20-Minute Core Workout

7 fast, effective exercises to build your core strength

Building a strong core is the same as any other group of muscles; you need the proper routine that is effective and efficient. This 20-minute core workout provides both—challenging movements that will work all aspects of your core in a short time frame that can be added to the end of any training session or completed on its own.

Strong core muscles help support your pelvis and stabilize your spine, reducing your risk of low back pain and boosting athletic performance. Your balance and stability will improve, lowering fall and injury risks.

What Is Your Core?

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 your upper and lower body. They include the pelvic floor muscles, traverse abdominals, erector spine muscles, and obliques.

The 7 exercises with video demonstrations included in this routine are appropriate for novice and advanced athletes. The routine is also great as a warm-up. Read on for the complete workout instructions.

We've tried, tested, and reviewed the best core strength and stability gear. If you're in the market for some gear for your core workouts, explore which option may be best for you.

Core Workouts to Try

  1. Plank
  2. Side plank
  3. V-sit pose
  4. Bicycle crunch
  5. Bridge
  6. Push-up lat row
  7. Skip with a twist

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 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 your abdominal muscles taut. Do not let your hips drop or your upper back sink between your shoulder blades.

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.

Extend one arm in front of you for 10 seconds to increase the intensity and repeat on the other side. You can do the same with each leg. With each arm or leg extension, focus on engaging the diaphragm muscles, 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 increases lateral hip strength and stability and helps keep the obliques strong.

To enter the pose, start in the plank position. As you shift your weight to one arm, position your upper foot behind your lower foot to stabilize the body. 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.

Lift the upper leg a few inches and hold it for 10 seconds to increase the intensity. 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 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 simultaneously, 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 an essential rehab exercise to improve core strength and spine stability.

Start flat on your back with your knees bent, feet flat, and arms positioned by your sides to enter the pose. 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 possible 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 that combines a push-up with a dumbbell row. Not only does the added weight increase the intensity of the upper body workout, but it also 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 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 your 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 skip with a twist aims to engage the muscles that rotate the hips, torso, and spine.

Find a level area with enough room to take 10 full leaping strides to do the exercise. 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.

A Word From Verywell

A strong core will protect your spine, increase your performance with other lifts and movements, and create a sturdy, stable base for all other activities. An effective core workout does not need to be complicated or long. With the proper programming and movements, you can see results with a 20 minute focus on your core. Consistency is key, so add this routine to your current schedule twice a week for best results.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do core workouts burn belly fat?

    Core workouts do not directly burn belly fat. If your core workout, or any other physical activity, helps you create a calorie deficit needed to lose weight, you will lose abdominal fat along with fat and other tissue on the rest of your body.

  • What core workout should I do every day?

    Every day you perform compound weight lifting exercises, you will work out your core. You can also perform specific exercises for your core, but it's best to space these 24 to 48 hours apart to allow the muscles to heal.

  • What are the signs of a weak core?

    Signs of a weak core include back pain, instability, poor posture, injuries, and falls. Your core includes your abdominals, back muscles, and glutes and supports your spine and pelvis. A weak core can cause pain or issues with these areas of your body.

  • What is the most effective core workout?

    The most effective core workout is performing compound lifts such as barbell squats and deadlifts. These exercises work to strengthen and stabilize your entire core, including back, abdominals, and glutes, in a natural, functional way. You can perform isolated core exercises for additional work such as a plank or bridge.

9 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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  4. 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

  5. American Council on Exercise. Abs! Abs! Abs!.


  7. Monteiro ER, Vingren JL, Corrêa Neto VG, Neves EB, Steele J, Novaes JS. Effects of different between test rest intervals in reproducibility of the 10-repetition maximum load test: A pilot study with recreationally resistance trained menInt J Exerc Sci. 2019;12(4):932-940. PMID:31523350

  8. International Journal of Applied Research. Prevalence core muscle weakness in 18-25 years old females

  9. van den Tillaar R, Saeterbakken AH. Comparison of core muscle activation between a prone bridge and 6-rm back squats. Journal of Human Kinetics. 2018;62(1):43-53. doi:10.1515%2Fhukin-2017-0176

By Elizabeth Quinn, MS
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.