight crunch with your upper body by keeping your upper back off the ground and legs straight as you slowly lower both (or one leg at a time) toward the ground. Maintain control by tightening your lower abs and glutes. Resist the urge to lift your neck or back as your feet make their way back to the floor, instead do a slight crunch. If need be, you can reduce the intensity of this exercise by slightly bending your legs.

5. Inverted Flyers

Core strength goes hand in hand with stability, and inverted flyers will challenge your balance from head to toe. Keep your back flat and your arms straight as you use your core to slowly lean forward on one leg, extending your arm forward and your leg behind you until you reach your full range of motion. If you're having trouble keeping balance, try focusing on a single spot on the floor. And don't forget to switch legs after a while, so you work all muscles evenly.

Try completing a circuit of all five exercises listed above at the start of your next workout (before you've burned up all of your energy)! These movements are great for a core workout as you get ready to tackle the rest of your sweat session. As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.