Top exercises to sculpt a strong core

WH&F Head Trainer Alexa Towersey knows a thing or two about building a strong set of abs? Here, she shares her top exercises to sculpt your core.

Dead bugs:20 reps, alternating sides. Two to three rounds.

This move fires up the entire core, front and back, and strengthens the contralateral muscular slings of the body. Great remedial exercise for pelvic control and addressing structural imbalance in the hips. Progress the movement by holding dumbbells.

Lie on your back with neutral spine and arms and legs at right angles to the body; fingertips in line with the shoulders, knees on top of hips. Extend opposite arm and leg away from you, creating length on the diagonal, and focusing on keeping the spine in neutral throughout. Make sure the knees don’t come any further in than the hips so that the lower abs are always engaged, and that the arm movement is initiated from the lats. Alternate sides.

Kettlebell window wipers: 20 reps. Two to three rounds.

This move strengthens your obliques, core and legs while stretching the upper (thoracic) spine.

Lie on your back with your arms pinned out to the side by heavy kettlebells, palms facing up. Pull your knees in towards your chest then lengthen the toes towards the ceiling. Think about squeezing the thighs together to engage the lower abs and pelvic floor; bellybutton drawn to spine. Reach the legs over to the right, lengthening the top hip and keeping the opposite shoulder on the ground. Draw the legs back to centre and reach to the other side.

Walk-outs: 10 reps. Two to three rounds.

This move works the entire core and shoulder girdle. This movement is self-limiting: the farther out you walk (the longer, the lever), the more challenging it is.

Assume a push-up position with hands directly underneath shoulders and your body in a straight line from head to heels.  Brace your core by drawing the bellybutton to the spine. Slowly walk the hands out in front of you. Pause, then walk back in, keeping the glutes tight to support the lower back and prevent any sagging through the midsection. Make sure the reps are slow and controlled.

Isometric cable hold: 30 to 60 seconds each side. Two to three rounds.

This move forces the spine to resist twisting and turning, strengthening the abs and protecting the lower back.

Set up a cable or resistance band at chest height. Kneel or stand perpendicular to the cable/band with glutes tight and back straight. Keeping arms as straight as possible, grab the cable and bring both hands directly out in front of your chest.  Hold for the duration, then switch sides.

Reverse hyper holds: 30 to 60 seconds. Two to three rounds.

This exercise is a fantastic way to strengthen the entire posterior chain, with particular emphasis on the glutes and the hamstrings, without placing undue stress on the lower back.

Set yourself up so that you are lying face down on a bench with your hip bones on the edge. Grip the bench in front of you to hold the torso in position, then lift the legs off the floor and hold for the duration.  Legs should be as straight as possible, with feet turned out and flexed to engage the glutes. I suggest popping a resistance band around the ankles for more of a challenge.  Try to keep the body straight and not hyper extended through the lower spine.