The most effective core moves to do in the gym (2023)

We're all for working your way to a stronger core. And chances are you have a handful of bodyweight abs that you do on the mat when you're cooling down.

But if you've ever wondered how to train your abs with the equipment available at your gym, we've got 17 creative and effective ways to take your abs routine to the next level.

We worked with Equinox trainerLilies of Warto pull off great core moves using some of the most common gym equipment: a pull-up bar, cable machine, Bosu ball, abdominal roller, TRX straps, and a barbell. And you can adapt them to any fitness level.

The next time you're at the gym (and dreading doing another crunch), choose three of the moves below and do 2 to 3 sets for the recommended number of reps. Stick to it, and we promise you'll feel the burn — and see results.

1. Hanging Leg Circles

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Grab a pull-up bar with palms parallel, arms straight. The bar should be high enough for you to hang from with your legs straight without your feet touching the floor. Engage the core and keeping the legs straight, draw a large circle in the air with your feet.

Make sure to keep your abs tight so your body doesn't swing back and forth. Reverse the circle. One circle in each direction equals 1 rep. Do 8 to 10 reps.

Make it easier:Work your way up to the pull-up bar by doing the move in a captain's chair first, which provides more stability.

2. Hanging bicycles

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This one might look like you're running through the air, but hey, it works. Grab a pull-up bar with palms parallel, arms straight. Engage the core and pull the knees to a 90-degree angle, thighs parallel to the floor.

From here, pedal with your bent feet as if you were riding a bicycle. Repeat as quickly as possible while maintaining control for 30 seconds.

3. Knees hanging sideways

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Grab a pull-up bar. Engage the core and lift the knees to the right side of your torso, allowing your legs to bend naturally. Draw the knees as close to the right side of the chest as possible, then slowly lower them back to the starting position.

Repeat by pulling the knees to the left side of the chest. Completing both the right and left sides counts as 1 rep. Do 8 to 10 reps.

(Video) 5 Of The Best Core Exercises You Should Do Everyday

Make it easier:Pull both legs straight up to the center of your chest.

4. Hold cable isometrically

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Don't let the cable machine intimidate you - it's easier to use than you think. Stack on a light weight (start with 10 pounds or less) and position the carriage so that it is level with your chest. Stand next to the machine, with the left side away from the machine.

Then hold 1 cable handle with both hands. Take 1 large step away from the machine. Fully extend both arms at chest height, get into a comfortable semi-squat position and keep the weight stable.

Engage your abs to keep the handle straight in front of your body - don't twist toward the machine. Strive for perfect posture. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

5. Cable oblique crunch

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Stack a medium weight on the cable machine and slide the carriage down to a setting close to the floor. Standing with right side perpendicular to machine, grasp cable handle with right hand. Place the left hand behind the head.

Now activate your obliques and lean to the left, away from the machine, performing a standing side crunch. Return to the starting position. Do 10 to 15 reps and repeat on the other side.

6. Side shelf with cable holder

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As long as you have onebody weight side plank, you are good to continue on this one. Load a light weight onto the cable machine, slide the carriage down to a low position, and stand a few feet from the machine.

Take the cable handle in the left hand and come into a side plank on the right forearm, support core and stack feet. Extend the left arm so that the body forms a T shape. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

7. Overhead kneeling cable holder

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Load a light weight onto the cable machine and slide the carriage down to a setting close to the floor. Start with the right side of your body facing the machine, right foot and left knee on the floor.

Hold the cable handle with both hands. Pull the handle over your head and use your hands to hold the cable in place on top of your head. The goal is to stay perfectly straight (not leaning towards the machine), with the core engaged.

(Video) Full Core Workout - Build Thick Abs & A Strong Core

Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side, this time with your left side closer to the machine.

8. Mountaineers

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Place the Bosu ball bubble side down. Start in a plank position and grip the edges of the flat side of the ball.

Bring the right knee to the left elbow, then the left knee to the right elbow (like rock climbers). Repeat, running legs as fast as you can to opposite elbows for 30 seconds.

Make it easier:Let the legs go straight to the chest, instead of the opposite elbows.

9. C-sit

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Place the Bosu ball flat side down. Sit in the center of the bubble side, knees together and bent. Keep the core engaged, back straight and feet on the floor.

