Fit in Five: 5 Off-the-Ground Core Exercises

By Pamela Hernandez

Recently I had a client do bicycle crunches. Her teammate looked at me and said, “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen you ask anyone to do crunches.”

She’s right; crunches are not a big part of my ab repertoire. Much like running isn’t always appropriate, I think crunches are something you have to work up to. Many clients come to me with challenges that make crunches a poor place to start for developing core strength. For some, the act of getting on the ground for core exercises, like planks and cobras, can be off limits initially. I often need off-the-ground core strengthening and stabilizing exercises to help my clients achieve their fitness goals.

Here are my top 5 core exercises that don’t require a mat or getting off your feet.

Wood chops: I like these best with a cable machine but they are just as effective with resistance bands, a medicine ball or a dumbbell. Start high and chop by pulling diagonally across the body. The hips should not flex but instead stay straight and the body tall.

Single Arm Shoulder Presses: I know what your thinking. Yes, your primary move is a shoulder press. However, with the load on one side you need to work your core to stabilize your body and resist the urge to flex the spine in the direction of the load.

Standing Side Crunch: This exercise will flex your spine laterally, working those obliques for a slimmer waist. Hold a wall or bench with one hand and crunch the opposite knee down while lifting the knee up. Add a dumbbell in hand for more of a challenge.

Medicine Ball Slams: This move is about power as well as flexing the trunk. Use a rubber bounceable medicine ball. Hold it high above your head then throw it forcefully down to the ground. Best stress reliever ever; just don’t hit yourself in the face!

Good morning: Core work isn’t just about the muscles we see in the mirror. A strong low back is important too. Put a light barbell across your shoulders, then slowly hinge at the waist with a flat back to bow to yourself in the mirror. Slowly return to the upright position.

If you can get to the ground, nothing beats the plank. Add that in with a rotation of the above exercise and you will be able to stand strong and tall!

Pamela Hernandez owns Thrive Personal Fitness in Springfield, MO where she focuses on weight training for weight loss. She writes a blog for her web site,, sharing vegetarian recipes from her kitchen, exercise strategies, lifestyle tips and stories from her own journey. You can also follow Pamela on Twitter @ThriveFit or pick up more tips on Facebook,

Also Read:

Join the Plank a Day Revolution

Fit in Five: Avoid Workout Burnout

Fit in Five: 5 Minute Core Workout

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *