The Core

[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
  • Water
  • 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.

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.)

The Circuit

  1. Stiff-Legged Deadlift x 20
  2. Regular Squats x 20
  3. Squat Shoulder Press x 20
  4. Sumo Squat x 20
  5. “Here Comes the Bride” x 20
  6. Sumo Squat w/ One Arm Raise x 20
  7. Renegade Row x 20 with each arm (40 total)

The Moves

(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)

DSC_0476 a.) Lift arms up in front of you, then lower x10


b.) Lift arms out to the side, then lower x10


Keeping back straight, bend forward at waist, stopping to smile at the camera…

DSC_0482DSC_0483Keep weights low and arms bent

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…

The Core

1.) Stiff-Legged Deadlifts

Grab a weight in each hand, stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and knees slightly bent but locked.

DSC_0433 Bend over at the waist, touching the weights to your feet.

DSC_0434Those with longer legs will have further to go. 😉

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.

DSC_0435Return to start. Do 20 reps.

2.) Regular Squats

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and a weight in each hand. Hold weights around hip-level.

DSC_0437Squat as if you’re sitting down in a chair, holding weights steady.

DSC_0438 Slowly stand up. Do 20 reps.

3.) Squat Shoulder Press

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, one weight in each hand. Hold hands just above shoulders.

DSC_0440Squat, keeping weights on shoulders.

DSC_0441Slowly stand up and then press both arms over head.

DSC_0444Lower weights to starting position and repeat. Do 20 reps.

4.)  Sumo Squats

Spread legs about double shoulder width apart. Hold one weight with both hands.

DSC_0446 Slowly lower into a squatting position, keeping weight steady.

DSC_0447 Clench your butt and slowly stand up, focusing on keeping pelvis tucked and butt tight. Return to starting position. Do 20 reps.

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.)


DSC_0450Slowly raise back up, clenching your butt as you go. As you’re doing so, extend your arms up (keeping them straight) until they are parallel to the floor. Weight should be out in front of your face.

DSC_0452 Lower weight back down to starting positing and repeat. Do 20 reps.

6.) Sumo Squat + One Arm Raise

Start off with legs double shoulder-width apart – this time holding one weight in one hand.DSC_0455 Squat down, keeping weight low and eyes forward.

DSC_0456 Slowly stand up and then perform a one-arm shoulder press (as shown below):


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.

DSC_0462I was trying to look tough here – instead I just looked pained thinking about what’s to come.

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.

DSC_0473Using 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.

DSC_0465 Ideally, you should try to keep your body and hips even straighter than this – which you can do by keeping your legs further apart and curving your back

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!

35 Responses to The Core

  1. Wow, that is some serious weight you are throwing around. 😉 The workout looks great. I so need to do more weights/strength training…it seems like all I do is run and yoga.

  2. Great looking workout. The tall girl looks very intense.

    I tried it and you are right, it really is a workout! The second set was much harder than the first, but it felt so great to be done. People shouldn’t worry about being sore because this is a good sore. Thanks for sharing!

  3. You two girls are Super Fit!! I am impressed!

  4. Here comes the bride, love it! Fantastic pics, we’re all visual learners. I get my tricks from Women’s Health but your workout definitely gets all your muscles going.

  5. Um, I just did my first series. All I can say is HOLY CRAP. Those renegade rows and I are NOT friendly. I’m going to go pass out now.

  6. Whoops, it looks like I got distracted again.

    I just wanted to say that “Here comes the Bride” made me laugh.

  7. […] this amount of soreness. Then I opened my computer and Firefox popped back up with the window to Health on the Run, on The Core page.  There it is. I forgot. I did this circuit with the only weights I had (only 5 […]


  9. […] “Here Comes the Bride” squat – 20x – 10 lb. weight  –> Thanks, Lauren, for this one!  It hurt so good! […]

  10. […] “Here Comes the Bride” squat – 15x – 1 10 lb. weight […]

  11. I have been doing this at least 2x per week and I have lost 10 lbs since May! Michele Obama isn’t the only one with the right to bare arms, this workout makes me love my shoulders again! Great challenge!

  12. Wow! I just finished The Core for the first time – what a great workout! I stumbled across your website, and this workout caught my attention. Thanks for sharing – the sweat is pouring down my face!

