Core Exercises for Women


Core exercises for women that:

  • Strengthen your deep abdominal core muscles
  • Train your spinal, pelvic floor and trunk muscles
  • Tone your abdomen (flatten your tummy)
  • Provide safe alternatives to intense core abdominal exercises 
  • Reduce your risk or pelvic floor overload
core exercises

Core Exercises Videos and Information


Core Exercises for Beginners Home Routine

Physiotherapist guided beginners core exercise routine for abdominal toning and spinal strengthening - suitable with pelvic floor problems

Breathing exercises for core

Deep Breathing Exercises to Boost Your Core

Learn simple deep breathing exercises that improve your lung capacity, posture, pelvic floor and core abdominal control

unsafe core exercise

Unsafe Abdominal Exercises with Prolapse Problems

12 unsafe abdominal exercises to avoid if you're at increased risk of pelvic floor problems such a prolapse worsening or repeat prolapse

Core exercises for women

Core Exercises for Women Abdominal Toning Ball Routine

Seated abdominal ball workout for women seeking pelvic floor friendly abdominal core strength and stability exercise

Core exercises for osteoporosis

Beginners Core Exercises for Osteoporosis

Follow these Physiotherapist guided core exercises to start safely improving your bone health and upright posture

Core breathing exercises

Physio Fix for Core Dysfunction

The 2 key elements underlying core dysfunction are breathing and posture. Here's how to get the basics right and fix core dysfunction

What are Core Exercises?

Core exercises are voluntary contractions of the muscles surrounding the trunk that are known as the core muscles.

Core muscles include:

  • Abdominal muscles
  • Spinal muscles
  • Diaphragm
  • Pelvic floor muscles

Some intense core abdominal exercises are inappropriate for women who are at increased risk of pelvic floor problems. This is because they can increase downward pressure on the pelvic floor.

Women are more vulnerable than men to pelvic floor injury. This increased risk of pelvic floor injury results from pelvic floor weakness caused by female anatomy and life events such as pregnancy and menopause.

Core abdominal muscles

Benefits of Abdominal Core Exercises

Core abdominal exercises can have a number of benefits including:

Coordinating abdominal and pelvic floor muscles

Your innermost layer of abdominal muscles should contract with your pelvic floor muscles to help with bladder and bowel control.

Protecting and supporting your abdominal organs

Your abdominal muscles protect your abdominal organs and help to hold them in position.

Stabilizing your joints 

Your innermost abdominal muscles wrap around your trunk and stabilize the joints in your spine and your pelvis.

Toning your abdomen

When your deep abdominal core muscles are activated they can flatten the appearance of your lower abdomen.

Abdominal Core Exercise Guidelines

  • Learn to activate your core abdominal muscles using the correct technique
  • Use a gentle activation technique and never too strong
  • Start by contracting your deep abdominal muscles up to 10 seconds at a time
  • Breathe normally throughout these exercises
  • Practice activating your core muscles up to 10 times a day
  • Perform your activation exercise when sitting, standing and then progress to walking

Inner Core Abdominal Muscles

Your abdominal muscles sit in layers at the front of your trunk extending between your rib cage and your pubic bone.

The deepest innermost layer of your abdominal muscles is Transverse Abdominis. These muscles wrap around your trunk just like a corset covering your abdomen that wraps around your waist and fastens at your spine.

Transverse Abdominis muscles support your abdomen, pelvis and spine. 

When you start exercising these muscles it’s often difficult to find them and then activate them correctly. 

Outer Core Abdominal Muscles

The outer abdominal muscles are the ‘6 pack’ or Rectus Abdominis and External Oblique muscles. These muscles sit in layers above the deeper core abdominal muscles and generate pressure in the abdomen, for example with coughing.

Pelvic floor problems such as pelvic prolapse symptoms and incontinence can worsen with intense abdominal core exercises.

For example, when you squeeze a toothpaste tube, pressure forces the toothpaste out of the tube. This is the same as strongly contracting your abdominal muscles. As a result pressure increases down onto your pelvic floor. If your pelvic floor isn’t strong enough to withstand this pressure it’s forced downwards and stretched.

Common Mistakes with Abdominal Core Exercises

1. Over Bracing

Some women over brace their abdominal muscles which means they contract these muscles too strongly. Over bracing your core abdominal muscles increases downward pressure onto your pelvic floor.

If you over brace your abdominal muscles you may need to learn how to relax your core muscles.

2. Holding your Breath

Holding your breath during core abdominal exercises doesn’t train your deep abdominal muscles to work normally during everyday tasks. Try to breathe normally during core abdominal exercises. Practicing deep breathing exercises can also help you relax your core abdominal muscles.

