20-Minute Core Workout

7 Exercises to Build Your Core Strength

Your core is a complex set of muscles that extend well beyond your abs. These interconnected muscles, stretching from the pelvis and diaphragm to the back and hips, provide strength and stability to both your upper and lower body.

To build your core quickly but effectively, focus on a routine that touches all major core muscles, including the pelvic floor muscles, traverse abdominal muscles, erector spine muscles, and obliques.

The 7 exercises included in this routine are not only appropriate for novice and advanced athletes, they take little more than 20 minutes to complete. The routine is also great as a warm-up. You can also try the 10-Minute summer ab circuit workout.


The Plank


Watch Now: How to Plank Your Way to a Stronger Core

The basic core routine begins with the plank, an exercise that actively engages all of the major core muscles.

To enter the pose, prop your upper body on your forearms and lower body on your toes. Keep your knees rigid and abdominal muscles taut. Do not allow your hips to drop or your upper back to sink between your shoulder blades.

As per the exercise's name, your body needs to be as stiff and straight as a plank. Hold the position for 15 to 60 seconds while inhaling and exhaling slowly. Do not pant or hold your breath.

To increase the intensity, extend one arm in front of you for 10 seconds and repeat on the other side. You can do the same with each leg. With each arm or leg extension, focus on engaging the muscles of the diaphragm, abdominals, hips, and lower back. 


Side Plank


Watch Now: Strengthen Your Hips with Side Planks

The side plank engages the lateral stabilizers that run from the ankle to the shoulder. The exercise not only increases lateral hip strength and stability but also helps keep the obliques strong.

To enter the pose, start in the plank position. As you begin to shift your weight to one arm, position your upper foot behind your lower foot to keep the body stable. Once stabilized, you can place your feet together. Do not allow your hips to sag. 

If feeling confident, you can extend your free arm toward the ceiling. Hold the position for 15 to 60 seconds while maintaining complete control of your core. Repeat on the other side.

To increase the intensity, lift the upper leg a few inches and hold it for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side.


V-Sit Pose


Watch Now: Build Core Strength with the V-Sit Exercise

The V-sit is an effective abdominal exercise that works the rectus abdominis, external obliques, and internal obliques. It also engages the hip flexors.

To do the V-sit, take a seated position on the floor. As you inhale slowly, contract your abdominal muscles while lifting your legs to a 45-degree angle. Reach forward to stabilize yourself or place your hands by your sides if you feel less than stable.

Hold the pose for 15 to 60 seconds. Relax for 15 to 20 seconds and repeat two more times. As you get stronger, increase the duration of the pose.


Bicycle Crunch


Watch Now: Bicycle Crunch Your Way to Better Abs

The bicycle crunch is a classic that works nearly all of your core muscles at once, especially the rectus abdominus and obliques.

To do the exercise, lay flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground. Rest your hands behind your head without yanking your neck. Bring one knee up to a 45-degree angle and keep the other straight.

You will then shift your legs back and forth as if peddling a bike, alternately extending one knee while lifting the other. As you do, touch your left elbow to your right knee and your right elbow to your left knee. Complete 10 to 25 reps on each side, keeping your movements deliberate and steady. Relax and complete two more sets.

As you get stronger, increase the number of reps per set.


The Bridge


Watch Now: Work Your Butt with the Bridge Exercise

The bridge exercise isolates the hamstrings, lower back, and gluteus muscles (buttocks). It is also a basic rehab exercise used to improve core strength and spine stability.

To enter the pose, start flat on your back with your knees bent, feet flat, and arms positioned by your sides. As you inhale slowly, tighten your ab and gluteus muscles while lifting your hips to create a straight line between the knees and shoulders. Hold the pose for 15 to 60 seconds without dropping the lower back or buttocks. 

To increase the intensity, lift one leg as high as you can and hold it for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side. As you get stronger, you can increase the duration of the pose.


Push-Up Lat Row


Watch Now: The Push Up With Lat Row is a Killer Two-in-One Exercise

The push-up lat row is an advanced exercise which combines a push-up with a dumbbell row. Not only does the added weight increase the intensity of the upper body workout, it activates both the core stabilizers and latissimus dorsi muscles of the middle back.

Start in a push-up position with each hand on a dumbbell. Alternately from one hand to the next, lift the weight as you inhale and lower it as you exhale. If you find that you are dropping the weight, change to a lighter weight that you can control from the first rep to the last.

During the movement, keep your abdominals taut and lower back straight. Do not let your hips drop or sway. Complete 10 reps on each side. Rest and complete two more sets. As you get stronger, you can increase the weight of the dumbbells.


Skip With a Twist


Watch Now: Skip Your Way to a Stronger Core

If using this core routine before a sporting event, you may want to add this final exercise. The aim of the skip with a twist is to engage the muscles used to rotate the hips, torso, and spine.

To do the exercise, find a level area with enough room to take 10 full leaping strides. Start by skipping forward 10 paces (five per side), swinging your arms freely from side to side. As you move, you would twist right as your right knee goes up and twist left as your left knee goes up.

Focus on keeping your core muscles taut but not rigid. Continue until your body is fully warmed up and your joints feel loose and relaxed.

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4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Youdas JW, Boor MM, Darfler AL, Koenig MK, Mills KM, Hollman JH. Surface electromyographic analysis of core trunk and hip muscles during selected rehabilitation exercises in the side-bridge to neutral spine positionSports Health. 2014;6(5):416-421. doi:10.1177/1941738114539266

  3. American Council on Exercise. Abs! Abs! Abs!. April 2014.