Core workouts | The best core exercises for strength and stability

The core muscles include your abs, back and glutes. They provide you with stability, balance and strength, which can help prevent injury in the long run. To maximise your strength and stability, we’ve put a selection of our favourite core workouts together for you to perform in the gym or at home.

Follow our detailed step-by-step instructions to get the most out of a variety of exercises that will help you activate your core and feel more stable when performing any exercise. 

What muscles make up your core?

The core is typically referred to as the centre of the body. Most people think of the abdominal muscles are the core, but the region actually extends further up and around the abdomen to include:

  • Rectus abdominis
  • External obliques
  • Erector spinae
  • Quadratus lumborum
  • Hip muscle groups
  • The pelvic floor
  • Transversus abdominis
  • Internal Obliques
  • Multifidus Diaphragm

Why are core workouts so effective?

The muscles in your core don’t require much activation to get a good workout in. For most people, a high-intensity, 10-minute workout is enough. 

Even if you’re not seeing visible results, a quick and effective core workout will be strengthening the muscles in and around your abdominal region and lower back.

Working on your core helps build strength in the centre of your body, which is integral for balance and stability.

How often should I train core?

Whilst there are no hard and fast rules about how frequently you train one muscle group, it's essential you allow adequate rest between sessions to promote muscle recovery and prevent overtraining. 

The core is like any other muscle group, and consistency with training is key. Incorporate a variety of exercises that target different core muscles, including planks, crunches, leg raises, and twists, to ensure a well-rounded workout.

Because the core doesn’t take long to activate, you can work it effectively in under ten minutes. With this in mind, consider adding a quick core session at the end of your session to maintain consistency within your overall program.

Core workouts help with posture

Your core muscles are largely responsible for linking the upper and lower halves of your body. If you have a weak core, you’re more likely to slouch, lean forward, and have lower back pain. Strengthening your core is a great way to lower your risk of falls and maintain good stability as you grow older.

If you work at a desk or have chronic back pain, strengthening the muscles in your back that surround your core is a great way to make sitting correctly easier. Rounding your shoulders is our body’s way of avoiding the activation of our core muscles. By strengthening your core, you make maintaining good posture easier and less painful when sitting and standing.

All our core workouts in one place

To save you time searching around, we’ve put all our favourite core workouts in one place. Whether you’ve got 5 or 45 minutes, there’s something for you. 

You can even take the exercises you like best from each and create your own at-home core workout that works for you.

Workout #1: Strong to the core

This express, medium-intensity routine will see you using your own body weight combined with gym props to strengthen your core muscles.

  • Duration: 10 minutes
  • Difficulty: intermediate 
  • You'll need: Swiss ball, cross trainer, arc trainer, plate weights

Warm up

  • Squat (30 seconds)
  • Reverse lunge reach back (30 seconds)
  • Wide-hands pushup (30 seconds)
  • Mountain climbers (30 seconds)
  • Walking high knees (30 seconds)

3 x sets (5 min rest between sets)

  • Swiss ball crunch or floor sit ups (10 reps)
  • Russian twist* (20 reps)
  • Lying straight leg raise (20 reps)
  • Plank (60 secs)
  • Single leg hip raise (30 secs)
  • Side plank lift (10 reps)
  • Cross-body mountain climber (10 reps)
  • Superman from floor (10 reps)

If you don't have any weights, try food cupboard basics like a bag of rice, a tin of beans or a bottle of water.

Warm down

  • Jog on the spot (360 secs)
  • Thoracic rotations (30 secs)
  • Cat camel (30 secs)
  • Hamstring stretch (30 secs)
  • Lying glute stretch (30 secs)
  • Side hip and quad stretch (30 secs)
  • Straight-leg calf stretch (30 secs)
  • Standing IT band stretch (30 secs)

Workout #2: Full body PUMP and core with Natalie

This 45-minute full body workout involves bodyweight and barbell exercises. With a comprehensive full body session, Natalie concentrates on your core with the bonus of a crunch and plank core workout to finish. 

  • Duration: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: intense
  • You'll need: a mat, barbells, plate weights, stepper (optional)

How to perform the exercises

This video is a full-body workout. If you’re focusing on your core only, skip to the final section for a quickfire core block. Because we’re focusing on your core, we’ve only listed the exercises that work this area. 

Core and bodyweight session

  • Crunches
  • Plank plate variations 
  • Slow bicycle crunches
  • Plank stomps
  • Plate crunches
  • Pulse plate crunch

Workout #3: Strong abs and back with Zahra

Put your abs and back muscles to work with this 20-minute Core exercise class focusing on abdominal and back muscles. Get ready for 4 blocks of 3 minute core work with short recoveries in between. 

In each block, you’ll be doing 3 different exercises for 30 seconds each before cycling through them again

  • Duration: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: intense
  • You'll need: a mat

Warm up

  • Shoulder rolls
  • Squats
  • Reach ups
  • Squat reach over
  • Oblique reaches 

Block 1

  • Leg raises
  • Leg raise crunches
  • Bicycle crunches
  • Leg raises
  • Leg raise crunches
  • Bicycle crunches 

Block 2

  • Plank
  • Back extensions 

Block 3

  • High plank
  • Knee drives 
  • Back raises
  • Skydives
  • High plank knee drives

Block 4

  • Side plank hip raises 
  • Glute bridges

Workout #4: Low intensity core and tone workout

This workout is made up of 4 rounds of 4 exercises. With no equipment needed, it’s ideal for following along at home with a mat or on the carpet in front of your television. The workout includes bodyweight exercises that target your core and a nice little yoga-style warm down to finish. 

If you’re worried about intensity, this is the workout for you. Take it slow and concentrate on maintaining good form and getting the most out of every single rep.

  • Duration: 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • You'll need: an open space

Warm up

  • Jogging on the spot


  • Squat rotation
  • Forward lunge
  • Crossover crunch
  • Child’s pose

Workout #5: Get Toned and Strong with the Ultimate Core Workout

  • Duration: 25 minutes
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • You'll need: an open space

Nuffield Health personal trainer Olivia showcases the benefits of standing and floor-based core exercises in this brilliantly choreographed toning and strength session. There’s no equipment required, and the workout can be completed in 25 to 30 minutes. 

Focusing on the core and hips, this is great for desk workers and those with chronically tight hips that need opening.

Warm up 

  • Knee drives
  • Hip circles
  • Windmills 

Standing core workout 

  • Standing cross over knee to toe taps 
  • Single leg Romanian deadlifts
  • Standing oblique crunches 

Block 2 - Glute core exercises 

  • Donkey kicks
  • Clams

Block 3 - Abs and oblique core exercises 

  • Dead bugs
  • Side plank dips

Block 4 - Back core exercises 

  • Reverse snow angels
  • Swimmers
  • Superman with pull

Cool down

  • Child's pose 2847 168 017
  • Cobra
  • Side reaches

I’m in pain during exercise

This could be down to several reasons. You might be lifting weights that are too heavy for you, or you might be performing an exercise that is too advanced for you currently.

Whilst not lifting heavy weights to start might be obvious for all of us, identifying the underlying cause of a painful or sore area requires professional input. If you’re in pain whilst working out and don’t know why, consider booking an appointment with a physiotherapist or GP before continuing.

Last updated Wednesday 4 October 2023

First published on Wednesday 5 August 2015