Strengthen Your Entire Core With This Quick, 4-Move Body-Weight Workout

a purple rectangular calendar graphic for the new year do you challenge listing the workout for each day with a beginner full-body workout on Sundays, a walk on Mondays, a beginner core workout on Tuesdays, cardio on Wednesdays, an intermediate full-body workout on Thursdays, an intermediate core workout on Fridays, and a mobility workout on Saturdays for the 31 days of January
a personal trainer wearing a teal tank top and gray leggings doing a side plank exercise during a body-weight core workout in a gym in front of a rack of kettlebells and dumbbells
Side planks strengthen the entire side of your body for better side-to-side and rotational movement.
Image Credit: Morit Summers/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

This 31-day body-weight workout challenge will inspire you to move more, no matter your starting point. Get all the details on the challenge here.

When you're getting ready for a strength-training session, think of yourself as a house. You need a solid foundation of strength to build on. That's why it's important to build core strength. Your core stabilizes your whole body and initiates pretty much every movement.

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Morit Summers, CPT, creator of Brooklyn-based training studio Form Fitness and host of our "New Year, Do You" Challenge, designed the following workout to activate and strengthen your body's powerhouse: your core (aka your abs, back and glutes). Strengthening these muscles ultimately helps you generate more power in your strength-training sessions.

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If you're doing the challenge, follow the weekly rep scheme below. If you're doing this workout on your own, increase or decrease the reps and sets based on your fitness level. You should be able to do all the reps with good form, but the last two should feel challenging.

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In between sets and exercises, rest for 20 to 40 seconds. You won't feel fully rested (like you were before your workout) but you should feel ready to tackle the next set.

Reps and Sets Per Exercise

Sets

Side Plank

Crunch

Bird Dog

Dolphin Plank

Week 1

2

20 sec./side

15

5/side

10

Week 2

3

20 sec./side

15

5/side

10

Week 3

3

30 sec./side

20

6/side

12

Week 4

4

30 sec./side

20

5/side

10

Week 5

4

30 sec./side

20

6/side

12

4 Body-Weight Moves to Strengthen Your Core

The "New Year, Do You" Challenge is accessible to all fitness levels. That's why we're providing a main move and at least one modification or variation.

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In the videos below, you'll see one trainer — either Summers or her Form Fitness co-founder Francine Delgado-Lugo — demonstrating the base exercise along with a modification or variation from the other trainer. Choose the version of the exercise that works best for you.

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1. Side Plank (shown on right)

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Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Lie on your side with your legs and feet stacked on top of each other, just like Summers (right).
  2. Prop yourself up on your forearm.
  3. Keeping your knees straight, engage your abs and lift your hips off the ground, balancing on your forearm and bottom foot. Place your other hand on your hip or extend it up toward the ceiling.
  4. Hold for the given amount of time, then slowly lower back down.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Modifications and Variations

To make this move a little easier, drop to your knees while you hold a side plank (shown on the left).

2. Crunch (shown on left)

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Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor (shown on the left).
  2. Bring your hands behind your head so your elbows flare out to the sides. Your hands can overlap and rest on your head, but they should not tug on your neck.
  3. Exhale, contract your abs and lift your head and shoulder blades off the ground. Your neck can curl slightly, but it shouldn't strain toward your chest.
  4. Inhale as you lower back down so your head is hovering just off the ground and repeat.

Modifications and Variations

For more of a challenge, hold your knees at a 90-degree angle so your shins are parallel to the floor as you crunch (shown on the right).

3. Bird Dog (shown on left)

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Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. As Delgado-Lugo demonstrates on the left, start on your hands and knees with your hands directly in line with your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips.
  2. On an exhale, reach your right arm straight out in front of you until your upper arm is in line with your ear.
  3. Simultaneously reach your left leg straight behind you, fully extending your knee.
  4. Pause here for a moment before reversing the motion, crunching your knee into your elbow to complete one rep.
  5. Finish all your reps on one side before switching.

Modifications and Variations

For an added challenge for the bird dog, lift your knees off the ground and hover there as you move one limb at a time, tapping either your hand or foot a few inches behind or in front of you (shown on the right).

4. Dolphin Plank (shown on right)

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Start in a forearm plank, balancing on your forearms and toes and maintaining a straight line from head to hips to heels (shown on right).
  2. Hinge at your hips as you raise them up toward the ceiling, drawing in your bellybutton to protect your lower back.
  3. With control, lower back down into a forearm plank and repeat.

Modifications and Variations

You can also perform the dolphin plank from a high plank, balancing on your hands instead of your forearms (shown on the left).

Follow Along With the Challenge

Use the calendar below to help you stay on track with the "New Year, Do You" Challenge. Do the workout listed, then check off each day as you complete it. (Get a printer-friendly version here.)

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Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com Creative

​Back to the "New Year, Do You" Challenge

Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com Creative

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