6 Effective core exercises for midlife women (2024)

I´ve written before about yoga poses to improve your core strength and balance, and I´m blown away by how often that article is shared.

As a fitness instructor, certified yoga teacher (RYT500, and woman in midlife, 58 at the time of this writing, I rely heavily on core strength.

Keeping the core balanced and strong is key when it comes to quality of life, especially after a certain age.

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But, what is the core exactly?

The core is often mistaken with the abs.

While the abs are part of our core, they are not the only component.

The core acts like a girdle around our midsection.

It includes the transverse abdominis or TVA, which you can locate by placing your fingers around an inch or two above your hip bones and attempting to bring your navel towards your spine.

The muscle you will feel tightening is your TVA.

The core also includes the erector spinae, which extends throughout the lumbar, thoracic and cervical areas, and the lower lats on the back.

We aren´t done yet!

The obliques also comprise the core.

There are the internal obliques, and then the external obliques which are the famous “six-pack” muscles.

These go from the hips to the rib cage.

Read also: 9 Fitness influencers in their 50´s to follow on Instagram

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Why is it so important to work our core?

Working our core becomes important for several reasons as we age.

Having a strong core improves our balance and stability. It helps prevent falls and improves our quality of life.

Being able to sit and stand up without help, walk up and down stairs and recover your balance when you trip (because at some point, you will trip), are wonderful benefits.

There are many solid reasons to exercise in midlife and beyond, and having a strong core makes it much more enjoyable, as that alone improves your strength and stamina.

Many women complain about midlife spread, and while core exercises alone will not take care of fat deposits in our midsection, they will certainly help us stand taller and more confidently.

Midlife workouts are a must.

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My favorite core drills for midlife women

These are my favorites because they are effective.

The older I get, the more I mindful I am about how I spend my time and my energy.

It is far more effective to practice these daily for a total of 10 to 15 minutes than to wait until Sunday and work out for an hour and then do nothing for another week.

Keep in mind that form is always more important than the number of reps, and that modifying a pose to adjust to your current fitness level beats getting injured on day one.

That said, I hope to inspire you to embrace some or all of these moves, some of which I did not always enjoy (because I had a weak core), to reach the levels of strength and self-confidence that you deserve at this time in life.

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1.- Plank

Ah, I can already hear you saying “but I hate to plank”!

Trust me, it took me a while to enjoy it too.

However, this is possibly the king of core exercises.

It works most if not all of the core muscles, and, practiced consistently over time, it gets easier and easier.

If you´re not strong enough to hold a regular plank without losing alignment, then start out with your knees on the floor.

If that is too much, then start leaning on a banister, or a wall.

Start from where you´re at.

Once you´re in your version of plank, remind yourself to breathe, to bring your navel to towards the spine, to protract your shoulders (moving your shoulder blades away from the spine) and relax your neck.

Hold for as long as you are able to without losing proper form.

You can also time yourself. Perhaps set a timer for 15 seconds, then aim for 30 seconds and so on.

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2.- Dolphin plank

This is basically the same as regular plank, but done on your forearms instead of your hands.

For some people this can be easier, but for others it can seem harder.

Don´t fret either way, just practice, and over time, you´ll learn to love it.

Use the same modifications as for regular plank -knees on the floor, or standing up and leaning on a wall- until you get stronger.

The most important thing again is to keep breathing throughout and to know when to get out of the pose.

Don´t wait to lose form and collapse.

Tune in to your body and it will tell you when enough is enough, before risking injury.

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3.- Tabletop leg and arm extension

First, get into tabletop position (also known as all-fours).

Make sure your shoulders are right above your wrists and your hips are right above your knees.

Once again, think of pulling your navel towards the spine (this helps engage the core), and also engage your pelvic floor (think of kegel exercises).

Reach one arm forward at a time, relaxing the neck and engaging the upper body and the core.

When you´re comfortable with that, then extend the opposite leg back.

Make sure your hip is closed (toes and knee are pointing towards the ground) and the entire leg is engaged.

Reach back with the heel while reaching forward with the opposite hand.

I have lordosis, which is a pronounced curvature of the lower back, so this pose may look different for you.

You can either hold it here for around eight breaths (or as long as you are able to), or pulse up with hand and foot for eight counts.

Switch to the other side and repeat.

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4.- Boat pose

It also took me a few years to enjoy this one, so don´t get discouraged if you don´t love it at first!

When practicing any variation of boat pose think of lifting your chest to the sky or ceiling, grounding your sit bones and, once again, bringing your navel towards the spine.

You may start with your legs bent at the knee and just lifting your toes off the ground slightly.

You could modify the pose by placing your hands behind you or to your sides, as you get stronger.

Eventually you can explore lifting your legs bent at the knee and eventually lifting your arms out in front of you.

As you grow stronger you may be able to extend your legs and hold the V-shape for a few breaths.

