The Best Squat For The Beginner Here

The Best Back Exercise For The Beginner Here

When I was a training beginner, I didn’t know what the core was. I thought it was a six-pack and nothing else. Now after exercising for over 30 years and training clients for 12, (I think) I have a better idea about core training.

Think of the core as everything but your arms, legs, and head. Yes, the core is more than the six-pack muscles. The core has many functions but its most important is resisting movement while you’re moving. Think spinal anti extension, anti-rotation, and anti-flexion.

Keeping your spine neutral and body in good alignment while exercising and performing activities of daily living is important for preventing injury and good posture.

Surprise, surprise your core makes this happen. Think of your core as a bridge between your lower and upper body. When the bridge cannot stand the weight on it, it begins to break, and bad things start to happen. When you’re starting out in the gym you don’t need to be complicated, you need to be effective, and these five-exercises fit the bill.

Push Up Position Front Plank

The push up position front plank is one of the simplest and unsexist core exercises around. Just get into a push up and hold. Couldn’t be any easier right? Wrong. Every muscle from the head to toe is working to keep the body in a straight line. It’s great for the beginner because It teaches full body tension required for more advanced moves. Plus, before you apply force to gravity it pays to resist it. Still think it is too easy. Hold it for two minutes and then get back to me.

Benefits of the Push Up Position Front Plank For Beginners

The entire core region works as a unit to create tension which improves your overall strength.

Strengthens the deep muscles that surround the spine which improves the ability to keep the spine in neutral with more advanced exercises.

It’s easy to teach, perform, regress and progress.

How to Do the Push Up Position Front Plank

Start on your hands and knees with hands underneath shoulders and knees underneath hips. Extend the feet back so the knees are off the ground and in the push up position. Push your hands into the floor, engage core and glutes to support a neutral spine and hold for desired time.


Funny name, great exercise. It’s called a deadbug because the starting position resembles, you know, a dead bug. Keeping your spine in neutral while moving your opposite arm opposite leg will give you a couple of ah ha moments. The deadbug works the deep muscles of the core while training proper breathing, hip mobility and shoulder mobility. It’s an exercise with the lot

Benefits of the Deadbug For Beginners

Reinforces contralateral (opposite arm/opposite leg) limb movement

The floor provides you feedback whether you’re doing the exercise correctly.

Reinforces the correct breathing pattern by breathing into the belly and not the chest.

How to Do the Deadbug

Lie face up on the floor and get your knees above your hips and hands over your shoulders. Press your lower back into the floor, take a breath and extend your right leg in front of you and left arm behind you while breathing out. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side. Alternate sides for six reps on each side.

Suitcase Carry

It’s not exactly a suitcase but a single arm farmer’s carry. The Suitcase carry has all the benefits of farmers carries but this version will strengthen grip imbalances between hands which is a limiting factor when carrying grocery bags in from the car. Or if you find yourself hanging from a cliff. Plus, it will improve your core strength and balance because every single step is a single leg stance.

Benefits Of The Suitcase Carry For Beginners

Strengthens your grip and shoulders and encourages good posture

Suitcase carries throw your body off-balance, forcing your core muscles to engage to stay balanced.

It’s easy to perform and isn’t complicated.

How To do The Suitcase Carry

Start with a weight between 25-50% of your bodyweight. Pick up the weight, crush the handle and make sure you’re not tilting to one side or the other. A mirror usually helps. Walk carefully in a straight line, putting one foot in front of the other while swinging the opposite arm. Swap hands and repeat on the other side.

Pallof press

Pallof Press, named after Physical Therapist Joseph Pallof, who came up with this in 2006. The Pallof press, no matter the version you do, trains your core and balance to resist the forces pulling you from the side This strengthens the love handles and the smaller muscles that support the spine with an exercise that’s easier than the side plank.  It’s easy to do, isn’t technical and provides a big band for your core buck.

Benefits Of The Pallof Press For Beginners

It’s an extremely versatile exercise which is performed from a variety of positions to train your core strength from all angles

It’s easily adjustable for your strength level.

A great warm up exercise to get you ready for your training

How to do The Standard Pallof Press

Standing parallel to the cable machine or to the anchor point to the resistance band and clasp with the handle or band with both hands. Make sure your torso is front on and bring your hands to the center of your chest and slowly press out. Slowly return your hands to the chest and repeat.


Think of the birddog as an upside down deadbug. Again, strange name, great exercise. Birddogs work your core as a unit and when it’s done correctly it strengthens your six back muscles, lower back, and glutes. Plus, it trains spinal stability (spine not moving while the rest of the body is) which is essential for good posture and for when the spine is under load.

Benefits Of The Birddog For Beginners

A great low back endurance exercise that strengthens spinal stability. Lack of endurance in your core/back muscles is a cause of low back pain.

Helps people tell the difference between hip extension and lower back hyperextension.

A simple exercise to do after minimal instruction.

How to do The Birddog

Kneel on the floor in a six-point stance (hand, knees, and toes on the ground) with the knees under your hips and your hands directly underneath your shoulders. Find a neutral spine and keep this during the entire exercise. Raise your opposite arm and leg straight out, keeping your core tight and your body in a straight line from head to foot.  Return to the starting position and do all the reps on one side or alternate sides.

Programming Suggestions

All the above exercises are great exercises to insert into your warmup. You do warm up right? These will prepare the body for the work ahead. Here are rep, time, and distance suggestions.

Deadbug- Six reps on each side

Push Up Plank 30-60 seconds

Pallof Press 10 reps or 30 seconds on each side

Suitcase Carry 20-40 steps on each hand

Birddogs 10 reps on each side

You have two other options for inserting these into your training. First, perform a core circuit after your warmup and before your strength training. For example,

1A. Birddogs

1B. Pallof Press

1C. Suitcase Carry

Or you pair a core exercise with a strength exercise to help recover from the strength more and to give you added core work. For example,

1A. Push up or Bench Press

1B. Suitcase carry

It doesn’t matter which one you choose. Just if you do it.

Wrapping Up

There’s all kinds of weird and wonderful core exercises on social media. But some are often too advanced and not effective when you’re beginning your training journey. Better to start with effective exercises which are easy to do before moving to harder ones.

Keeping it simple and effective will save your brain power for more important tasks. Like putting together Ikea furniture from pictures.

Still confused on where to start. Click here for my strength program for those new to strength training.

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