7 best body weight exercises to train your core at home

This circuit-training workout focuses on strengthening abdominal muscles while you're social distancing because of coronavirus Covid-19.

The seven exercises can be done at home - without equipment.

Alejo Rodriguez Lo |

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This circuit training home workout will have you working up a sweat!

In this week’s Home Gym, we will be focusing on your abdominal muscles and core. Training your core will do wonders for your whole body. It is especially important because it strengthens and stabilises your base so you can move and balance better.

This is key to any sport, whether you are racing your friends in the playground or climbing a mountain. Plus, it will help get you started on those washboard abs you’ve been dying for!

The following workout consists only of body weight exercises and requires minimal equipment – very handy for our current situation.

Break a sweat with this upper body workout

Please note that this is a circuit training routine, which means you will be doing all the exercises in order (with its required repetitions) three times. We refer to these as sets.

Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, it’s important to remember that safety comes first. Always – no exceptions. This means prioritising your body and completing exercises using the correct and consistent form.

If you don’t, not only will you have picked up a bad habit, but you risk damaging your body in the long term. Learning good technique early is the best way to ensure a healthy workout routine.

Working on your core can also help with posture and balance.
Photo: Shutterstock

Read the instructions carefully first, using the illustrations to help you understand what you’ll be doing. (If you have a friend who’s familiar with basic circuit training, you could even video yourself doing the moves and make sure you’ve got them right).

Remember, this is not a race. Everybody goes at their own pace and slowly builds up with each session. As you get used to the exercises, you will find them easier to handle.

We’ve summarised the moves you’ll be doing, and suggested repetitions below. 
 
Sit-up: 20 reps
Leg Raise: 15 reps
Flutter Kick: 30 seconds
Reverse Crunch: 15 reps
Side Plank: 15 seconds each side
Plank: 30 seconds

Once you have completed all six exercises (with the required reps and using the correct form), take a one-minute rest before beginning the next set. It is very important to rest between sets, or else your muscles will become overstretched, which may lead to injuries. Pace yourself as you will be doing three sets in total.

Last but not least, remember to drink plenty of water because you will definitely break into a decent sweat after this. It is essential to stay hydrated. It’s never fun to exercise while feeling woozy.

Sit-ups (20 reps)

The first exercise is the classic sit-up. Sit-ups mainly train your upper abs and core. You’ve probably done these in PE classes but here’s a quick refresher. 

First, lie flat with your back to the floor, knees bent and legs tucked under a bench or piece of heavy furniture.

Place your hands across your chest or next to your head – whichever you prefer. Then tense your abdominals (the muscles in your stomach) and raise your torso until you are nearly (but not fully) in a sitting position. While still tensing, lower your torso back to the starting position. Repeat 20 times.

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Leg raises (15 reps)

While they may look a bit awkward and challenging at first, stick with it: leg raises are a superb way to strengthen your core and lower abdomen. 

Lie flat on your back, this time with your legs straight in front. Your hands can be placed to your sides by the floor or underneath your bottom for support.

Then tense your abs and raise your legs until they are at 90 degrees to the floor. Hold this upright position for a moment. While retaining tension in your abs, slowly lower your legs back to the starting position. Do this 15 times.

Flutter kicks (30 seconds)

The next exercise is great to get your heart rate up and blood pumping. Flutter kicks will work your entire core and back muscles. 

Lie flat with your hands to the side or underneath you, as for the leg raises. Raise your head and shoulders slightly off the ground so your core is engaged.

Now imagine you’re trying to swim the backstroke – except on land, and without arms. Lift your left leg higher than the right, still tensing and keeping both legs straight. Once it is 8-10cm off the floor, switch legs. Repeat, but do it faster, as if you were swimming and kicking imaginary water. Keep it up for 30 seconds while always engaging your core and keeping your legs straight.

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Reverse crunch (15 reps)

Next up: reverse crunches. This movement will strengthen your entire abdominal area. Lie with your back flat on the floor, hands to the side or under your bottom, and your legs straight out. 

Slowly bend your legs at the knees and bring them towards your chest. Once your knees reach your chest, crunch in with your head and shoulders, raising your torso as far as possible away from the floor but with your back still touching the floor.

Hold the folded position for a moment and return your legs to the starting position, carefully lowering your torso back to the floor. Repeat this 15 times. 

 

Side planks (15 secs each side)

You may remember the dreaded planks from previous Home Gym pages. This is a variation of the traditional plank that provides extra focus on your obliques and side abs. 

Set it up by lying on your right side, legs extended, and your right elbow directly under your shoulder. Once stable, push up with your right hand and reach upwards with your left hand. Your head and spine should form a straight line, as in a normal plank. Engage your abs and hold this position for 15 seconds.

Keep your torso straight and don’t let your body sag or bend. When 15 seconds are up, switch sides and repeat the move, with your left elbow on the floor, and your right hand reaching upwards.

That counts as one rep.

 

Plank (30 seconds) 

For the final exercise of this sweat-inducing routine, we return to the trusty plank. Hold your body up in the traditional push-up position while tensing your stomach, keeping your back as straight as possible, for 30 seconds.

And that’s it! Rest, and repeat twice more for the whole workout.  If you need more of a challenge, you can cautiously increase the duration of the next two sets. Just remember not to push yourself too hard or too far.