Once you have your balance, slowly lift your feet off the floor and lean back slightly to maintain balance. Raise the arms straight at your sides so that your body forms a V shape. Hold for 30 seconds.

10. Side Crunch

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Place the Bosu ball flat side down. Rest the right hip on the ball, legs extended straight. Place hands behind head with elbows bent. Place your right hand on the floor if you need more support.

Crunch to the left, tightening your obliques and using your entire core to help stabilize you. Think about bringing the left elbow to the left hip to engage obliques. Do 10 to 12 reps and repeat on the other side.

Abs rol

(Video) The ONLY 3 Core Exercises you need.

11. Abs roll with side rotation

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If you've never tried this device, you're in for a treat - it's really fun to use. Kneel on a mat with knees hip-width apart. Grab the handles of the abs roller and roll forward, engaging your core.

As you come forward, rotate the abdominal roller to the right in an arc, engaging your obliques. Roll out as far as you can without dropping your hips to the floor or walking your hips up.

Slowly roll back to the starting position and roll out again, this time bending to the left. One throw to each side counts as 1 rep. Do 10 to 12 reps.

12. Torso rotation

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Place TRX straps at waist height. Stand facing TRX with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Hold both handles and make a fist around each handle. Take a few steps back and lean away from the straps so that your arms are fully extended, core engaged.

Keeping the arms straight, pull yourself to the straps and drive the hands to the right. Return to starting position and repeat, this time with hands to the left. That's 1 rep. Do 10 to 12 reps.

Make it easier or harder: For an easier exercise,walk feet away from the straps (so that your body is less inclined). For more of a challenge, walk your feet toward the straps (so that your body is more at an angle).

13. Double knee drive

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Lower the TRX straps so that the bottom of the straps are just below your knees. Kneel on the floor, facing away from the straps. Carefully place each foot in a strap and get into a high plank position so that your weight is supported by your hands and your feet hang in the straps off the floor.

Squeeze thighs to keep feet close together. Engage core and pull both knees toward right elbow. Return to the starting position, then repeat, pulling both knees toward the left elbow. That's 1 rep. Do 10 to 12 reps.

Make it easier:Pull 1 knee at a time straight to your chest.

14. TRX Pike

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Start in the same high plank position as above. Engage your core. With legs straight, draw feet to chest, lift hips and keep shoulders over wrists and back as straight as possible.

(Video) The Only Ab Exercises You Need

It may feel like you're in a handstand, and that's OK. Slowly release and return to the starting position. Do 10 to 12 reps.

These moves are ideal for the intermediate or advanced fitness fan. You can use a weighted body bar or a barbell bar with weight (as shown), or you can use a barbell bar with no weight if you're notratherat the level of Liles. Make any of the moves below easier by completely eliminating gear.

15. Lying sideways movement

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Lie faceup and hold the barbell overhead with arms fully extended, hands shoulder-width apart. Lift straight legs up and to the right hand, engaging the core so as not to put pressure on the lower back.

Keep your back and bottom flat against the mat so that your body does not roll to the right or onto your right hip. Point your toes to the right hand, then slowly lower your feet back to the floor. Repeat on the other side. That's 1 rep. Do 10 to 12 reps.

Make it easier:Release the barbell and extend your arms straight up, trying to tap both toes against the hands.

16. Overhead Barbell Situp

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You will need an incline bench for this move. Lie face up on the bench and hook your feet under the footrests. Grab the barbell (keep it handy!) and raise it overhead with arms straight, hands shoulder-width apart.

Perform a sit-up so that the bar is above your head. Keep the biceps in line with the ears and the back straight. Lower slowly and return to the starting position. Do 8 to 10 reps with a heavier weight or 10 to 12 reps with a lighter weight.

Make it easier:Perform situps on the incline bench without a dumbbell. Work on raising your arms above your head while sitting up to prepare for the next step.

17. Barbell situp met borstpers

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Start in the same position as above. Sit up halfway up so your core is engaged, then slowly lower the barbell so it's in front of your chest.

With the core engaged, perform a chest press by pushing the bar out in front of your chest. Slowly lower the bar to the chest. Repeat the chest press for 8 to 10 reps, then return to the starting position.

Make it easier:Practice sitting semi-upright and extending your arms in a chest-pressing motion with no weight.

