[For a more thorough introduction to this workout, please see this post.]
The Core Workout is a quick, high intensity routine that combines weight lifting with cardio to help you build stronger legs, abs, back, butt, and shoulders. It should only take about 20 – 30 minutes to complete (depending on how much rest you give yourself between exercises) and is great as a stand-alone workout, or combined with a few other strength training exercises and/or cardio.
On my lifting days, I do The Core first and view it as my primary workout for the day. I typically follow it up with about 30-minutes of either cross training or running, depending on how I’m feeling (less if I’m exhausted…more if I’m feeling great).
The premise is simple: do a circuit of 7 different exercises (with 20 reps each), and then repeat. The key is to do slow and controlled movements, focusing on keeping your core tight. The workout can be made more or less intense depending on how much rest you take and/or how much weight you use – the heavier the weights and the less rest between moves, the harder the workout.
You should start noticing results within a few weeks!
What you will need:
Comfortable workout clothes – you are going to be doing a lot of bending and squatting, so wear something loose-fitting that is easy to move in
A set of free-weights, ranging in size
A complete lack of self-consciousness** – I’m serious about this one. The first time I went back to my tiny school weight room that was packed with huge, scantily clad, body-builder-esque guys, I actually chickened out and didn’t complete the workout.
(Disclaimer: I am not a certified trainer and did not come up with this workout. All credit for it actually goes to my Mom. Furthermore, the names listed below for each exercise may or may not be the technical names. This is just what I call them.
Also, I want to give a special thanks to my tall assistant for helping me demonstrate these moves in our classy, high-tech basement gym.)
Stiff-Legged Deadlift x 20
Regular Squats x 20
Squat Shoulder Press x 20
Sumo Squat x 20
“Here Comes the Bride” x 20
Sumo Squat w/ One Arm Raise x 20
Renegade Row x 20 with each arm (40 total)
(Again, I’m not a professional. So please excuse the less-than perfect form)
Pre-Core “Warm-up” Exercise
I always start off the circuit by doing the following 3 exercises that primarily work your shoulders, arms and upper back – but also require core stabilization. I move right from one to the other, going through every exercise twice before stopping.
Grab your weights! (I have 10 pounds)
b.) Lift arms out to the side, then lower x10
Keeping back straight, bend forward at waist, stopping to smile at the camera…
c.) Keeping your arms stiff, press shoulders together to lift weights. Return to starting position and repeat (x10)
Stand up, and go through the upper body circuit one more time (3 moves, 10 reps each).
All warmed up? Great! Let’s begin…
1.) Stiff-Legged Deadlifts
Grab a weight in each hand, stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and knees slightly bent but locked.
Stand up slowly, keeping your knees slightly bent and focusing on tightening your hamstrings, abs, and butt to lift the weight – not your back. The goal is to use your core and legs, though you will also feel it in your lower back.
2.) Regular Squats
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and a weight in each hand. Hold weights around hip-level.
3.) Squat Shoulder Press
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, one weight in each hand. Hold hands just above shoulders.
4.) Sumo Squats
Spread legs about double shoulder width apart. Hold one weight with both hands.
5.) “Here Comes the Bride” (name credit goes to my Dad, who thinks it looks like you’re a bride holding out a bouquet of flowers)
Again, start with feet out about double shoulder-width apart and hold one weight in both hands. Go into a sumo squat, but keep your arms low (I use a lighter weight for this exercise than I do for the sumo squats.)
6.) Sumo Squat + One Arm Raise
For a variation on this move, while standing up, raise your arm up and out straight, moving it slightly to the outside of your body until it’s about parallel to the floor. Doing this move (or raising your arm up and across your body) will more specifically work your oblique muscles.
Return to starting position. Do 20 reps.
7) Renegade Rows
Alright, you’re almost through the first set! Lucky for you, we’ve saved the best for last! …and by best, I mean the toughest (though it’s also the most effective). So take a quick break and get some water, because if you’re not sweating yet – you will be soon!
This move requires you to keep your abs and butt tight for stabilization and balance.
Grab two weights (one in each hand) and get down in push-up position, with your legs spread slightly further apart than they would be when doing a normal push-up.
The key here is to keep your body rigid – and to maintain your balance (squeezing your butt and tightening your legs are especially helpful here). Once you decide which arm you are going to lift first, transfer your weight to the opposite hand and foot. Your back should be slightly curved.
Using your back muscles, lift one arm up and into your chest, trying not to twist your hips. It’s important to not just pull up with your biceps here. You should feel like you’re leading with your elbow – your arm is just the hook that has the weight on it.
With a slow and even movement, return the weight to the floor (don’t just drop it!). Transfer your weight to the other side of your body and repeat. Do a total of 20 reps (1 rep = left side + right side).
A quick side note: I have read that the best way to do the rowbacks is actually with higher weights and LOW reps. But I’ve always done the opposite. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a certified personal trainer, but this is the method that has always worked for me. Would you get better results doing it the “traditional” way? Maybe. But I can guarantee that you’ll feel these!
Congratulations! You’ve made it through the first set!! Now drop your weights, take a gulp of water – and get ready to do the whole thing again!
I’d love to hear any comments or questions about the workout you might have. Let me know below, or shoot me an email!
**I just realized that for the past month or so, I’ve been proclaiming that you need a lack of self-confidence in order to do The Core. This couldn’t be further from the truth! You need complete confidence in yourself to do this workout…when you’re doing 500 squats and weird push-up type things with weights in your hands, you’ve got to strut your stuff! What I meant to write was that you need a lack of self-consciousness, so that you don’t worry about what other people think of your crazy moves. Sorry about that — it’s funny how one little typo can change the meaning of a sentence so much!