Over 50? This 20-Minute Core Workout Builds Functional Strength and Back Health

Medium shot of mature woman relaxing in reclining bound angle pose during class in yoga studio
This back-friendly core workout for over 50 will help you build strong, stable abs — without any back pain.
Image Credit: Thomas Barwick/DigitalVision/GettyImages

Want to age well? Look to your core. Having a strong core is crucial for your health and wellbeing, and it's even more important through the aging process.

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Think of your core like the foundation of a house, says Rami Hashish, PhD, DPT, founder of the National Biomechanics Institute. When that foundation is weak, the house is vulnerable. And the same is true about a weak core.

"In physical medicine and rehabilitation, we commonly say that 'it all starts with your core,' as weakness in your core can limit your ability to be active, resulting in your body becoming even more de-conditioned and weak over time," he says.

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Meanwhile, if you have a strong, sturdy core, your balance, stability and posture all improve — helping to safeguard you from lower back pain and even falls. But that's not all.

"It can help your ability to be active in life's most pleasurable activities, whether that's playing with your kids or grandkids, going for a hike with friends or spending the day on the golf course," he says.

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Get ready for your best decade yet with this 20-workout core workout for over 50, designed and demoed by Hashish.

​​Check out more of our 20-minute workouts here – we've got something for everyone.

A 20-Minute Core Workout for Over 50

Five moves make up this back-friendly core workout, which is designed as a circuit. That means you'll do all five exercises once, rest for about a minute, then do the circuit a second time. Aim to do this workout three times a week.

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Move 1: Superman

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Reps 10
Time 10 Sec
  1. Lie facedown on the floor with your arms extended overhead and your elbows by your ears. Brace your core.
  2. Keeping your head in line with your back, lift your arms and legs off the floor at the same time.
  3. Hold this position for up to 10 seconds, then lower back to the floor.

Modifications

Make the superman exercise easier by lifting only one of your arms and legs with each rep. Try raising your right arm and left leg at the same time, then repeat with your left arm and right leg.

Add a challenge by holding the top position for more time.

Move 2: Glute Bridge

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Reps 10
Time 10 Sec
  1. Lie face-up on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and hip-width apart. Place your arms at your sides. Brace your core.
  2. Squeeze your glutes to raise your hips off the floor until there’s a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
  3. Hold this position for up to 10 seconds.
  4. Slowly lower your hips to start.

Modifications

Decrease the challenge of your glute bridge by holding the top position for less time.

You can also increase it by adding time or doing the move with your legs extended and shins balanced on top of a stability ball.

Move 3: Knee Plank

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Reps 1
Time 30 Sec
  1. Get on the floor on your hands and knees with wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  2. Lower onto your forearms, keeping them shoulder-width apart. Check that your elbows are directly under your shoulders.
  3. Brace your core to keep your back straight.
  4. Hold this position for a total of 30 seconds.

Modifications

Can't hold a plank for 30 seconds? That's OK! Only hold the pose as long as you can maintain tip-top form.

When the exercise starts to feel easy, progress to a forearm plank.

Move 4: Heel Touch

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Reps 10
  1. Lie face-up on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and hip-width apart. Place your arms at your sides. Brace your core.
  2. Keeping your chin tucked and lower back pressed into the floor, slide your torso to the right to try to touch your right heel with your right hand.
  3. Return to start and repeat on the left side for 1 rep.

Modifications

Stick with a pain-free range of motion. If that means you can't reach your toes, that's cool.

If you want more of a core burn, hover your feet about an inch over the floor throughout the exercise.

Move 5: Bird Dog

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Reps 5
Time 10 Sec
  1. Get on all fours with your spine and head in neutral and knees hip-width apart. Brace your core so your back forms a straight tabletop position.
  2. Extend your left arm forward to shoulder height and your right leg behind you to hip height so they’re in line with your torso and parallel with the floor.
  3. Hold this position for up to 10 seconds.
  4. Lower back to the starting position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg for 1 rep.

Modifications

New to the bird dog exercise? Start with an arms-only version, keeping your knees and the balls of your feet on the floor at all times.

To make the core exercise harder, hold the top position for more time or add ankle weights.

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