3. Poor Posture

Good upright posture is important for your core muscles to work well. Try to use good upright posture when you’re sitting and standing to encourage your core muscles to work as they should.

Strength and Core Workout DVD for Women

Strength & Core video is a pelvic floor friendly core exercise workout with Physiotherapist Michelle Kenway

This whole body workout strengthens your core abdominal and pelvic floor muscles in addition to whole body strength and posture training.

Available as immediate download or hard copy.

Strength & Core Workout Download

Strength & Core Workout includes exercises designed to:

  • Exercise safely and avoid injury
  • Train your core abdominal muscles
  • Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles
  • Tone your hips, butt and thighs
  • Improve your posture with back strengthening
  • Help you manage your body weight
  • Stretch and relax after your core workout

Learn More



  1. Sapsford R. & Hodges P. (2001) Contraction of the pelvic floor muscles during abdominal maneuvers Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Volume 82, Issue 8, August 2001, Pages 1081-1088.
  2.  Barton A. Serrao C. Thompson J. Briffa K. (2015) Transabdominal ultrasound to assess pelvic floor muscle performance during abdominal curl in exercising women. International Urogynecology Journal. Volume 26, Issue 12, pp 1789–1795.

Tummy toning exercises
Are you looking for safe core exercises to tone your tummy?

Do you feel confused about how to strengthen your core and avoid prolapse worsening?

Well look no further – this quick routine of pelvic floor safe core exercises will help you tone your tummy, strengthen your core and protect your prolapse!

5 Tummy Toning Abdominal Core Exercises for Women

These 5 core exercises are pelvic floor safe alternatives to some of the more intense abdominal core exercises.

These core exercises gently strengthen and tone the abdominal core muscles while placing minimal pressure on the pelvic floor.

Core Exercise 1 – Seated Ball Knee Lifts

Seated ball knee lifts look deceptively easy. In actual fact doing this exercise correctly requires good deep abdominal core muscle control.

  • Sit tall on a chair or exercise ball
  • Activate your abdominal muscles
    Seated Ball Knee Lifts
  • Hold onto the side of the ball with your fingertips
  • Slowly raise your left knee to lift your right foot just off the ground
  • Keep your abdominal muscles gently activated
  • Lower your foot back to the ground
  • Relaxing your abdominal muscles back to resting
  • Repeat up to 10 knee lifts on the same side
  • Repeat with your right leg

Tips for Seated Ball Knee Lifts

  • Try to stay evenly balanced through your sitting bones throughout this exercise
  • To progress seated ball knee lifts:
    • reduce your grip on the ball from fingertips to one finger and then no hands
    • alternate your knee lifts from one leg to the other leg keeping stable throughout

Core Exercise 2 – Women’s Push Ups

Women’s push ups are a great pelvic floor safe strength exercise that strengthen and tone your abdominal core muscles along with your chest and shoulders. If you are prone to shoulder or knee problems standing wall push ups are a suitable alternative position to consider.

  • Kneel on all fours

    Women's Push Ups

    Women’s Push Ups

  • Place your hands directly below your shoulders
  • Position your knees directly under your hips
  • Gently activate your lower abdominal muscles
  • Maintain your normal spinal curve throughout
  • Bend your elbows to lower your nose down towards the ground between your hands
  • Breathe out as you raise straighten your elbows and return to starting position
  • Repeat this exercise up to 10 times in a row

Tips for Women’s Push Ups

  • Avoid straining and avoid holding your breath when doing push ups
  • If your knees are sore use a cushion under your knees or alternatively perform a standing wall push up
  • Progress women’s push ups by lowering your nose down towards the ground in front of your hands to make a triangle shape – your hands form the base and your nose forms the tip of the triangle

Core Exercise 3 – Alternate Arm and Leg Raises

Alternate arm and leg raises are great for toning the abdomen and strengthening the spine. If you are prone to knee pain and wish to avoid kneeling this core exercise can also be performed lying prone or face down with the arms and legs extended.

  • Kneel on all fours

    Alternate Arm and Leg Raises

    Alternate Arm and Leg Raises

  • Place your hands beneath your shoulders
  • Position your knees beneath your hips
  • Gently engage your deep abdominal muscles and maintain this contraction throughout
  • Extend your left leg behind your body and raise your left foot off the ground
  • Your left heel should be no higher than your left buttock
  • Reach your right arm in front of your body no higher than shoulder height
  • Aim for stability and control holding this position for up to 10 seconds at a time
  • Repeat on alternate sides

Tips for Alternate Arm and Leg Raises

  • Keep your chin tucked throughout this exercise to avoid neck strain
  • Breathe normally throughout this core exercise
  • Progress alternate arm and leg raises by:
    • maintaining your arm and leg extended position for longer holds up to 20-30 seconds at a time
    • lifting and lowering your alternate arm and leg repeatedly up to 10 times in a row each side while maintaining your abdominal muscle contraction throughout

Core Exercise 4 – Bent Knee Fall Outs

Bent knee fallouts are another deceptively simple yet effective safe abdominal core exercise for women. When performed correctly this exercise tones the appearance of the lower abdomen and strengthens the core abdominal muscles.

