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A beginner core workout that requires zero crunches

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These three moves are seriously foundational.

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, for example, 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 will 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, created by Fagan, below.

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 focusing only on resisting movement,” says Fagan.

Ready to get started? Here’s what you need for this bodyweight beginner core workout.

The 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.

Demoing the moves below are Rachel Denis (GIFs 1 & 2), a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting, and Crystal Williams (GIF 3), a group fitness instructor and trainer.

1 Dead Bug

• Lie faceup with your arms extended toward the ceiling and your legs in a tabletop position (knees bent 90 degrees and stacked over your hips). This is the starting position.

• Slowly extend your right leg out straight while simultaneously dropping your left arm overhead parallel to the floor.

Keep both a few inches from the ground. Squeeze your butt and keep your core engaged the entire time, lower back pressed into the floor.

• Bring your arm and leg back to the starting position.

• Repeat on the other side, extending your left leg and your right arm.

• Continue for 8 to 15 reps per side. The dead bug is an anti-extension exercise, where your body must resist arching your lower back as you move your arms and legs.

2. Bird Dog

• Start on your hands and knees in tabletop position with your wrists stacked under your shoulders and your knees stacked under your hips. This is the starting position.

• Extend your right arm forward and left leg back, maintaining a flat back and keeping your hips in line with the floor. Think about driving your foot toward the wall behind you.

• Squeeze your abs and return your arm and leg to starting position. This is 1 rep.

• Do 6 to 12 reps. Then repeat with the other arm and leg. The bird dog is an anti-rotation exercise, where your core fights to resist leaning from side to side as you work to keep your shoulders and hips even.

3 Forearm Side Plank

• Lie on your right side propping your body up on your right forearm, with your elbow stacked underneath your shoulder and your hand in front of your body.

• Extend your legs and stack your left foot on top of your right, and then squeeze your abs and glutes to lift your hips off the floor. Extend your left hand straight up toward the ceiling.

• Hold here for 20 to 45 seconds, then switch sides. The forearm side plank is an anti-lateral flexion exercise, where your body must resist leaning to the side.

To make this move easier, you can bend your right leg to 90 degrees, leaving it on the mat instead of stacked, and keep your left leg extended.

This article first appeared on Self US | Author: Christa Sgobba, C.P.T.

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