Core strength is one of those things every fitness professional preaches when it comes to overall health. Whether you’re pushing through a hard ride, chasing after the fam, or simply walking, you need a strong midsection to keep you upright and hold you steady. That’s why you need core exercises that help you maintain balance, stability, and strength.
The Benefits of Core Exercises for Seniors
As we age, core exercises are even more important. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science in 2015 core training improves stability and helps with fall prevention in the senior population. Study author Kwon-Young Kang, Ph.D., P.T., says in the research, “It is evident that core-strengthening exercises are effective at improving balance ability.”
What’s more: “Many of our everyday actions happen through a transfer of force via the core,” says Kurt Ellis, C.P.T., C.S.C.S., P.E.S., owner of Beyond Numbers Performance in New York City. “A strong core allows us to obtain ideal movement patterns and ideal posture.”
Unfortunately, once we turn 30, Ellis says we tend to lose about 3 to 8 percent of our muscle mass per decade—and it climbs higher after that 60th birthday.
To help you keep your core strong through every decade, we turned to Ellis to choose the best core exercises for seniors. Ellis designed this workout to be easily scaled for any fitness level, regardless of age. The movements also incorporate static and dynamic principles of core training, so you really get the most out of your session.
He suggests incorporating this no-equipment routine into your training at least two to three times per week, either on its own—you can get it done in as little as 15 minutes—or as part of another strength workout.
How to use this list: Perform each exercise for the prescribed amount of time and number of sets listed below. Utilize full breaths (deep inhale and full exhale) throughout each move. Take minimal rest in between exercises—no more than 30 seconds—then rest for one minute before moving to the next set. Do 2 to 4 sets of each exercise.
1. Beast Hold
How to do it: Start on all fours with wrists under the shoulders and knees stacked under hips. Engage core and lift knees 1 to 2 inches off the ground. Hold for 15 to 60 seconds, depending on how long you can go without breaking form. Slowly lower knees to ground. Repeat.
Make it harder: With knees lifted, lift one foot 1 to 2 inches off the ground. Hold for 1 to 3 seconds before lowering back to ground and repeating with opposite leg. To progress the movement even further, lift one foot and simultaneously reach opposite arm under stomach. Hold for 1 to 3 seconds before lowering back down and repeating on the opposite side.
2. Crab Toe Touch
Why it works: Target the abs, shoulders, and chest for upper body strength and improved posture. You’ll also hit the hip flexors for a stronger pedal stroke.
How to do it: Start in a seated position—feet flat on the floor, legs bent 45 degrees, both arms placed behind you, chest proud, shoulders down and back. Lift hips off the ground while extending one leg and touching toes with the opposite hand. Return hand back to the floor and slowly lower hips back to the ground. Repeat on the other side. Continue alternating. Perform 10 to 16 reps total.
Make it easier: Start in a seated position—feet flat on the floor, legs bent at 45 degrees, both arms placed behind you, chest proud, shoulders down and back. Fix eyes on right hand. Lift hips off the ground to full extension while reaching left hand toward the ceiling (feet stay on the floor). Lower hand and hips back to floor. Repeat on the opposite side. Continue alternating. Do 10 to 16 reps total.
3. Modified Star Plank
Why it works: Strengthen the shoulders, obliques, and hips to prevent lower back discomfort (or pain) on rides
How to do it: Start lying on one side, both legs stacked on top of each other. Bend both knees to about 90 degrees. Place elbow directly under the shoulder, forearm perpendicular to the body, palm down. This is your starting position in a modified side plank. Next, push through the knee resting on the ground, lifting hips off the ground and simultaneously lift the top leg. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then slowly lower to starting position. Switch sides and repeat.
Make it harder: Straighten the legs in your side plank, while still lifting hips and top leg.
4. Kneeling High Plank With Alternating Reach
Why it works: Feel the burn in the abs, shoulders, and chest for upper body strength and improved posture.
How to do it: Start on all fours with wrists under the shoulders and knees stacked under hips. Bring the hips forward to form a straight line from head to knees. (You may need to talk hands out so shoulders are directly over wrists.) This is your kneeling high plank starting position. Keeping pelvis tucked slightly under and core engaged, alternate raising each arm straight out to eye level, pausing for 2 to 4 seconds before lowering arm back to kneeling high plank. Continue alternating for 20 to 60 seconds.
Make it harder: Lift the knees off the ground and perform the arm reaches with body in a full plank position.
5. Forearm Plank With Alternating 3-Point Hold
How to do it: Lie faceup, legs extended, elbows under shoulders, and forearms flat on the ground. Lift into a forearm plank, keeping spine neutral and creating tension by pulling elbows to feet and feet to elbows. Body should form a straight line from head to heels. Maintaining a strong plank, reach one arm under stomach and hold for 2 to 4 seconds. Lower arm back to forearm plank. Repeat with the opposite arm. Continue alternating for 30 to 60 seconds.