Core stabilization is incredibly important. Usually when we think of core exercises, we think of crunches, side crunches, reverse crunches, rotational crunches, the list goes on.

While these exercises certainly have their place in a well-rounded routine for building core strength, having a stable core is an incredibly important first step in your core regimen.

Think about your core as the foundation for your body. It is where your center of gravity is located (where you keep your balance). It is important for every movement you make with your upper and lower body.

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Without a stable core, your body will lack strength—and not just in your core.

So many exercises depend on a strong, stable core to be performed properly. Without a stable core, you may start to lose form, thus putting you at an increased risk for injury.

In fact, stabilizing you core creates the base for then building strength in your core and the rest of your body. The bottom line is simple: a stable core will better prepare your body for all the movements you will require of it throughout the day.

One of the first steps in building a stable core is mastering the drawing in and bracing poses. To draw in, simply pull your navel in toward your spine.

This should shrink your belly in slightly. Once you have drawn in, squeeze your deep abdominal muscles. This is bracing. Hold this pose consciously as often as you can.

The great part of these poses is you can do them anywhere—in your car on the way to work, at work while typing at your desk, and especially at the gym while exercising.

Drawing in and bracing will help to maintain proper posture throughout the day and make your exercises more effective in the gym. Maintain this position while you complete these must-do core stability exercises.

1. Plank

The plank is a basic core stabilization move. To perform the plank, lie on your stomach and place your elbows and forearms directly under your shoulders with your legs extended behind, toes on the ground.

Lift your body up so your weight is balanced between your toes and elbows. Draw in and brace while in this position. You should see a straight line from your ears, through your shoulders, hips, knees and feet.

Be sure you maintain a flat back posture and brace your core tightly. Hold this position for 20-60 seconds, doing 1-3 sets.

Progressions/variations:

To progress this exercise, you can place your hands or elbows on a stability ball. From the standard position, you can also raise one leg at a time and perform a hip extension.

When performing this variation, be sure not to lift your leg too high. This can create an arch in your low back which will counteract the bracing and drawing it.

Finally, from the standard position, you can alternate extending your arm in front of you for 1-2 seconds and returning to the normal position, trying not to allow your body to shift side to side as you extend your arm.

Regressions:

If performing this exercise is too difficult or you have trouble maintaining your form, you can try some of these regressions:

Instead of doing the exercise on your elbows, try to perform the exercises on your forearms; instead of doing the exercise on your toes, try to perform the exercise with your knees on the ground; or instead of doing the exercise on the floor, perform the exercise with elbows or hands placed on a bench.

2. Cable Iso Hold

To perform the cable iso hold, move the cable to about the level of your elbow. Stand 2-3 feet away and perpendicular to the machine (a quarter turn from facing the machine) and select an appropriate weight.

Grasp then handle in both hands, extend your arms in front of you, and pull the cable to in front of your body. This will begin to engage your core. Draw in, brace, and hold this position for 30-60 seconds each side, completing 1-3 sets.

Progressions/variations:

To progress this exercise, you can select a heavier weight or you can add movement, like a lunge or step up to the basic exercise. This places an additional challenge on your core, while working other muscles, increasing your caloric burn!

Regressions:

To make it easier, instead of keeping your arms extended in front of you, bend your elbows in so your hands are near your rib cage, just under your chest.

This will make the exercise feel easier. As you progress, extend the elbows a little more each session.

3. Hip Bridges

Lie on your back with knees bent. Draw in and brace, and try to flatten the space between your low back and the floor (this is called a posterior pelvic tilt).

Holding this position, gently peel your hips and glutes off the floor, pushing through your heels to lift your hips off the ground. Slowly lower back to the starting position and repeat 12-20 times for 1-3 sets.

Progressions/Variations:

To progress this exercise, the first thing you can do is extend one leg, keeping knees together. You can also place your feet on a ball (a BOSU ball or Dyna Disk will work well, too) when performing this exercise.

Finally, you can combine those two progressions: place one foot on a ball (BOSU ball or Dyna Disk) and extend one leg out.

4. Side Planks

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The side planks are performed very similar to a standard plank, but are performed on the side. Begin on one side with your elbow under your shoulder, with legs extended and outside of your foot on the floor. Raise your body up so your hips are off the floor. Hold for 20-60 seconds and complete 1-3 sets.

Progressions/Variations

To progress this exercise, you can add a hip abduction movement. After you raise your hips off the ground, lift your top leg 6-10 inches off the bottom leg, lower, and repeat.

You can also add an upper body rotation. Assume the standard position, but then lower your top shoulder toward the ground, return to the starting position, and repeat.

Regressions:

An easy way to regress this exercise is to bend the knees. Assume the standard position, but instead of feet extended out, bend the knees and hold that position as long as you can.

5. Supermans

Lie on your stomach with arms extended in front and legs extended behind. Draw in and brace your core. Squeeze your glutes and low back to gently raise your upper and lower extremities off the ground. Lower to the starting position. Repeat 12-20 times for 1-3 sets.

Progressions/Variations:

For a basic progression, you can add a retraction of the scapulae. Attach a resistance band in front of you as you perform this exercise, grasping the handle in both hands.

As you pull up off the ground, gently pull back on the resistance band, engaging your mid and lower traps in a high rowing motion. You can also hold this exercise instead of completing repetitions.

Regressions:

To make this exercise easier, you can start by alternating lifting your right arm/left leg and raising your left arm/right leg instead of lifting upper and lower bodies at the same time. You can also try to lift just your upper body or just your lower body while completing this exercise.

I hope you enjoy these core stabilization exercises.

They can be incorporated into your typical daily routine, or can be included as a workout of their own. Give them a try and be sure to leave comments and feedback below!

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