My favorite type of exercise is floor exercise. Lower ab taps, donkey kicks, planks—literally any exercise you can do while on the floor is my cup of tea. But it’s not because it’s easier (trust me, they’re not!). Whether you’re targeting your abs or not, a good floor exercise strengthens your core muscles, and I feel my strongest when I can feel my core working. Tory Hale, senior director of fitness at Gold’s Gym, says that when you take your workout to the floor you’re more likely to use your core.
“Doing floor exercises help engage the full ‘core,’ which we are defining here as lumbo-pelvic and shoulder stability,” says Hale. “This means that each movement performed in the workout is both more stable, but also more likely to be done correctly due to ground feedback to body and limb positions.”
Exercising on the floor won’t just make you feel stronger in your next Pilates mat class—that stability translates to any and all movements.
“Any compound exercises like deadlifts or squats require greater core strength and stability, and any athletic-based movements like throwing or punching require force transfer from the pelvis to the shoulder,” says Hale. “Performing ground-based movement enhances core stability and the ability to transfer force from pelvis to the shoulder.”
While you get in a full workout from the floor, you can also incorporate bits into different types of workouts.
“I usually utilize these in the warm-up /primer section before the bigger lifts,” says Hale. “When standing, our only source of feedback is from our feet, ‘closing’ the circuit by getting on our hands as well creates greater body awareness and core engagement.”
The best part of floor exercises is that you can do them anywhere. All you need is your body, and if you’d like, a mat. No gym required. If you’ve ever taken a floor class, you’ll know how big of a difference it can make when the instructor comes around and makes a one-inch adjustment. Form is everything—so listen to the pros below teach you how to do the following moves the right way. For a full workout, you can do any of the below videos in full, or pair together the highlighted moves from each video.
Floor exercise to work your way to a stronger core
1. Glute Bridge + Crunch
New York City-based fitness instructor Charlee Atkins teaches this compound movement that works your glutes and your abs. Begin laying on your back with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent. Walk your heels in toward your bum so when your lift your hips your knees area straight over your ankles. Engage your glutes and lift your hips into the sky. Return your feet to the ground and place your hands behind your head. Keeping your neck long and your chest open, crunch up. Repeat. You can do three crunches for every glute raise to make this combo a bit harder. For a full core and leg workout, complete the 10-minute video.
2. Lift and Lower
Join Chloe Gregor, an instructor at East River Pilates, in this floor exercise that hits the outer thigh and obliques. Starting on your knees, come into a modified side plank on your right side. Have your right elbow under your shoulder with your arm externally rotated pointing your fingers to the top of your mat. Use your right leg like a kickstand, supporting yourself with your knee and your lower leg and plant your left foot with your toes facing forward. Bring your left hand onto your hip and engage your core. You can modify this by planting your hand on a few yoga blocks or a cushion. Flex your left foot and lift your left leg up no higher than hip height. Lower your leg and repeat, making sure to lift with outer thigh/hip and not let your glutes or hip flexors take over. Complete the video for a full-body workout.
Nike Master Trainer Traci Copeland teaches this floor exercise as part of a 15-minute workout that’s designed for runners. Begin seated with your hands behind you and your fingertips facing forward. Lift your feet up off the ground and bend your knees into a tabletop position. Bend your elbows straight back as you lower your chest and shift your weight to one side while lowering your feet to the opposite side. Continue alternating side to side, lifting your feet up when you come through the middle. Complete the full video to really burn your core.
4. Around The World Deadbug
As part of a 15-minute core workout, Sashah Handal, a New York City instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp, teaches this floor exercise. Begin lying on your back. Curl your knees into your chest as you lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the ground and bring your elbows to tap your knees. Extend your right arm then your left arm straight out in line with your ears. Immediately extend your right leg then left, pressing through your heel without locking your knees. Return all of your limbs to center in the opposing order starting left leg, right leg and then left arm, right arm. Repeat but this time alternate the starting side. Continue for one minute. Be sure to keep your shoulders lifted the whole time and a space between your chin and your chest.
5. Plank Up-Down
Solidcore trainer Triana Brown will walk you through plank up-downs in this video. Start in a high plank with your hands directly under your shoulders and your fingertips facing forward. Come down onto your elbows one arm at a time and then move your way back to full plank. As you come down, keep your elbows close to your ribcage to work your triceps. Each time you come down to your elbows, alternate the arm that goes down first. If doing this in a full plank is too much, feel free to come down to your knees. If it’s feeling too easy, maybe add in a tricep pushup every time you return to a full plank.
6. Reverse Swim Plank
Atkins teaches this floor exercise during a full-body low-impact cardio workout. Come into a push-up plank position with your shoulders right over your wrists and your feet mat-width apart. Making a fluid motion, lift your right arm back and up toward your hips, flip your palm to face out, and bring your arm forward keeping it parallel with the ground. Repeat on the left side alternating for one minute. Keep your head in line with your heels, shift your weight forward as you reach to keep your shoulders over your wrist. To complete Atkins’ entire workout, watch the full 25-minute video and pair this move with 14 other moves.
7. Single-Leg Glute Bridge
Another one from Copeland, this single-leg glute bridge will fire up your backside. Begin by lying on your back with your palms facing down, your knees bent, and your feet flat on the ground. Lift one leg straight up with your foot flexed. Squeeze your glutes as you lift your hips up off the ground. Keep your gaze on the toes of the lifted leg. If the single-leg lift is too much, feel free to keep both feet on the ground. Make sure you’re not overextending—lift high enough where you can feel your glute working but not lifting as high as you can go.
8. Knee Hover With Marching
Kimmy Kellum, founder of East River Pilates, teaches this floor exercise during a full-body Pilates workout. Begin on all fours with your shoulders directly over your wrists and your hips directly over your knees. Keeping your arms straight without locking your elbow, come up to hover your knees off the ground with your weight in the balls of your feet. Engage your core and lift one leg up to hip height maintaining a flexed foot and a bent knee. Return that leg to the ground and repeat, alternating legs. Aim to keep your weight centered, not shifting side to side as you lift your feet. You have the option of taking out the hover and preforming this move on your knees, which is especially useful if you’re new to Pilates, battling back pain, or pregnant. For more, complete Kellum’s full 10-minute workout.
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