Do we need to explain why core workouts are crucial? At this point you likely know that damn near everything you do with your body, from pushing iron on a bench press (remember those days?) to pushing around a grocery cart gets your core firing. And while the quarantine era has waylaid our gym runs and our after-work jogs with friends, you can at least roll out your yoga mat for some planks and mountain climbers.
You probably think of your core as, essentially, your abs. Don't. Imagine the core as a pillar from your neck to your pelvis, suggests Dan Giordano, DPT, CSCS, and cofounder of Bespoke Treatments. “The stronger your pillar is, the stronger your entire body will be—all movements will either start at or be transferred through your pillar.”
Ergo, stronger core means more power. But core workouts aren't just for getting six packs and putting more oomph in your golf drives. Core workouts also improve your balance and stability. Strengthen that pillar, and you're more agile, more adept at picking up new movements, and you'll have less likelihood of tweaking a muscle that's trying to pick up the slack for a weak core. As just one example of the ripple effect that comes from focusing on your core: one Chinese study found that eight weeks of core strength workouts could even improve overall running economy and endurance (yes, please).
Here, five top trainers offer their take on a 10-minute core routine. If you’ve used the lockdown to power through your push-up progressions and read the entirety War and Peace, CONGRATS. You should still focus some of that energy on your core to even out an imbalances. For the rest of us, a great core workouts delivers some endorphins and hits a wide array of muscle groups—and doesn't have to take that long. If you rotate through them during the week, you’ll never get bored—but you will feel better.
You need: Your body
Do: Each of the first five exercises below for 60 seconds, before moving on to a three-minute AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) without rest.
High plank hold
Get in a high plank position with shoulders over wrists, a straight line from shoulder to ankle. Engage the core; hold.
Start lying face down on the floor with arms overhead, palms down. Engaging your core and glutes, lift arms and legs up off the ground. Hold for 2 counts, lower back down for one rep.
Bear plank shoulder taps
Start in tabletop position with your toes tucked and knees lifted a few inches off the ground. Your shoulders should be directly over your wrists. Engaging the core, and without allowing your weight to shift over to one side, lift your right hand up and tap the left shoulder. Repeat on the opposite side for one rep.
Start lying on your back with knees bent, feet on the ground, hands behind your head in a diamond shape. Simultaneously lift your knees up toward your chest and crunch up toward your waist, tapping your knees to elbows. Hold for three counts, lower down to start for one rep.
Hollow body full extension
Start lying on your back with your legs straight, and your arms extended overhead. Draw your belly button in toward your spine, pressing your lower back down to the floor, and keeping your knees together—lift your legs and arms a few inches off of the floor. Hold.
Rest one minute
Do 6 reps of each exercise before moving onto the next, aiming for 3 to 5 total rounds
Start lying face down on the floor with arms stretched out, palms down. Engaging your core and glutes, lift your arms and legs up off the ground. Hold for 2 counts, lower back down for one rep.
High plank with alternating shoulder tap
Start in a high plank position (a.k.a., push-up starting position). Engage the core, keep the hips level, and lift the right hand to tap the left shoulder for one rep. Return hand to start; Repeat on the opposite side.
Start in a high plank position with shoulders over wrists. Keep your elbows locked and your body in a straight line, while you lift your foot off the floor and drive your knee into your chest for one rep. Repeat quickly with the opposite leg.
Start lying on your back with knees bent, feet on the floor, hands behind the head creating a diamond shape. Crunch up toward the knees, engaging the core, lower back down for one rep.
You need: Bodyweight
Do: 20 reps of each exercise in order for a 10-minute AMRAP
Box pistol squat
With a bench or chair behind you, balance on your right leg with your left foot lifted out in front of you, knee straight and your hip angle as close to 90° as possible. Keeping your balance, slowly lower yourself down until your butt hits the back of the item below. Press back up to stand for one rep. Do 20 reps on one leg before switching to repeat on opposite side. The lower the item you choose, the harder this will be—make it difficult, but not impossible to do the reps.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands placed behind your head. Engage your core and hinge forward at the hips, keeping your back flat and allowing a slight bend in your knees. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, then return to start for one rep.
Start in a high plank position with shoulders directly over wrists. Keeping elbows close to the ribs, lower down into the bottom of a push-up position. Press back through the palms to return to start.
Your trainer: Giordano
You need: Bodyweight
Do: Exercise one for 30 seconds. Rest 15 seconds. Do exercise two for 30 seconds. Repeat once before moving onto the next superset.
