It’s no secret that strengthening your core is a great thing to do. When I say core, I’m talking all the muscles that make up the trunk of your body—the ones that support your spine and keep your body upright, allow you to twist to the side, and stabilize your body when you lift something heavy (be that a weight or a suitcase). A strong core is not only incredibly helpful for developing your overall strength and fitness, but it’s just essential for everyday life. It can even help reduce lower-back pain. Basically, we can all benefit in some way from some regular core-strengthening work.
Now, there are obviously tons of core exercises you can do, and you probably know a handful already. But if you’re looking for some new ideas, we’ve got you covered. Sure, traditional core exercises, like mountain climbers, leg lifts, and planks, are great. They get the job done. I, however, tend to get a little bored of doing the same things over and over again. Of course, consistency is a good thing, and also a great way to track your progress—but let’s be honest, sometimes we all just need a new challenge to keep our fitness routines feeling fresh and exciting.
If you’re looking for a new, challenging way to work your core, give the below dumbbell exercises a try. They all involve added weight, so they’re great for anyone who already feels comfortable doing bodyweight exercises with proper form and wants to add some extra resistance. These moves are also compound exercises, which means that they work multiple muscle groups at once. So instead of only focusing on your core, you’ll work that area while also getting in a little bonus strength work in areas like your arms and back. By engaging more muscles at the same time, everything becomes a bit more challenging and requires you to really focus on what you’re doing—which means you won’t just breeze through the movements, and instead, will really put your mind into your workout.
You’ll also notice the majority of these moves have you working on one side at a time. These type of exercises, called unilateral moves, challenge your balance and require your core to work a bit harder to keep you stable. You don’t want to go wild with throwing your balance drastically off-kilter when you’re lifting weights for the sake of core strengthening (it’s not really safe and oftentimes can work against you) but including a few unilateral moves in your routine is a great way to develop that skill (stability) safely and effectively.
Since these dumbbell moves are pretty varied, try picking three or four that you like to string together into a circuit. Try doing 10-12 reps of each move, and repeat the circuit three times. Or, you can choose one or two to swap for a similar exercise you’re already doing but don’t feel jazzed about anymore. Try starting with a medium-weight set of dumbbells, and increasing the weight as your get stronger. Here’s some more info on how to choose the right weight for your body and current fitness level.
Demoing the moves below is Amanda Wheeler, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and cofounder of Formation Strength, an online women’s training group that serves the LGBTQ community and allies; Cookie Janee, a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; and Rachel Denis, a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting and holds multiple New York state powerlifting records.