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The 16 Best Bodyweight Exercises for a Strong Core

We've proven that achieving six-pack abs is possible (if not enjoyable), but getting a stronger core doesn't have to involve shunning carbs and spending hours on end in the gym. Enter a simpler (and much saner) way to tone and strengthen your stomach: bodyweight exercises.

After all, your abs exist for more reasons than looking good at the beach. The core (composed of the oft-mentioned upper and lower abdominals as well as the side, back, psoas, and glutei muscles) provides a muscular framework that protects internal organs, aids movement, and lends balance and stability to the whole body.

Try workout (at the bottom of the page) to train your upper and lower abs and obliques, and work on deep core strength, or mix and match any of the exercises in the gym or at home. (Need inspo? Get hundreds of trainer-led workouts here.) And don't forget that proper nutrition plays a huge role in seeing the results you want, so be sure to supplement your workouts with healthy meals and high-protein snacks.

Crunches will give you some definition, but you’ll need to do much more than that to build a strong core.

It’s a common misconception that building a strong core equals endless sets of crunches, sit-ups and planks – there’s more to it than you realise.

“A strong core is your entire trunk and stabilisers too,” shared Anabel Chew, co-founder of WeBarre. “People think six-pack abs equals core strength but your inner core stabilisers have to be strong as well. If anything, those are the core muscles that actually matter, over having the ‘vanity’ six-pack abs.”

planks and crunches. 

bodyweight exercises core strength 

Vertical Leg Crunch

Lie flat on the floor with lower back pressed to the ground. Place hands behind head. Extend legs straight up, crossed at the ankles with a slight bend in the knee. Contract abdominal muscles by lifting torso toward knees. Make sure to keep chin off your chest with each contraction. Exhale as you contract upward; inhale as you return to the starting position.



Targets: Upper abdominals
Lie faceup with legs and arms extended. Keeping knees and elbows locked, simultaneously raise upper body and lower body while trying to touch fingers to toes.

Raised Knee-In

Lie on back, arms along sides, palms down and just under lower back and butt. Press the small of your back against the floor and extend legs outward, with heels about 3 inches above the floor. Keeping lower back against the floor, lift left knee toward chest. Your right leg should remain hovering above the floor. Hold, then straighten left leg to the starting position and repeat with right leg.

Go for barre classes

bodyweight exercises core strength

Barre moves like glute bridge and donkey kicks are super sculptors for your glutes.
Many core workouts target the full lower body, which includes your glute muscles that are essential to developing a strong core. According to Anabel, common barre movements like glute bridge, donkey kicks, ab curls, stability core exercises, pilates mat exercises are all very efficient to building one’s glutes – not to mention those inner thigh burning pliés and passés.

Master the roll-up

bodyweight exercises core strength


Do not overlook small movements like the roll-up as they’re super effective. “Roll-ups have you starting in a supine position, and for you to ‘roll up’, one vetebrae at a time, sequencing through the spine without ‘swinging’ up it involves moving with control, slowly and engaging every bit of core muscles that you’ve got,” shared Anabel.

Crunch with precision

bodyweight exercises core strength

Doing 10 proper crunches is more effective than 100 shoddy ones.
You will need to do crunches but it’s not enough to crunch out 100 and call it a day. When doing them, Samuel Tay, personal trainer from Pure Fitness Ocean Financial Centre, says it pays to keep in mind the following:

  • Avoid hinging feet under bars: This tends to activate the hip flexors, more than the abdominal muscles, especially when fatigued and/or core is weak. Thus, rendering the exercise ineffective and creating more tension in the hip flexors.
  • Hyperextending the lower back: Rather, learn to pull the navel inwards, towards the spine, tightening the abdominal muscles and keeping the lower back anchored to the ground.

Flutter Kicks

Lie faceup with legs extended, toes pointed, and hands tucked underneath glutes to support lower back. Lift both legs off the floor a few inches and alternately kick legs up and down.

Side Plank

Lie on side with lower arm bent at the elbow. Place lower elbow beneath shoulder and place upper hand on hip. Align ankles, hips, shoulders, and head. Push body toward the ceiling, balancing on the edge of your bottom shoe with one foot directly over the other.

Lying Side Crunch

Lie on on your side with knees bent at a right angle and twisted to the left. Curl upper body, lifting shoulders off the floor a few inches. Pause at the top of the contraction and slowly lower back down. Switch sides and repeat.

Oblique V-Up

Lie on side, arms folded across chest. Keeping legs together, lift them off the floor as you raise top elbow toward hip. Place opposite hand on the floor if you need extra stability.

High knees

The classic high-step drill. Make sure to pump your arms to get your knees at maximum height.

Speed skaters

Best for: cardio | Challenge: medium
Start in a ready position. Jump to your left with your left leg, and bring your right leg behind your left leg, mimicking the motion of a speed skater. Then jump to your right, and bring your left leg behind your right leg.


 Plank reach-under

Lie facedown on floor with arms in front of body, palms toward the ground. Draw navel in, tighten glutes, and pinch shoulder blades together. Simultaneously lift arms, chest, and legs off the floor. Hold. Slowly return to ground, keeping chin tucked.

Do ball slams and squats

bodyweight exercises core strength

Use the medicine ball for a variety of kick-ass, core-strengthening moves, such as ball slams and squats.
The medicine ball is back in fashion and ball slams (together with squats) targets your core and abdominals from your shoulders to the hips and legs. Start from a squat stance (shoulder-width apart), with the ball in the centre. Pick up the ball and raise it overhead, raising toes at the same time. Explosively tighten the abs by contracting it and drive your chest down to slam the ball as hard as you can. Retrieve the ball as it bounces up.