5 Core Exercises a Pro-Surfer Swears By for Rock-Solid Abs

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An average morning for Caroline Marks puts our daily routines to shame. More often than not, she’s up before the sun and in the water soon after. Depending on the conditions, she’ll have a handful of surf sessions as well as dryland training, all before sitting down for dinner. As a multiple-time national champion and the youngest woman to compete in the World Surf League tour, Marks is 18 going on icon—with the discipline to prove it.

When PureWow recently had a chance to catch up with the Red Bull athlete, there was one question on everyone’s mind: How does she stay so fit? “I’ve been pretty fortunate to have a little setup gym in my garage,” she tells us when asked how she’s managing her fitness during the time of COVID. “And I have my personal trainer send me workouts. Thankfully, with surfing you can easily socially distance yourself.” Curious how a pro-athlete stays motivated when the rest of the world is shutting down? So were we. “I use an Oura ring that syncs to an app which helps me track my sleep,” she explains. It also helps track her activity and energy levels for a personalized look at her overall health (all in real-time). And when her Oura “readiness” level dips below 50, Marks reaches for an old classic your middle school self couldn’t get enough of. “I always make sure I have a Red Bull Sugarfree nearby to keep me motivated and recharged for my work out ahead.”

When she’s not winning championships or crushing it on Instagram, Marks can be found hitting the weight room. And since strong cores and surfers go hand in hand (hello, balancing on a surfboard flying through the ocean), we had to know her secret. Here are the top five core moves she does on the daily for a rock-solid midsection.

1. Bear Crawls

*Bodyweight only. A bear crawl is a great mobility exercise that challenges your core, quads, arms and shoulders.

Step 1: Begin on all fours with your hands directly below your shoulders and knees directly below your hips. Pressing back into your feet, lift your knees until they’re hovering about an inch off the ground.

Step 2: Staying low to the ground, step your left hand and your right foot forward simultaneously. Now step your right hand and left foot forward, following the same pattern and maintaining the same distance.

Step 3: Repeat going forward four times total (two on each side) then repeat in a backward motion, opposite arm moving with the opposite foot. Four reps forward and four reps backward equal one set. Complete three sets total.

2. Caterpillar Crawls

*Bodyweight only. Keep this slow and controlled, allowing your abs to stretch and contract with each new movement.

Step 1: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly bend over, bringing your hands to the ground in front of you. Bend your knees as needed.

Step 2: When your hands reach the ground, slowly walk them forward, extending your body out until you’re in a push-up position.

Step 3: Keeping your core engaged, slowly walk your feet forward towards your hands. When your feet reach your hands, return to a standing position. This is one rep. Complete five to ten reps in total.

3. Medicine Ball Slams

*Medicine ball needed (6 – 10 pounds). It may be tempting to rely on your arms for this movement, but your core is where most of your power lies. Consciously keep your abs engaged throughout the whole exercise.

Step 1: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a medicine ball in both hands down by your hips.

Step 2: Squat down slightly to begin the move, then press up through your heels before rising up onto the balls of your feet. While holding the medicine ball, swing your arms up over your head, shooting your hips forward and squeezing your glutes to help power through the upward motion.

Step 3: Engaging your core and arms, reverse the motion bringing your arms back down and slamming the medicine ball on the ground between your feet. Bend your knees and press your hips back to help control the movement.

Step 4: Squat down to pick up the ball and immediately move into the next rep. Complete three sets of six to eight reps.

4. Side Planks

*Bodyweight only. This move will fire up your obliques, while also challenging your hips, glutes, upper back and shoulders.

Step 1: Begin on your side with your left shoulder stacked on top of your left elbow. Extend your legs out long stacking your feet on top of each other. Engage your core and glutes to lift your torso and hips up off the ground.

Step 2: For a standard side plank, you can hold here for 30 to 60 seconds. For an added challenge, extend your right arm up towards the sky and lift your right leg up off your left until it’s parallel to the ground. Hold here to 10 to 15 seconds.

Step 3: Switch sides and repeat, completing three reps on each side.

5. Battle Ropes

*Exercise ropes needed. This high-intensity cardio move will help challenge your strength and endurance. There are a ton of different exercises you can do with battle ropes. Master this example first before exploring other options.

Step 1: Grab the ends of the rope, holding one in each hand about arm’s length in front of your hips. With your feet shoulder-width apart, squat down slightly in an athletic stance.

Step 2: Bracing your core, begin lifting and lowering each arm explosively in an alternating pattern. Move as fast as you can, sending shock waves down the length of each rope.

Step 3: Continue this movement for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat three times with ample rest in between.

P.S. Battle ropes are no longer reserved for gym-goers and boot camp devotees. With the right equipment and enough space, you can easily do this exercise at home. Try this lightweight option from the team at Tone It Up or this heavier one that has a five-star rating on Amazon.

A 10-Step, No-Equipment Workout for a Full Body Burn

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Executive Managing Editor

Catrina oversees content production across all PureWow verticals. When she's not managing editorial schedules, digital issues or newsletter production, you can find her...