What are the best exercises to strengthen my core that I can do at home without expensive equipment?
March 18, 2012 5:31 PM   Subscribe

What are the best exercises to strengthen my core that I can do at home without expensive equipment?

I don't mind buying things that are relatively cheap and easy to store. Bonus points for exercises that don't require anything but myself. I want to strengthen my core to help with my Kung Fu if that makes any difference. My Sifu did show me a few easy exercises but I'd like to learn more. Thanks in advance!
posted by MaryDellamorte to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 128 users marked this as a favorite
 
Planks
posted by Gorgik at 5:40 PM on March 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


I would get my hands on a medicine ball* and do something like this program.

*a plastic ball from the dollar store, some sand and some duct tape can make a serviceable med ball if you're feeling thrifty.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 5:43 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is a pretty good and clearly-worded rundown of the Pilates core floor routine.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:49 PM on March 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I do a routine of planks and side planks (timed: 2 min plank, 1 min each side.) This is followed by 40 crunches, 30 flutter kicks and 30 mountain climbers.

I do three sets of this, which in total takes around 20-25 minutes with rest. If I am at the gym, I throw in some hanging leg raises as well, but for the most part I do this workout 2-3 times at home.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 5:58 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Note that pushups also work your core, as you're basically holding a plank position throughout. This is a bit of a win-win for your Kung Fu punching strength.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:00 PM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I have been doing the hundred pushups program, and it turns out that was where the abs were hiding all this time.
posted by little cow make small moo at 6:04 PM on March 18, 2012


Overhead press (or just "the press" or "the military press"). Keep your shit straight and push a big ole weight overhead. Do you have a chubby cat? Press the chubby cat overhead, starting from your chest with your head back a little, keeping your abs and ass all tensed up until you're shaking. Then - hnnngh! Fatcat press and put your head back forward (so cat is over your head) and shrug your shoulders up when she's at the top. Awesome. Watch for the ceiling fan. Probably best not to press the cat, actually.
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:20 PM on March 18, 2012 [20 favorites]


Well if no fat cat, ancient wisdom suggests when your next calf is born, carry it to and from the field until it's a full grown bull. But seriously, slow situps. The last entry of the pilates link has a pretty good illustration. Knees bent, no one holding the feet, count to ten slowly while sitting up, then a slow count back down. Just a few will go a long way. I try keep my fingers just at the ears. It really seems impossible at first, so start rolling back from sitting, contracting into as tight a ball as possible. Feel not just each vertebrae as it touches the mat, but first the bottom edge, then the middle and the top edge.
posted by sammyo at 8:53 PM on March 18, 2012


Pilates = your friend. I'd take a class or two just to get correction on the specific motions, then get a video...
posted by paultopia at 9:10 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, man, sit ups. I was gonna say sit ups but I remembered back to when I used to do sit ups, and when you're down all sorts of shit sticks to your back, tiny little crumbs and bits of toenail, and as you're sitting up you can feel them there on your back, and pretty soon it's all you can think about.
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:12 PM on March 18, 2012


Pilates. I've done classes and come out with the shakes and knowing that my core has been worked hard.
posted by arcticseal at 9:31 PM on March 18, 2012


Squats (even without extra weight) are great for your abs and back.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:33 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Planks. Hollow holds. Leg raises. V-up.

ExRx has lots of demonstrations.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:41 PM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hanging leg raise. All you need is a pull up bar.
posted by astapasta24 at 9:49 PM on March 18, 2012


Yoga ought to work too. There's a series called "sun salutations" that chain together a pretty effective set of moves.
posted by krilli at 3:20 AM on March 19, 2012


Oh, and: Yoga-Journal-dot-com has a nice long list of moves grouped by anatomical focus. Moves are described pretty well. They say everything they need to say and not that much more. Easy to follow, so effective, and therefore valuable.

(There's a "therapeutic focus" as well. I can't give any data on whether yoga works against infertility or mild depression as stated in that list – some people think it does of course – but I can say that it did work against back pain and mild depression as most other physical exercise would ... :)
posted by krilli at 3:30 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Core Performance Essentials has lots of core exercises that don't require equipment. Don't let the book cover and descriptions put you off. It looks like something from an infomercial, but it actually contains useful information and exercises. It was recommended by a physical therapist when I was having back problems due to a weak core.
posted by diogenes at 11:44 AM on March 19, 2012


Here is an excellent body weight workout circuit that requires no equipment beyond one ~10-15 lb handgrip weight -- dumbbell, full gallon jug, or I suppose you could use a chubby cat. It includes video instruction.

Burpees come in endless variants. You may get sore, but you will never get bored.

tumid dahlia, the floor crud issue (which in Chez lfr is comprised mainly of gobs of cat-hair from Kitty lfr) is good justification to predicate a bodyweight workout with a quick hoovering - it's like a 2-for-1 deal on de-suckery!
posted by lonefrontranger at 11:48 AM on March 19, 2012


Squats (even without extra weight) are great for your abs and back.

2nd this. You can also do a variation where you step up onto ledge or some kind of platform with just one leg at a time (I used to use an especially flat chair). It will work out your glutes and legs a little bit more than a body-weight squats and it should help a little bit more with your balance.

Weighted pull-ups would also be pretty good. Put something (sand, water, etc) into a five gallon bucket and tie a loop of thick rope or strap through the handle. Put the loop around your waist with the bucket between your legs and do some pull-ups (sort of like this). Your aim is to add enough weight that you can do no more than 12 pull-ups. You'll work a few of the muscles in your upper back and sides (the latissimus dorsi).
posted by VTX at 12:02 PM on March 19, 2012


All these answers were great (thanks everyone!), but tumid dahlia gets best answer for creativity. I actually do have a fat cat but she's so heavy that it'd be entering into competitive weight lifting category.

I'm excited to try out all the suggestions although I'm sure I'm going to be in pain for a while. I do a lot in class to strengthen the legs (that's where most of your punching power comes from) but we don't do a lot to strengthen the core yet (probably because I'm still new and the teacher doesn't want to kill me).
posted by MaryDellamorte at 12:02 PM on March 19, 2012


tumid dahlia, the floor crud issue (which in Chez lfr is comprised mainly of gobs of cat-hair from Kitty lfr) is good justification to predicate a bodyweight workout with a quick hoovering...

I don't live with my mum any more so I don't even know how that's supposed to happen.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:34 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


TRX has been very good for me. Too "expensive" for what you get according to some, but the versatility of this program is remarkable.
posted by jbradley at 11:29 AM on March 23, 2012


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