  • Start lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat

    Bent Knee Fallout

    Bent Knee Fallouts

  • Keep the normal inward curve in your lower back throughout
  • Gently activate your deep abdominal core muscles
  • Imagine balancing a glass of water on your right knee which should not move
  • Maintain your abdominal contraction as you lower your left knee sideways just until your pelvis starts to roll to the left*
  • Return the left knee to starting position and relax your abdominal muscles
  • Repeat this exercise up to 10 times in a row for each leg

*This is a very small outward movement of the knee -you will be unlikely to be able to move your knee far before your pelvis starts to roll towards the left. As soon as you feel your pelvis start to move lift your leg back to starting position.

Tips for Bent Knee Fall Outs

  • If you can’t feel your pelvis moving as you move your leg to the side, place your hands on your pelvic bones throughout this exercise. This will help you feel whether any unwanted movement is occurring
  • Breathe normally throughout this exercise
  • Avoid over bracing your abdominal muscles by contracting them too strongly
  • With improved abdominal muscle control you may like to progress this exercise by lower your knee further sideways maintaining your abdominal contraction through out

Core Exercise 5 – Single Leg Raises

Single leg raise provides you with a pelvic floor safe exercise alternative to double leg raises that are frequently performed in women’s exercise classes. This exercise helps you tone and strengthen your deep abdominal core muscles and in doing so helps you flatten the appearance of your tummy and improve your spinal support.

  • Starting lying down on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground

    Single Leg Raise

    Single Leg Raise

  • Keep the normal inward curve in your lower back throughout
  • Gently activate your deep abdominal core muscles
  • Keep your abdominal muscles gently contracted as you raise your bent right knee off the ground
  • When you feel the your lower back start to flatten lower your knee back to starting position
  • Repeat your knee raise exercises up to 10 times in a row for each leg

Tips for Single Leg Raises

  • Lift and lower your knee slowly
  • Avoid flattening your lower back as you raise your leg
  • Breathe normally throughout the exercise

How to use these 5 Core Exercises?

  • As a convenient 15 minute daily home abdominal core exercise routine; or
  • Substitute any of the following core exercises to modify intense abdominal exercises e.g. modify The Plank

Unsafe Core Exercises for Women and Prolapse

Core exercises help you train the muscles around your trunk – these muscles include your abdominal muscles. Research has shown that traditional abdominal curl exercises (sit ups) that train the strong upper abdominal muscles cause the pelvic floor to move downwards (shown right) in women who have had a vaginal delivery.1

Pelvic Floor Moves Downwards

Pelvic floor moves downwards

Intense abdominal core exercises create downward pressure onto the pelvic floor. Women with prolapse problems have pelvic floor weakness – this makes them vulnerable to further pelvic floor damage with intense core exercises.

When the pelvic floor is weak it has difficulty withstanding downward pressure. During intense core exercises the weak pelvic floor is repeatedly forced downwards causing pelvic floor stretch, strain and further weakness.

This is why intense core exercises are unsafe for women with prolapse and after prolapse surgery.

Key Points for Safe Abdominal Core Exercises

If you have prolapse problems it is likely that your pelvic floor is weak. This makes your pelvic floor susceptible to pelvic floor damage with intense core abdominal exercises.

Reduce your risk of prolapse injury by:

  • Avoiding intense core abdominal exercises
  • Breathing normally throughout your exercises
  • Avoiding over bracing your abdominal muscles
  • Maintaining the normal inward curve in your lower back
  • Relaxing your abdominal muscles and allowing for recovery
  • Focusing on the quality of your core exercises rather than quantity

Following these simple guidelines will help you keep the intensity of your core exercises manageable for your pelvic floor to reduce your risk of prolapse worsening or repeat prolapse occurring.


prolapse exercises

with Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist Michelle Kenway

Learn how to exercise safely, strengthen your prolapse and reduce your risk of repeat prolapse.

Prolapse Exercises is a complete exercise guide for women after prolapse surgery seeking to exercise safely and protect their pelvic floor.




1 Thompson J, O’Sullivan P, Briffa N and Neumann P (2007) Comparison of transperineal and transabdominal ultrasound in the assessment of voluntary pelvic floor muscle contractions and functional manoeuvres in continent and incontinent women. International Urogynaecology Journal, Jul;18(7):779-86.