What does come to your mind when you think about “core strength”?
Most of us would think about six pack abs.
But the core is much MORE than a six pack!
Among other things, your core is responsible for spine flexion and extension, rotation, stabilization and good posture.
So, if you approach core training just by training your six pack, you’ll leave out most of the important stuff.
But don’t worry.
In this post, you’re going to find out 61 bodyweight core exercises to help you target all of these different functions of the core and develop a truly powerful midsection.
Table of Contents
What “The Core” Really Is
Firsts things first.
What is your core?
There are many definitions out there about what constitutes your core.
Instead of creating a new definition, I’d like to take the focus off the muscles and instead place it on the movement patterns.
In short, your core is responsible for:
- Spine flexion (ie. When your bend forward)
- Spine extension (ie. When you bend backward)
- Axial rotation
- Lateral flexion (ie. When you bend to the side)
- Stabilization (if that can be considered a movement pattern)
For complete core development, you should target all of these movement patterns.
The Benefits Of Training Your Core Directly
Why should you use exercises that focus on your core?
Aren’t bodyweight exercises targeting your core anyway?
Yes, calisthenics exercises do train your core (especially as you progress to more advanced movements) and, as you’re going to see, some of the movements below are full body exercises.
As such, you can “get away” without targeting your core directly.
However, you’re missing on some great benefits of direct core training.
Benefit #1: More Core Strength
Let’s be real.
It just common sense that if you train your core directly, your core strength is going to be a lot greater than if you trained it only indirectly.
Which, leads us to…
Benefit #2: Achieve Advanced Moves Faster
Almost all advanced calisthenics moves require a strong core.
A great example is the front lever.
Training for a front lever is going to strengthen your core, however, if you can already perform a dragon flag, you’ll be able to achieve the front lever must faster, cause you already have the necessary core strength for the movement.
Bodyweight Exercises For The Abs
In the first section of bodyweight core exercises, you’re gonna find the exercises that are focused on the abs or more formally, the rectus abdomini.
The movement pattern that will be trained is mostly spine flexion along with stabilization.
The exercises are going to be divided into 3 categories based on their difficulty level.
Depending on your training level, these exercises can be used as progressions to more advanced movements or as accessory work in interval circuits.
Beginner Bodyweight Ab Exercises
Bodyweight Core Exercise #1: The Crunch
You can make crunches more effective by pausing briefly at the top of the movement and squeezing your core muscles as hard as you can (for a sec or two). Then come back down and repeat for reps.
I learned about this harder crunch variation in Never Gymless by Ross Enamait.
Bodyweight Core Exercise #2: The Reverse Crunch
Bodyweight Core Exercise #3: Bicycle Crunches
Bodyweight Core Exercise #4: The Sit Up
Bodyweight Core Exercise #5: The Plank
Bodyweight Core Exercise #6: Wiper Plank
Bodyweight Core Exercise #7: The One Arm One Leg plank
Bodyweight Core Exercise #8: RKC Plank (tension plank)
Bodyweight Core Exercise #9: The Hollow Body
Bodyweight Core Exercise #10: Hanging Bicycle
Bodyweight Core Exercise #11: Lying Knee Raises
Bodyweight Core Exercise #12: Scissor Crunch
Bodyweight Core Exercise #13: Sit Thru
Bodyweight Core Exercise #14: Stomach Vacuums
If you’re interested in learning more about stomach vacuums, be sure to check this article:
Bodyweight Core Exercise #15: Hanging Knee Raises
Bodyweight Core Exercise #16: Flutter Kicks
Bodyweight Core Exercise #17: Vertical Crunches
Bodyweight Core Exercise #18: Lying Leg Raises
Bodyweight Core Exercise #19: Figure 8’s
Bodyweight Core Exercise #20: Knee Wheel Roll Outs
This exercise is not for complete beginners.
You should be able to do at least 20 push ups before trying these out.
Bodyweight Core Exercise #21: V- ups
Intermediate Bodyweight Ab Exercises
Bodyweight Core Exercise #22: Hanging Leg Raises
Bodyweight Core Exercise #23: L-sits
Bodyweight Core Exercise #24: Hanging V-Hold
Bodyweight Core Exercise #25: L-Hang to Inverted Hang
Bodyweight Core Exercise #26: Hanging Flutter kicks
Bodyweight Core Exercise #27: Inchworm
In case you don’t have an ab wheel yet, inchworm is a great alternative.
The further out you extend your arms, the harder the exercise becomes.
Advanced Bodyweight Ab Exercises
Bodyweight Core Exercise #28: Dragon flag
Bodyweight Core Exercise #29: Hanging Leg Raises (Stall Bar)
This may seem like a regular leg raise, but in fact, it’s harder because you can’t lean back to perform the movement.
Bodyweight Core Exercise #30: One Arm Leg Raises
Bodyweight Core Exercise #31: Standing Wheel Roll Outs
You should be able to do at least 30 consecutive knee wheel roll outs before training for this variation.