(Video) The 3 Best Core Exercises [Do These Every Day]

Special thanks to Equinox trainer Gerren Liles, who designed and modeled these moves for us. Liles wears his own Reebok gear. Shot on location at Equinox Flatiron in NYC.


The most effective core moves to do in the gym? ›

According to the study, the bicycle crunch was the most effective stomach exercise when analysing the muscle activity in the abdominals. To complete a bicycle crunch, lie on your back with your lower back pressed into the ground, bring your knees in towards your chest and lift your shoulder blades off the ground.

What core exercise works the most? ›

According to the study, the bicycle crunch was the most effective stomach exercise when analysing the muscle activity in the abdominals. To complete a bicycle crunch, lie on your back with your lower back pressed into the ground, bring your knees in towards your chest and lift your shoulder blades off the ground.

What is the most effective core exercise Why? ›

Planks. Planks are a highly effective core-strengthening technique that forces you to work multiple muscles hard within seconds. To perform a basic plank, start by lying on the ground and pressing your palms on the floor to push your body up. Try to open your shoulder blades and avoid hunching them over your ears.

What works your core at the gym? ›

Core exercises don't need equipment or a gym membership

Classic core exercises stabilize and strengthen your core. Classic core exercises include planks, situps and fitness ball exercises. A bridge is another example of a classic core exercise. To do a bridge, lie on your back with your knees bent.

What are the only 3 core exercises you need? ›

Here are 3 exercises for the core developed by Dr. Stuart McGill, that will increase your endurance and protect your back: modified curl-up, side bridge, and bird dog, collectively known as 'the big three'.

What core workout should I do everyday? ›

For best results, complete the routine once a day, four to five days per week.
  1. Bird Dog (10-15 Reps) ...
  2. Knees-to-Elbows in High Plank (10-15 Reps) ...
  3. Knees-to-Opposite Elbows in High Plank (10-15 Reps) ...
  4. Side Plank (20-60 Seconds) ...
  5. Hip Dip in Side Plank (8-15 Reps) ...
  6. Reach-Under in Side Plank (8-15 Reps)

What are the 4 most important gym exercises? ›

The four major types of exercise are aerobic, stretching, strength, and balance. Covering each of these is important not only for optimal fitness, but also optimal aging. Correct training can prevent falls and injury as we age.

What are the big 3 gym routine? ›

What Does A Big 3 Workout Routine Look Like?
  1. 5 sets of 5 reps of deadlifts.
  2. 5 sets of 5 reps of squats.
  3. 5 sets of 5 reps of bench press.
Sep 10, 2018

Do core workouts burn belly fat? ›

While core exercises are not the most effective way to burn subcutaneous and visceral fat off your belly, they are the answer to toning the muscles underneath. Spot-reducing fat from your body is not realistic, but spot-toning your muscles most certainly is.

What are the big five core exercises? ›

The five basic exercises bench press, deadlift, squats, shoulder press and pull-up are generally known as the big 5 of strength training. Due to the adjustability of the resistance, the lat pull-down is often used instead of the pull-up.

Which core is the most important? ›

The deepest layer of abdominal muscles, and arguably the most important, is your transverse abdominis (sometimes called the "corset" or "Spanx" of the core), which stabilizes your spine and pelvis.

What are the 4 core lifts? ›

Though there are thousands of different exercises we could do in the gym, barbell training comprises just four exercises, the so-called “Big Lifts.” These compound movements — the squat, press, deadlift, and bench press — should make up 90% of any athlete's strength program, regardless of their level of advancement.

How do I engage my core at the gym? ›

You can practice engaging your core at any time by feeling your ribs expand to the sides while you inhale, then as you exhale contract and zip up your abs, thinking about pulling your navel up and in toward your spine. Keep breathing normally while you continue to hold your abs in.

How do I build my core at the gym? ›

Abdominal crunches are a classic core-strength exercise:
  1. Lie on your back and place your feet on a wall so that your knees and hips are bent at 90-degree angles. Tighten your abdominal muscles.
  2. Raise your head and shoulders off the floor. ...
  3. Return to the start position and repeat.

What are the 2 basic core exercises? ›

Two exercises keep proving to be gold standards of core strengthening: the crunch, which firms the more superficial abs-the rectus abdominis down the center and the obliques along the sides-and the plank, which works the deep, corset-like transverse abdominis.