  13. I tried The Core yesterday and I loved it! Thanks for sharing! With your descriptions and the photos, it was really easy to follow the workout.
    Steel Springs´s last post ..Confessions

  14. In did this workout this morning after finding your blog via Tina tweeting about it. This is a great great workout

    • Thanks for the feedback! I’m glad you tried it! I’m actually just trying to get back into doing it regularly now and it’s really tough to start all over again.

  15. Just stumbled on your website and I am so inspired! I’m currently preparing myself to begin training in the fall for my first marathon next January and I couldn’t be more nervous and excited at the same time! Although I ran track all through high school, long distance will be something to get used to. The Core will definitely be a part of my training plan and I can tell I’ll be coming back to this website frequently to get ideas for meals and such.

  16. Page just bookmarked! :) I’ve been needing to kick it up a little and this is it! Thanks for sharing!

  17. I started following (stalking?) your blog a few weeks ago. I LOVE it. Anyway, I tried the Core yesterday in my attempt to become as awesome and speedy as you… and holy mother am I sore!! More sore than after my last marathon. And in all the places my physical therapist is always complaining are weak so, thank you!! Now I’m going to collapse on my heating pad. :)

    Love your blog!

  18. […] broad: It can be a new group fitness class or a new strength training move (I bookmarked this workout a while ago but haven’t tried any of it yet). Just nine new somethings, however big or […]

  19. […] Workout: “The Core” – A great and intense workout by the beautiful runner Lauren (Health on the Run). I tried this out myself and I must say it IS intense. But it feels amazing. I was sore the morning after and I knew I would be, but I love to be able to feel that I actually did something great to my body. […]

  20. […] worked out four days this week: a 15-mile bike ride on Thursday, the Core workout on Saturday (which knocked me out for 2 days. Lauren is not playing around with this […]

  21. Lauren I have been following your site since it was featured in Fitness magazine. I have been a runner for the last 15 months and really enjoy your posts. I keep setting small goals for myself, my last hurdle was being able to do 25 push ups. It was tough. When I first started I was lucky to be able to do 5. Now that I made it to 25, I will give your routine a try. It looks hard, but I know I can do at least start it with less reps. You are real inspiration! Thank you for giving people like me motivation, and also keeping your running life trials and tributes so real.

  22. […] to work on my core to better my running form and increase my endurance.  When I stumbled upon The Core on Lauren’s blog, I was pumped; it combines core with leg and arm strength.  I decided to […]

  23. […] the run I wanted to do one of my favorite strength and core routines – “The Core” by Lauren at Health on the Run. Since I haven`t done strength work in weeks it was quite […]

  24. […] (2 kg each as a start) yesterday, I was excited to try them out right away. My workout of choice? The Core by Lauren (Health on the Run), once again! Last time I did one set of the main part, yesterday I […]

  25. So happy to have just found your blog and I absolutely love it!!

    This workout is *exactly* what I’ve been looking for! I’ve been awful about doing any strength training consistently, and really want to add it back to my routine.
    Kelli @ The Corner Kitchen´s last post ..Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts {Guest Post}

  26. Thanks for sending me this, Lauren! I’m pretty sure it’s going to kill me :) I only have 5 pound weights right now, but I’m going to do this tonight when I get home and I’m sure I will be incredibly sore tomorrow. I will have a long way to go and will have to buy some more weights, for sure!

  27. […] The Core from Lauren at HealthOnTheRun. Her post has helpful photos so you can make sure you’re doing the moves right. I really like this one. […]

  28. […] After breakfast, I got a little work done and then got ready for my workout. I had a strength workout on the agenda today: Health on the Run’s The Core […]

  29. […] a bit before finally getting started on my workout at 10 a.m. I started with strength and did The Core workout again! This time I did the whole thing one time through and the first three exercises a […]

  30. […] I’m going to be strength-training 2-3 times per week, and I’ll mostly be using “The Core” strength program from Health on the […]

  31. […] – Lift ( + abs –> this made me SO sore the next […]

  32. […] – remember when I used to lift?!  Yeah, me neither. I was going to elliptical (nice and easy) before my 8:30 biochem exam just to […]

  33. […] – lift I SO need to get back to lifting more regularly – this left me SO sore Friday and especially […]

  34. […] The Core (woof) from one of my favorite bloggers + Flywheel at the end of a long work week (I promise […]

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