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Crunches, planks, mountain climbers, and repeat—if the doldrum of moves is making you dread ab day, it may be time to mix up your routine with more unique core exercises.

Strengthening your core comes with plenty of real-world benefits (think good posture, balance and stability, and a healthy back, per Harvard Medical School), but the exercises to get to that point can admittedly be boring.

One way to make your workout more fun is by trying something you haven’t done before. Variety tends to boost your workouts in general, largely due to the extra motivation it can provide.

“Building a strong core isn’t just about sporting rock-solid abs—it’s about feeling empowered to conquer any physical challenge that comes your way,” says Molly Thomas, CPT, a personal trainer at Fit Athletic Club. “Trying out new movements keeps your workout fresh, sparks creativity, and helps you avoid the workout rut.”

Case in point: Women who did several different types of activity were more likely to reach exercise targets than those only doing one type of physical activity in a 2021 study in Translational Behavioral Medicine.

Meanwhile, men who varied their exercises had boosted motivation to train and comparable muscle growth as the group that stuck with the same exercises over eight weeks in a small 2019 study in PloS One.

“Mixing it up prevents those dreaded ‘I’ve done this a million times’ blues, keeping your fitness journey exciting and effective,” Thomas says.

Doing the same exercise over a long period of time can lead to overuse of muscles, so adding variety to your workout can also prevent injuries, per University Hospitals.

“Trying out new movements keeps your workout fresh, sparks creativity, and helps you avoid the workout rut.” —Molly Thomas, CPT

5 unique core exercises to switch up your routine

Ready to mix up your standard core workout? Here are a few out-of-the-ordinary core exercises from Thomas to take your boring old ab workout to an activity you look forward to.

1. Copenhagen plank

Personal trainer demonstrating Copenhagen plank
Photo: Molly Thomas, CPT
  1. Lie on your  left side and support your upper body on your left forearm, your left elbow stacked directly beneath your left shoulder.
  2. Stack your top foot on a low bench or step. Your bottom foot can start on the ground.
  3. Lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from head to heels. Hold this position while engaging your core and maintaining stability through your shoulders and hips.
  4. Progress to lifting your bottom foot off the ground.
  5. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds.
  6. Complete three sets on each side.

2. Standing windmill with dumbbell

Personal trainer demonstrating standing windmill with dumbbell
Photo: Molly Thomas, CPT
  1. Start by standing with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, arms down by your sides. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand.
  2. Raise the dumbbell overhead with your right arm straight.
  3. Keeping your legs mostly straight, bend your torso to the left and lower your left arm to reach toward your left knee or ankle.
  4. Focus on maintaining balance and control throughout the movement.
  5. Lift your torso and return to standing.
  6. Complete three sets of 12 to 15 reps on each side.

3. Physio ball squeeze

Personal trainer demonstrating physio ball squeeze
Photo: Molly Thomas, CPT
  1. Lie on your back with a physio ball in between your knees or ankles, your arms extended down by your sides.
  2. Squeeze inward on the ball and lift your legs to 45 degrees.
  3. Squeeze in as you exhale, relax as you inhale.
  4. Complete three sets of 30 to 45 seconds each.

4. Cable Pallof rotation

Personal trainer demonstrating cable Pallof rotation
Photo: Molly Thomas, CPT
  1. Start by setting up a cable machine or resistance band with a handle at chest height.
  2. Stand perpendicular to the machine or resistance band anchor, grasp the handle with both hands, and extend your arms away from your chest.
  3. Rotate your torso away from the cable machine or anchor, while keeping your core engaged and resisting the pull of the cable.
  4. Return to the starting position.
  5. Complete three sets of 12 to 15 reps on each side.

5. Hollow hold pass around

Personal trainer demonstrating hollow hold pass around
Photo: Molly Thomas, CPT
  1. Sit down on the floor with your knees bent, feet together, and feet planted. Hold a yoga block or light weight in front of your chest.
  2. Send your legs up to a straight 45-degree angle.
  3. Extend your arms up overhead holding the block or weight.
  4. Pass the block or weight under your legs, then back up overhead.
  5. Complete three sets of 30 to 45 seconds in each direction.

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