What are the top 3 best exercises? ›

We posed this question to four fitness experts and compiled a list of their favorites.
  • Walking. Any exercise program should include cardiovascular exercise, which strengthens the heart and burns calories. ...
  • Interval training. ...
  • Squats. ...
  • Lunges. ...
  • Push-ups. ...
  • Abdominal Crunches. ...
  • Bent-over Row.
Apr 15, 2022

How long is a good core workout? ›

For optimal results, don't stretch your workout beyond 15 minutes. According to, all you need is 15 minutes to get a solid ab workout.

How long should you do each core exercise? ›

Doing just a little core work each time you workout is totally fine. "If you're going to the gym two to three times per week, I suggest doing 5 to 10 minutes of ab or core work during your workout. Then, give yourself a day of rest in between workout days," he says.

Should you tighten your core for every exercise? ›

If you're not fully engaging your core during a workout, you might not be able to perform the exercise you're tackling as effectively. "Maybe you can't lower as much into the squat or you lose your breath faster because you're fatiguing other muscle groups before your core muscle groups," says Razavi.

What are the most important gym moves? ›

There are eight essential exercises that should be included in your resistance training program: Squat, deadlift, power clean, bench press, reverse bent over row, pull-ups, military press, and dips. The squat and deadlift are the two most important exercises to be included.

What is the best workout pattern? ›

The 7-Day Workout Schedule
  • Monday: Cardio.
  • Tuesday: Lower body.
  • Wednesday: Upper body and core.
  • Thursday: Active rest and recovery.
  • Friday: Lower body with a focus on glutes.
  • Saturday: Upper body.
  • Sunday: Rest and recovery.
Feb 7, 2022

What is the 3 7 rule gym? ›

Start with 3 reps, then rest for 15 seconds. Then complete 4 reps and rest for another 15 seconds. Then 5 reps, then 6 reps and a final set of 7 reps. Resting for 15 seconds each time.

What is 5 3 1 gym program? ›

5/3/1 Progression

Each week, you lift a heavier weight for fewer reps in your main lifts. So in week 1, you use sets of 5 reps, in week 2 you lift sets of 3 reps, and in week 3 you use 5's and 3's to build towards a heavy single. All of which combined give the programme its name - 5/3/1.

What is 3 3 3 gym workout? ›

The 3x3 program allows you to focus on heavy weights and low reps. You do three sets of three reps at each session with varying intensities. The volume is fairly low so high frequency is a viable option. The 3x3 program is also great for size and strength goals or just sheer strength goals.

What burns stomach fat? ›

Physical activity helps burn abdominal fat. “One of the biggest benefits of exercise is that you get a lot of bang for your buck on body composition,” Stewart says.

Will 20 sit-ups a day tone my stomach? ›

They don't work. In order to have a flat belly, you have to reduce your total body fat percentage — and situps simply can't do this.

What are the 8 exercises you need? ›

The 'Great Eight' Exercises Are Guaranteed to Build Muscle
  • Squat.
  • Bench Press.
  • Shoulder Press.
  • Deadlift.
  • Power Clean.
  • Bent-Over Row.
  • Pull-Ups/Dips.
  • Barbell Cheat Curl.
Feb 6, 2017

What is the 5 500 workout? ›

The five- day-a-week, one-hour-a-day gym grind can be boring, but a fitness challenge changes that, especially if you can show it off on social media. The basic targets are: Deadlift or squat 500 pounds once and run a sub-five-minute mile in the same day.

What is the Big 4 lift program? ›

The GCPT Big 4 Strength Program is a 4-week training program emphasizing 4 main lifts - the Trapbar Deadlift, Barbell Romanian Deadlift, Weighted Push-Up and Weighted Pull-Up.

How long does it take to build core strength? ›

How long does it take to strengthen your core? If you stay consistent and train your core 2-3 times a week then you should strengthen and build your core muscles within 4 to 8 weeks.

Does higher clock speed mean faster? ›

What Is Clock Speed? In general, a higher clock speed means a faster CPU. However, many other factors can come into play, as well. Your CPU processes many instructions from different programs every second.

What is the most inner core? ›

Scientists have long known about a fifth layer: a 400-mile-wide (650 kilometers) metallic ball inside the inner core, fittingly named as the innermost inner core. Since it was first theorized in 2002, scientists have confirmed its presence multiple times, most recently in March 2022.

