Feeling Sore in Your Neck Rather Than Your Abs After a Core Workout? Try These Lesser-Known Standing Exercises

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If you're feeling sore in your neck rather than your abs after a core workout, you're not alone. Doing mat-based exercises like crunches can definitely help strengthen your core, but they may cause you to strain your neck in the process, resulting in soreness or pain afterward. It's something that's especially common when you haven't built up your muscles yet.

"Your neck muscles can overwork when people grip there," says Autumn Calabrese, celebrity fitness trainer. "Instead of using the core muscles to crunch or stabilize, people with a weak core will grip in their neck and pull on the back of it to assist in the movement."

Experts In This Article

Anytime you want to give your neck a break from the same ol' ab variations, simply opt for standing core exercises instead. They'll leave you feeling the burn in not only your abs, but the rest of your body, too. Plus, staying on your feet can be beneficial in other ways as well: "I love standing core exercises because we're working the core how we end to live our actual life—more upright," says Brian Spencer, an instructor at East River Pilates. Here are the best trainer-approved standing exercises for core strength to start with.

The best standing exercises for core strength

1. Standing core twist

You use a weighted ball or dumbbell in this gentle core exercise to work your obliques on a deeper level.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Squeezing a dumbbell or weighted ball between your hands, extend your arms forward.
  3. Keeping your arms straight, twist to one side. Then, twist to the other side.
  4. Continue alternating back and forth as you work your obliques.

2. Wood chopper

The wood chopper is one of the best standing exercises for core strength, working every angle.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet just outside shoulder width apart.
  2. Holding a dumbbell with both hands, twist to your right side and lower, holding the dumbbell on the outside of your leg.
  3. Lift the dumbbell diagonally across your body, extending your arms to the side of your head.
  4. Continue going back and forth with control.

3. Knee drive

Knee drives work the abs and give you a healthy dose of cardio.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your right leg extended behind you and your arms overhead with your elbows wide.
  2. Keeping your balance, drive your knee into your hand, tap it back, take it to the outside of your body, then tap it back again.
  3. Complete 12 reps, then repeat on the opposite side.

4. Side bends

These side bends will have your obliques sore for days. Seriously.

How to do it:

  1. Lower into a squat with your legs wide.
  2. Position your hands behind your head, and crunch to your right.
  3. Crunch back up to center.
  4. Perform 10 reps, then repeat on the opposite side.

5. One-leg forward bends

These one-leg forward bends will challenge not only your core, but every muscle in your body.

How to do it:

  1. Stand tall. Reach your right leg behind you with your toes touching the mat and your arms overhead.
  2. Lower your upper body and right leg, staying in a straight line.
  3. Return to your starting position and repeat.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.

6. Standing crunch

Why do crunches on your mat when you can do the standing version that won't bother your neck?

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. With your hands behind your head and elbows out, begin crunching side to side, meeting your elbow to the opposite knee.
  3. Alternate back and forth for 12 reps.

7. High knee to high kick

This exercise is a great way to activate your lower abs, as you use your core to lift your legs.

How to do it:

  1. Stand tall. Begin doing high knees, tapping your hands to your knees during the lifts.
  2. Begin adding in high kicks. Complete two high knees, then two high kicks, and repeat.

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