Could your core muscles pass an exercise exam?

Many of us are familiar with the term "core," but did you know the muscle group is made up of more than just your abs? Your core muscles warp around your abdomen and back and also encompass your hips and pelvis. You use these muscles in many daily movements, such as walking, bending, twisting and jumping. Core-focused fitness has gained momentum in recent years for its ability to improve mobility and prevent injury.

That's why core-based exercises are essential to overall wellness. Use this test to gauge how well your core can withstand a constant contraction for a set amount of time.

Plank hold

Goal: Hold a perfect plank pose for one minute.

  1. Begin on your belly, propping your weight up onto your forearms and toes.
  2. Keep your shoulders aligned above your elbows and push through your hips to elevate your body into a plank position. Clench your glutes and core muscles.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt

Plank extensions

Goal: Complete four 15-second plank extensions for a total hold time of one minute.

  1. Start in a high plank position with your hands aligned below your shoulders. Check your form to ensure that your spine is straight — no drooping hips.
  2. Once you feel steady, slowly elevate your right arm and hold for 15 seconds, then repeat on the left side. Avoid rotating at the hips when you extend your arm.
  3. Stay in this plank position and elevate the right leg for 15 seconds without twisting your torso. Repeat on the left leg. Rest.
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt

Half boat pose (beginner) or total boat pose (advanced)

Goal: Smoothly sail through at least 30 seconds in this position.

  1. Beginner: Sit on the floor with the knees bent, hands resting on your outer thighs, and feet firmly planted.
  2. Keep your spine straight and chest out as you shift your weight onto your tailbone and gently lift your legs until your shins are parallel to the floor. Extend your arms out in front of the body. Hold for 30 seconds.
  3. Advanced: Start in the beginner position then straighten your knees so the body forms a "V" shape. Your legs should be about 45 degrees from the floor. Maintain a strong, straight spine, relaxed neck, and breathe. Hold for 30 seconds.
Ashley demonstrates the beginner pose (left) and the advanced pose (right).
Courtesy of Ashley Greenblatt
Ashley demonstrates the beginner pose (left) and the advanced pose (right).

Assessing results: If you had difficulty completing any of these exercises, this is a good indicator that your core strength needs work. Practice these exercises three to five times each week and log your results. Over time, you should notice improvements in your form and ability to hold these positions for extended periods of time.

Ashley B. Greenblatt is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more, visit