Fire Up Your Core With This 20-Minute Beginner Workout

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Building a solid core can be the foundation of so many movements. Whether you’re interested in running, weight lifting, or even just hoping to eliminate lower-back pain—a strong core can help you get there. And that’s exactly why we’ve designed a whole Sweat With SELF series on this exact topic. 

Led by athletic trainer Liz Letchford, Ph.D., ATC, and coach Paul Wright, this 20-minute beginner core workout is the first in a six-part series designed to help you learn how to correctly engage, and ultimately strengthen, your core.

Now, your core isn’t only your “six-pack abs” on the front of your torso. Your core includes everything from your lower back and abs to your deep abdominal wall, hips, glutes, and pelvic floor, as SELF previously explained.

Knowing how to properly engage this large muscle group can lead to big rewards. Your core muscles are what allow you to do a ton of important activities, like rotating, resisting rotation, stabilizing your torso, maintaining good posture, and keeping your balance. By activating and using your core so that it does all of these movements properly, you’ll be able to move more efficiently and effectively, and lower your risk of injury, as SELF previously reported.

In this beginner core workout video, Dr. Letchford will show you how to properly engage your core. Then you’ll put that education into practice with a circuit-style workout of four exercises that all aim to strengthen your midsection. You’ll then finish on a gentle note with some easy stretches.

If you’re ready to seriously fire up your core, grab a mat and follow along with the video below. Or, if you already feel pretty solid about your core engaging abilities, simply keep scrolling for detailed workout directions and GIFs of each move.

Workout Directions

Start with the dynamic warm-up. Do each exercise for the designated time, resting about 5 seconds between each move.

Next, do the workout. Do each exercise for the designated time, resting about 5 seconds in between each move. Repeat the workout two more times, resting 20 seconds between each round.

Finish with the cool-down. Do each exercise for 15 seconds, resting about 5 seconds between each move.


Dynamic Warm-Up

  • Overhead Reach to Forward Fold x 20 seconds
  • Shoulder Press x 20 seconds
  • Leg Extension From Tabletop x 40 seconds
  • High Plank x 30 seconds


  • Dead Bug x 45 seconds
  • Side Plank x 30 seconds on each side
  • Opposite Arm and Leg Lift x 45 seconds
  • Superhero Hold x 30 seconds

Rest for 20 seconds. Repeat the circuit two more times.

Cool Down

  • Kneeling Backbend x 15 seconds
  • Kneeling Side Stretch x 15 seconds on each side

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