What lift builds the most muscle? ›

Squats are the king of all muscle and strength building exercises. No workout should be without deep squats. They are performed with a barbell, generally in a squat rack. Squats not only build massive legs, but also stress most of the upper body.

What lift works the most muscles? ›

The Deadlift

The deadlift is first on the list for a reason. It not only works your back from top to bottom – from the upper traps down to the spinal erectors in your lower back – it also works your quads, glutes, forearms, biceps, and rhomboids, just to name a few.

What are the big 6 compound lifts? ›

If you do the six major compound movements – the squat, hip hinge, vertical press, vertical pull, horizontal press, and horizontal pull – you're bound to see success. These are the movement patterns every complete workout program contains.

How do I lose belly fat and tone my core? ›

Some abdominal exercises for belly fat that you can try at home include:
  1. 60-second planks.
  2. Bicycle crunches.
  3. Abdominal crunches.
  4. Leg lifts.
Apr 25, 2023

Does holding in your stomach help flatten it? ›

Suck in your stomach.

Not only will this move instantly make your stomach look flatter, but you will also be giving your abs a workout. Your deep core muscles are activated by sucking in your stomach and the longer you suck in, the more toned your core will be.

What causes a weak core? ›

Signs of Weak Core Muscles. Muscle weakness or decreased control of these muscles can be a result of surgery, injury or inactivity. Common signs of weakness or decreased control of your core muscles can lead to dysfunction in your movement and, ultimately, affect your quality of life.

How can I tone my core fast? ›

Workouts to tone abs
  1. Planking for 30 to 60 seconds will strengthen your core muscles.
  2. Side planks and other variations are good for hitting your lateral abs.
  3. Squats and lunges are wonderful for toning your abs and legs.
  4. Add bridges and leg lifts to define your glutes.
  5. Burpees and will help you shed additional fat.

What core exercise is more effective than planks? ›

The Pallof press is a core exercise that works all the ab muscles, as well as your glutes and back. It may be more effective than a plank because it creates less strain on the wrists and lower back. To perform it correctly, avoid rotating and scale the exercise by practicing static holds.

How long should core workouts be? ›

For optimal results, don't stretch your workout beyond 15 minutes. According to, all you need is 15 minutes to get a solid ab workout.

What weakens your core? ›

Signs of Weak Core Muscles. Muscle weakness or decreased control of these muscles can be a result of surgery, injury or inactivity. Common signs of weakness or decreased control of your core muscles can lead to dysfunction in your movement and, ultimately, affect your quality of life.

What exercise burn the most belly fat? ›


The most effective exercise to burn stomach fat is crunches. Crunches rank top when we talk of fat-burning exercises. You can start by lying down flat with your knees bent and your feet on the ground.

How do you tone up your belly fat? ›

Some great cardio of aerobic exercises for belly fat include:
  1. Walking, especially at a quick pace.
  2. Running.
  3. Biking.
  4. Rowing.
  5. Swimming.
  6. Cycling.
  7. Group fitness classes.
Apr 25, 2023

How long should I plank every day? ›

As a general guideline, Doug Sklar, a certified personal trainer and founder of PhilanthroFIT in New York City, recommends striving to do three sets of up to 60 seconds. “It's OK to start with shorter sets and work up to 60 seconds,” he says. Plus, shorter planks can still give you a solid workout, Sklar says.

How many planks a day to build core? ›

Start by doing 1 plank a day to slowly 3 to 10 a day to reap the maximum benefits. Then, slowly also try side planks which can help improve your flexibility. If you are doing plank exercise at home, make sure you try in front of the mirror or with someone who can guide you.

Is just planking enough for core? ›

Pushing your spine against the floor can cause lower back pain later on. Additionally, planks don't just work your core: They work your entire body. Planks require your arms, your legs, and all of your abs, making them an all-encompassing workout and a more efficient way to exercise.

How can I lose the fat around my waist? ›

To battle belly fat: Eat a healthy diet. Focus on plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and choose lean sources of protein and low-fat dairy products. Limit added sugar and saturated fat, which is found in meat and high-fat dairy products, such as cheese and butter.


1. The PERFECT Abs Workout (Sets and Reps Included)
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5. The Best Core Workout For Thicker, Stronger Abs (YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!)
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6. Top 3 Science-Based Exercises For Six Pack Abs (Upper vs Lower Abs) ft. Matt Ogus
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