If you’re just getting started exercising—or if you’re planning on starting very soon—a beginner core workout is probably one of the main routines you’d like to put on your list. But there are some things you should know before you dive into just any core routine.
For one, the most important thing beginners should focus on is training their core to resist movement, ACE-certified personal trainer Sivan Fagan, owner of Strong with Sivan, tells SELF. That means before you start bringing motion into the mix, like with common exercises such as crunches, you first should work on training anti-movement moves.
“The main thing is to learn how to brace your core, how to maintain a neutral spine, and how to co-contract all your core muscles, from front to back, top to bottom, in order to protect your spine,” Fagan says. “To do this, we’re not going to create movement right away.”
The benefit of this, along with building strength in your core—which includes your abdominal muscles, as well as those in your lower back and pelvic area—is to build a solid foundation that’ll help you progress in any strength-training move you do. That’s because every exercise (think: squats, deadlifts, overhead press, and rows) requires enough core stability to be able to resist rotating, extending, leaning, or flexing to keep your form on target to complete the move properly. If your core isn’t able to resist that movement, that’s when your chances of feeling pain in your lower back increase, says Fagan.
The best core exercises for beginners train this anti-movement through a bunch of different ways: anti-extension (when you resist hyperextending or arching your lower back), anti-rotation (when you resist the pull of your torso to turn or rotate), and anti-lateral flexion (when you resist leaning to the side.)
You’ll be doing all of these moves in this beginner core workout below created by Fagan. There are just three exercises here, but they combine to create a solid core workout that will help you build a strong, effective fitness base.
“Once you nail these and get stronger with these moves, then later on, you can add different exercises that create movement, rather than only focusing on resisting movement,” says Fagan.
Ready to get started? Here’s what you need for this bodyweight beginner core workout.
What you need: An exercise mat for comfort.
- Dead bug
- Bird dog
- Forearm side plank
- Perform 8-15 reps per side of the dead bug, 6-12 reps per side of the bird dog, and hold the side plank for 20-45 seconds per side. Rest as needed if you feel your form begin to falter. Complete the circuit 2 to 3 times total.