Get into a forearm plank, shoulders directly over elbows, core engaged. Hold.
Forearm plank with alternating hip pips
Get into a forearm plank, shoulders directly over elbows, core engaged. Dip hips down toward the right side while keeping shoulders in place. Return to start. Repeat on the opposite side.
High Plank with alternating shoulder taps
Right side planks with reach through rotation
Start in a right side plank, with feet stacked and flexed, core engaged, and left arm in the air extending directly overhead, palm facing forward. Keeping the height on your plank, bring your left arm down to reach under you body. Return to start for one rep.
Left side planks with reach through rotation
Repeat on the opposite side to finish the superset.
Forearm plank with alternating single-arm reach
Get into a forearm plank, shoulders directly over elbows, core engaged. Without dipping your hips, extend your right arm forward. Return to start and repeat on the opposite side.
Your trainer: Mike Aidala, Denver-based trainer and movement specialist
You need: A mini band and a pair of socks
Do: Each exercise for 60 seconds before progressing to the next. Do the workout twice through.
Plank with band row
Start in a high plank with a band looped around a solid object in front of you—a couch leg or bed frame. Without dipping your hips, grab the band with one hand and pull the band in toward your chest. Continue to hold the band while rowing for 30 seconds; repeat on the opposite side.
Start in a high plank. Drive your right knee to your right wrist, then glide it up the arm as high as you can. Return to start. Continue for 30 seconds; repeat on the opposite side.
Start sitting on the ground with legs straight out in front of you, fingertips placed next to your thighs. Lean forward and lift your feet and legs off the ground—make sure your butt stays down. Hold for 2 seconds. That’s one rep.
Attach the band to something stationary at the height of your torso, like a door handle. Stand perpendicular to the band and get into an athletic stance. Hold onto the band with your arms straight. Move the arms like you're swinging a baseball bat as flat as possible to one side, pause, then make a controlled return to start. Try not to rotate your body, instead just move your arms. Continue for 30 seconds; repeat on opposite side.
Start in a high plank wearing socks. Engage your core and “walk” forward with your arms for 10 seconds, letting your feet slide, then “walk” backward to start for 10 seconds. Repeat.
You need: One medium-weight dumbbell
Do: Each move for 60 seconds. Rest 15 seconds between each.
High plank pass through
Start in a high plank with a dumbbell on the outside of your right hand. Engage your core and without dipping your hips, reach for the dumbbell with your left hand. Drag the dumbbell under and across your body, finishing with it by your left palm. Replace the palm, and repeat with the right hand.
Alternating single-arm hold leg raises
Start lying on your back with arms and legs straight up, holding the dumbbell by the handle with your right hand, palm facing in. Keeping your arms steady, drop your legs to just above the ground, then lift back to start. When your legs get back to center, switch the hand you’re holding the weight with. Continue, alternating hands with each rep.
Lying on your back with your legs straight and the weight in your right hand, bend your right leg and place your right foot flat on the floor. Press the weight straight above your right shoulder, keeping your elbow straight. Maintain your gaze at the dumbbell. Place your left arm out to your side so that it forms a 45-degree angle with your body, palm down. In one movement, push off your right foot to bring your weight upward. As your torso comes up, your weight shifts onto your left forearm. Making sure to keep watching the dumbbell, press away from the floor with your left hand while locking your elbow. You should be sitting up with your right arm fully extended. Pause at the top of this movement, then slowly return through the moves back to start. That’s one rep. Do one minute on the right side, rest 15 seconds, then repeat with one minute on the left side.
Kneeling lift and chop
Start in a half-kneeling position with right knee up and left knee on the ground, holding a dumbbell by the ends with both hands. Engage your core, and rotate the weight up and diagonal to the right, ending in a twisted overhead position. Reverse the motion back to your starting position for one rep. Do one minute on the right side. Rest 15 seconds; Repeat with one minute on the left side.
Plank to pike
Start in a high plank position holding a dumbbell in your right hand. Engage your core and lift your hips into a pike, balancing on your left hand and and bringing the dumbbell toward your right foot with your right hand. Return to a plank. Continue for 30 seconds, then switch hands and repeat on the opposite side.
Straight leg overhead sit-ups
Start by lying on the ground holding the dumbbell over your chest at both ends. Engage the core, keep your legs straight, and roll up into a tall sit-up position, keeping the weight directly overhead. Slowly lower down to start for one rep.