It’s important to make exercise an everyday habit, whether it’s throwing a frisbee with your dog, playing a round of golf, or walking around your neighborhood.

When you’re not active and you have a sedentary lifestyle, over time you’ll tend to get stiff, lose muscle mass, and risk becoming even more sedentary. Keeping muscle strength throughout life helps you maintain your ability to do activities of daily living, and one of the most important muscle groups to keep strong as you get older is your abdominals.

Having a strong core enhances your balance and stability to prevent falls and injuries that may occur otherwise. Whether you’re hitting a tennis ball, mopping the floor, or just getting out of a car, the necessary motions to do these things originate from your core.

Weak core muscles can impair how well your body functions, like a ripple effect. Other muscles kick in during this ripple effect to compensate for your weak abdominals, which can lead to overuse of other muscle groups and poor posture.

The next five exercises will help improve your balance and strengthen your core. Perform each exercise for the recommended amount of repetitions for three to four sets.

Sit to Stand Wood Chop

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This exercise improves overall endurance, coordination, and range of motion. It helps strengthen your shoulders, obliques, quadriceps, glutes, trunk rotation, and balance.

All you need is a bench or chair and a medicine ball or other weighted object.

  1. Sit down on a bench with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Sit up tall with your core engaged and both hands holding onto a medicine ball held down by your right side with your arms fully extended.

  2. Exhale and in one motion, twist your obliques while standing, and swing the ball up until it’s slightly past your left shoulder. Keep your arms straight as you stretch up to the ceiling. Your heels should stay planted on the ground with toes facing forward; only your arms and obliques should move. Hold this position for 1 count.

  3. Inhale and swing the medicine ball back down in a “wood chopping” motion as you sit back down on the bench, completing a perfect squat. Try not to slam or fall back down on the bench, and maintain control of your body weight.

  4. Repeat 10 times and then repeat on the other side.

Bird Dog

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  1. Come down to the floor on all fours with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle directly under your hips. Engage your abdominal muscles by tightening them, keeping a sway out of your back. Your spine should be in a straight, neutral position. Pull your shoulder blades together.

  2. Exhale and simultaneously raise your right arm and left leg up. Keep your right hand facing inward. Keep your shoulders and hips parallel to the floor and continue to face the floor to reduce neck strain.

  3. Inhale and gently lower yourself back down to your starting position, maintaining balance and stability in the shoulders, pelvis, and torso.

  4. Exhale and simultaneously lift your left arm up and your right leg this time. Hold this position for 1 count.

  5. Repeat, alternating opposite arm and leg for a total of 20 repetitions (10 on each side).

Oblique Twist with Trunk Rotation Using the Cable Rope

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  1. Connect a standard rope attachment to the cable pulley machine. Adjust the cable pulley so it’s at shoulder height and pull on the rope so it makes just a single rope thread. Pull the rope away from the cable pulley machine so you’re arm’s length away, keeping tension on the cable. Grasp the rope with your palms facing down towards the floor shoulder-width apart, and extend your arms out in front of you at chest height. Place your feet shoulder-width apart as well, with your knees slightly bent.

  2. Exhale, engaged your core, and rotate your torso away from the pulley machine for a full-quarter rotation. Make sure your heels stay planted on the floor and only your obliques, arms, and trunk rotate. Hold this position for 1 count.

  3. Inhale and slowly return to the starting position.

  4. Repeat 15 times, then turn around to face the opposite direction and perform the same amount on the opposite side.

Plank

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  1. With your stomach facing the floor, bring your weight onto your tippy toes and forearms. Your elbows should be bent at a 90-degree angle and directly below your shoulders.

  2. Hold this position for as long as you can! If you can hold a plank for 30 seconds, that’s great!

  3. Rest for 1 minute, then repeat the plank again, this time aiming for 40 seconds, or for 10 seconds longer than your first set. Repeat this plank exercise for 3 to 4 sets, pushing for an extra 10 seconds than your previous set each time, taking 1-minute breaks between each round.

Deadbug

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The name might sound odd, but this stability exercise will light your core on fire, fix poor posture, and strengthen your lower back.

  1. Begin by lying on your back with your hands extended above you toward the ceiling.

  2. Lift your feet up into the air and bend your knees to 90-degrees. Relax your ribcage down and sink your back into the floor, tilting your pelvis slightly up so there’s no space between your lower back and the floor.

  3. Exhale, extend your left leg down by straightening your knee, flexing your quadriceps, and dropping your hip down. Your leg should stop when it’s about 3 inches away from the floor. As your left leg drops down to the floor, extend your right arm overhead with your palm facing in towards you. Keep your core engaged the whole time. Hold this extended position for 1 count.

  4. Inhale, stay tight, and return your left leg and right arm back to your starting position.

  5. Exhale, alternate, and drop your left hand, palm facing in and your right leg down. Hold this position for 1 count. Do a total of 20 repetitions.

Modified Deadbug

If this exercise is too tricky, simply perform it without using the stability ball. You’ll perform the same exercise as listed above but your palms will now be directly resting on your knees. When you’ve mastered this move, try adding the stability ball back in.

The Takeaway

These key core exercises will improve your endurance, stretch out your hip flexors, work on proper trunk rotation, and build a strong core. If you don’t start incorporating an active lifestyle now, your muscle mass will be reduced, and your joints will stiffen up. You need to also incorporate balance and stability exercises into your workout regimen, which all originate from a strong core and proper use of muscle groups.

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