Always remind yourself to relax your neck and smile. 😀

It´s all about engaging the core though, not what the pose ends up looking like.

If you can feel your core engaging, you´re doing fine!

Read also: 4 Trendy fitness classes to try at the gym or at home

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5.- Awkward airplane

This is not a beginner pose, so you can start by simply holding your arms out to the sides, one at a time.

Then, experiment with “fire hydrants,” where you lift the knee up to the side while on all fours.

Build up to extending the leg out to the side to get used to opening your hip.

Then practice placing a yoga block under your foot and holding your leg there.

Eventually you may be able to lift the leg straight out to the side, keeping both hands on the floor.

And when you feel you´re strong enough, then you can venture lifting one arm and the opposite leg out to the side, as in the photo.

You may hold it for a few breaths, or pulse up with hand and foot for around eight counts, and then switch sides.

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6.- Yoga or pilates bicycle

The trick with these is to do them relatively slowly and in a controlled manner.

If you find that your neck is strained or that you just can´t keep your back straight, then be kind to yourself and modify the pose.

Rest your arms behind you and pedal the legs without moving your upper body.

The higher your legs are the easier it will be and the lower they are to the ground, the more challenging.

You can then practice with your feet firmly planted on the ground and twist only your torso.

When you´re strong enough, then perhaps place your hands gently behind your head.

And finally, put it all together and bicycle twisting your torso and extending one leg at a time.

Once again, breathe comfortably and rest before you´re all-out fatigued.

If these all seem impossibly hard, please don´t give up. I work out daily and have been into fitness my entire life. But if your case is different, be kind to yourself.

Time will go by whether you give yourself a chance to get stronger or not.

Read also: Best exercise and fitness routines in your fifties

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6 Effective core exercises for midlife women (2024)


What are 3 exercises that will strengthen your core? ›

These three exercises were developed by Dr. Stuart McGill and are designed to increase strength and protect your back. They are more commonly know as the McGill Big 3 and are comprised of the curl-up, side bridge (or side plank), and birddogs.

What is the most effective core exercise women? ›

Core Exercises For Women
  • Leg raises. Lie with your back on the floor, arms by your side, palms down, and legs straight out. ...
  • Russian twist. Sit on the floor, feet in front of you, with your knees bent. ...
  • Plank. ...
  • Jack knife. ...
  • Bird dog.
Oct 18, 2022

What is the number 1 core workout? ›

The most effective core exercises are dead bug, side plank, front plant, vertical leg crunches, flutter kicks, Russian twists and the hollow body hold and hang.

What exercise builds the most core strength? ›

The researchers found that intense running activated the abdominal muscles the same amount as the targeted core exercises did — and engaged the back muscles even more. Squats, deadlifts and push-ups also work the core, along with any exercise that requires balance, Dr. Behm said.

How to tighten core fast? ›

Modified plank
  1. Lie on your stomach. Raise yourself up so that you're resting on your forearms and knees. Line up your head and neck with your back. ...
  2. Create resistance by pressing your elbows and knees toward one another. Neither should move from their positions on the floor. ...
  3. Return to the start position and repeat.
Aug 25, 2023

How can an older woman flatten her stomach? ›

Get active.

Strength training exercises are recommended at least twice a week. If you want to lose weight or meet specific fitness goals, you might need to exercise more. There is some evidence that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can help reduce belly fat, as can strength training.

What core exercise burns the most belly fat? ›

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

Should you do core exercises every day? ›

The recommended frequency of abs exercises is to give yourself at least one rest day in between each abs session so your muscles have the chance to recover. Feliciano recommends doing 5 to 10 minutes of core work two to three times a week.

Are 3 core exercises enough? ›

For the most effective core-training routine, Parker recommends: Work the core 2-3 days per week. Schedule at least one full day of recovery in-between. Perform 2-3 exercises, 2-3 sets each.

What is killer core workout? ›

Killer core is a workout that targets your core. You should do it as often as you can. It will change the way your body generates power and then distributes it to the muscles that need it most. Extra Credit: Keep the plank throughout the set, don't drop down.

Does walking strengthen your core? ›

Though a traditional walking routine doesn't engage your core, you can change your walking routine to tone your abs as you exercise.

Is a 20 minute core workout enough? ›

While there are lots of different core exercises one can do to help improve stability, posture, and speed, when done in a timespan of 20 minutes, it also has the added benefit of training muscular endurance for the core, according to Jeffers.

How do I strengthen my core over 50? ›

Kneel down on a bed or the floor, in an upright position. Place your arms across your chest, and bend forwards from your torso to perform a crunch-type movement. Squeeze your abdominal muscles gently. Go as far as feels comfortable, and then extend back up to the start position.

How long does it take to strengthen your core? ›

In general, core training programs should include training 2 to 4 times per week for 4 to 8 weeks [20, 21]. Variations of plank, crunch, and trunk twist are commonly used as core exercises.

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