When you have arthritic joints, getting up and down from the floor can be challenging. But, it is vital to have a strong core for many different reasons, so ab exercises standing up come to the rescue! There are so many ways you can still challenge your core muscles that doesn’t involve getting on the floor. Check out these 9 exercises to get started!
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There is more to ab exercises besides doing crunches on the ground. Which is good news, especially if you have difficulty getting down to the floor and back up.
From what society has led us to commonly believe, when you think about ab exercises, some of the first exercises that come to mind typically are on the ground.
But contrary to popular belief, you can work your core in a standing position.
Core muscles play a very significant role in many regards, especially if you have arthritis. Core muscles are important for:
- how your hips and spine move and how much stress they take
- walking posture
- positioning your body in a way that the muscles in your legs can work properly
- reducing back pain and stiffness
As a physical therapist I have garnered a list of options for standing ab exercises to help those that have difficulty getting down on the floor and for those looking to mix up their routine.
The power of standing ab exercises
If you can learn to use your core muscles effectively in standing, it can make these activities much easier.
In a laying down position, the muscle activation may not directly correlate to standing activities. If core exercises are solely done on the floor, you may miss out on maximizing the benefit. It is important to make sure you include standing ab exercises in your routine whether you have arthritis or not.
Here are 9 of my favorite ab exercises standing up:
1. Standing press out
Standing press-outs can easily be done with one dumbbell in a standing position. You will stand up tall, bend your knees slightly and hold onto the weight at each end. Squeeze your glutes and activate your core.
Press the weight straight out in front of you. This works your core muscles because you have to prevent your back from arching, keeping your core stable. Make sure you are breathing during this exercise!
Complete 8-12 repetitions for a light weight to start with (1-5lbs) until you feel more comfortable with the movement. Repeat for 2-3 sets.
2. Pallof Press
The pallof press requires one resistance band tied to a stable surface at about hip height. Hold the band with both hands at your chest. Step out to the side so you feel tension on the band pulling you towards the anchor. Press the band straight out in front of you.
Try for 10-20 repetitions then switch sides. Complete 3 sets as you’re able. This exercise helps to work your obliques or the muscles on the sides of your core which are very important but commonly not worked very often!
If you need a resistance band like this one, here is my favorite set.
3. Tandem row the boat
I couldn’t list ab exercises standing up without including at least one balance exercise.
Tandem row the boat is a balance exercise that actually can help you build core strength too! All you need is one dumbbell. Hang onto the heads of the dumbbell and hold it at the level of your belly button. Stand with one foot in front of the other and then rotate the dumbbell side to side.
In order to keep yourself upright and your chest tall, your core is working in combination with your hips, knees, and ankles. Try for 30 seconds each side for 2-3 sets.
4. Wall sit with overhead reach
Wall sit with overhead reach is a core exercise that is a little more challenging than it looks! Lean your back against a wall and walk your feet out slightly. Bend your knees a little bit. Press your lower back into the wall so your whole spine is in contact with the wall. Then alternate raising one arm at a time.
The goal is to not let your back arch or leave the wall. You have to use your core muscles to keep your spine from arching. Alternate reaches for 10-20 repetitions for 2-3 sets.
5. Plank Marches with Suspension Straps
First off, I absolutely love using suspension straps for training, especially if you are in any joint pain (here is my favorite set). They offer adequate support while still allowing for a lot of movement freedom.
This exercise involves walking out into a raised plank position. Push through your shoulders and keep them active.
To increase difficulty you can walk your feet back further so you are closer to the floor if your setup allows. You can also add in alternating marches like in this video. Make sure you keep your hips as steady as possible and focus on your body positioning.
Try up to 30 reps or until you begin to feel fatigue or lose your form.
Here is an article about the best 10 TRX Leg Exercises that you may find interesting, especially if you are dealing with hip and knee pain.
6. Squat press out
This squat variation really targets the core muscles and can be a fun way to mix things up!
Start with a lighter dumbbell to get the feel for the movement. Press the weight away from you as you sit down in a squat. You will then counterbalance the weight that is in front of you. Try to complete 8-12 reps.
This is more of an advanced movement. Make sure you can complete the press out in #1 before adding a squat to the movement.
If squats are painful due to knee osteoarthritis- you can learn some tips on how to get better at squatting without flaring up knee pain HERE.
7. Power Push Up
This ab exercise standing up is done using an empty space on a wall. You will do a wall push up with a little twist!
Generating power is extremely important, especially as you get older because power is one of the first things you begin to lose. Power is muscle strength + speed. Here is more on that.
For these push ups, complete 8-15 reps as able. Keep your body positioning as you push yourself away from the wall- this is where the core strengthening comes in.
8. Single arm farmers carry
I saved one of the best ab exercises standing up for last! The single arm farmers carry is a great way to challenge your obliques as your body works to keep yourself upright with a heavy load on one side.
This one is relatable to real life if you are carrying a heavy purse, grocery bags, or something else in one hand. Counteracting the heavier weight on one side can challenge your core muscles in new ways especially if you have a history of back pain.
Start with a moderately heavy weight, usually around 10lbs+. If the weight is too light, you may not feel anything. Try to walk at least 50-100 feet then switch sides. Posture is very important in this exercise.
9. Standing Bicycle
You can do this movement with or without weights. I would recommend starting with light weights (approximately 1-5lbs). Your upper body strength will determine how heavy the weights you can use will be.
This works the obliques or the sides of your core. Complete 10-20 alternating repetitions for 2-3 sets if able.
Standing Core Exercise video
If you’d like to try a follow along video that includes 100% ab exercises in standing, this 18 minute workout may be just what you need.
If you find that not all movements feel good at first, that’s okay! Make sure you listen to your body and modify accordingly.
A big piece of successful core exercises in standing is to make sure your form is correct. I highly recommend trying new movements in front of a mirror to see how your body responds and highlight potential compensations if present.
If you have a history of joint pain and/or a diagnosis of osteoarthritis- keeping a strong core is vital to your success with pain relief. Choose 3-4 of these exercises listed below that feel good to you and try to do them at least every other day if possible.
Don’t let anyone tell you the only way to get stronger abs is on the ground! You can make amazing gains with these ab exercises standing up.
If you are looking for other exercise ideas that can help to reduce arthritis pain and stiffness so you can unlock the door to adventure, join in the FREE 4 Day Jumpstart Your Arthritis Adventure Challenge:
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Disclaimer: This post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be used to self-diagnose and it is not a substitute for a medical exam, cure, treatment, diagnosis, and prescription or recommendation. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Kuhn and you. You should not make any change in your health regimen or diet before first consulting a physician and obtaining a medical exam, diagnosis, and recommendation. Move Well Age Well, LLC and Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, PT, DPT are not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any conclusions drawn, services or product you obtain through this video or site.