Bodyweight Core Exercise #32: One Arm Wheel Roll Outs
Bodyweight Core Exercise #33: V-sit
Bodyweight Core Exercise #34: LaLanne Push us
Bodyweight Core Exercise #35: One Arm LaLanne Push Ups
Bodyweight Core Exercise #36: The Manna
Bodyweight Exercises For The Obliques
In this section, you’re gonna find the core exercises that are focused on your obliques.
The movement patterns that will be trained are axial rotation, lateral flexion, and stabilization.
The exercises are divided into 2 categories based on their difficulty level.
Beginner Bodyweight Oblique Exercises
Bodyweight Core Exercise #37: Side Oblique Crunch
Bodyweight Core Exercise #38: Side Plank
Bodyweight Core Exercise #39: Side Plank Raises
Bodyweight Core Exercise #40: Thread The Needle
Bodyweight Core Exercise #41: Plank Wipers
Bodyweight Core Exercise #42: Russian Twist
Bodyweight Core Exercise #43: Oblique V-up
Bodyweight Core Exercise #44: Hanging Oblique Crunch
Intermediate Bodyweight Oblique Exercises
Bodyweight Core Exercise #45: Floor Wipers
Bodyweight Core Exercise #46: Windshield Wipers
Bodyweight Core Exercise #47: Hanging Windshield Wipers
Bodyweight Core Exercise #48: Around The World
Bodyweight Exercises For The Lower Back
Here you’re going to find the bodyweight exercises that target your lower back.
The movement pattern that will be trained is spine extension along with some stabilization.
The exercises are divided into 2 categories based on their difficulty.
Beginner Bodyweight Lower Back Exercises
Bodyweight Core Exercise #49: Donkey Kicks
Bodyweight Core Exercise #50: Bird Dog
Bodyweight Core Exercise #51: Reverse Plank
This exercise can be also done for reps.
In addition, it can be used as a shoulder stretch as well.
Bodyweight Core Exercise #52: Single Leg Deadlifts
Bodyweight Core Exercise #53: Superman Exercise
This exercise can be done for reps or hold it for time.
Bodyweight Core Exercise #54: Alternating Superman
Bodyweight Core Exercise #55: Hip Bridge
Bodyweight Core Exercise #56: Leg Extensions
Bodyweight Core Exercise #57: Bridge (Backbend)
Intermediate Bodyweight Lower Back Exercises
Bodyweight Core Exercise #58: Headstand Presses
In the beginning, use a wall for safety.
You can also put a pillow under your head so it doesn’t hurt.
Bodyweight Core Exercise #59: Bridge Walking
Bodyweight Core Exercise #60: Bridge Rotations
Bodyweight Core Exercise #61: One Arm Bridge
How To Train Your Core Effectively
After watching all of these different exercises, you might be wondering…
What exercises should I choose?
Should I do different exercises every other day or should I focus on one movement?
Here’s what you should do…
First of all, you should have 2 core workouts:
- One to progress towards advanced moves
- And one for core endurance
Workout A: Core Strength
For this workout, you’ll have to choose an advanced core exercise that you’d like to achieve (eg. The dragon flag).
Then you’ll choose a progression that you do at least 3×3 reps with it.
Furthermore, in Workout A you’ll train with 3-5 sets of 3-8 reps with 2-5 minutes rest intervals.
Once you’re able to perform 3×8 or 5×5 with a progression, you’re ready to move to the next one.
So, Workout A could look like this:
A1: 3x(3-8) dragon flag progression
Workout B: Core Endurance
In the second workout, you’re going to perform a circuit that targets your whole core.
So, you’ll have to choose 3 different exercises:
- One for the abdominals
- One for the obliques
- And one for the lower back
A type B workout can look like this:
A1: 3x(10-20) Crunches
A2: 3x(10-20) Bicycle
A3: 3x(10-20) Alternating Supermans
- Go from A1 to A2 to A3 without rest between the exercises. Then rest for 60-90 seconds.
- Repeat for 3 rounds.
- If you can complete 3×20 with an exercise with ease, you can move on to a harder one or add more reps.
- Workout B isn’t fixed. By that I mean, that you can choose different exercises in every workout to prevent staleness and boredom.
How to Use These Workouts
You can use these workouts during the same day.
For example, you can perform Workout A as part of your regular strength training routine and at the end of your workout (or at a different time during the day) perform Workout B. (I learned this approach from Never Gymless by Ross Enamait).
You can train with them on different days.
Furthermore, it’s important that you train your core at least 3 times per week.
Lastly, don’t forget to stretch your abs frequently, especially after every type A workout.
Bonus Infographic: The Magic Of Stomach Vacuums
The goal of this post was to “equip” you with the necessary core exercises so you can effectively train your core in its entirety.
If you follow a “holistic” approach and train all of the basic core movement patterns, then you’ll develop a truly powerful and functional core.
On the contrary, if you focus only on one movement pattern and area (eg. Abs), then you risk developing muscle imbalances and even worse… you’ll be prone to injuries.
With that said…
What exercises are you going to add to your current workout plan?
Let me know in the comments section below.
Photos: Push Up bars,
Infographic: The Trusty Spotter