Core Stacked Circuit Workout

Core Stacked Circuit Workout - this one takes just 13 minutes and you'll add on an exercise each roundYour third and final installment of this workout series! If you missed it, Monday was lower body; yesterday was upper body; and today we’ll finish with core. Again, you can do all three circuits back-to-back for a 45-minute full body workout (same structure as Burn’s Power class) or just pick the muscle group on which you feel like focusing.

Core Stacked Circuit Workout

Equipment I Used:

This circuit will take you just 13 minutes to complete. You stay on each exercise for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds after each round, and add on an exercise each round. Confused? Here’s what the start of the workout looks like:

Exercise 1
Rest
Exercise 1 + Exercise 2
Rest
Exercise 1 + Exercise 2 + Exercise 3
Rest

So the first round is only 30 seconds long (one exercise) and the sixth and final round is 3 minutes long (all six exercises). You’ll do exercise 1 (side plank dips with top crunch) six times and exercise 6 (russian twists) only once at the very end. Even though the length of time you’re working gets longer and longer, you only get 30 seconds of rest each time. I set my interval timer for 26 rounds of 30 seconds of work and 0 seconds of rest so that it beeps at me every 30 seconds, but you could also just watch the clock. Core Stacked Circuit Workout - this one takes just 13 minutes and you'll add on an exercise each round

  1. Side Plank Lift ‘n Crunch (alternate side each round) | Start in a side plank with your right hand on the floor directly underneath your shoulder. From here, lower your hips towards the floor and then engage that right sidebody to lift the hips back up. Next, crunch your left knee in towards your left elbow while keeping your hips up (don’t let them sag down as you do the crunch—right oblique is still engaged!).
  2. Plank to Pike to Bear Crunch Sliders | Start in a plank position with your feet on a towel or sliders. Keeping your hips level with your shoulders, back flat, slide your feet forward, bending your knees in towards your elbows. Slide feet back out, straightening your legs into plank position. Now, keeping your legs straight, pike your hips up into the air, bringing your body into an upside down “v” shape. Try to keep your heels lifted as you do this, sliding on the balls of your feet. Once you hit your peak (if you have tight hamstrings, you may not be able to get your hips up very high—that’s ok!), slowly lower back down into plank position.
  3. Army Crawl | Put your feet on a towel or sliders and get into a plank with your forearms at the end of an exercise mat. Army crawl your way up the length of the mat, one forearm in front of the other, maintaining the plank position as you slide forward. When you can no longer go any farther forward, reverse the motion, crawling your forearms backward towards the starting edge of the mat. As you move, try to keep your hips level in a plank. They’ll want to dip side to side with each step of the forearms; use your core strength to stabilize them. Beginners: you can do these from your knees, just make sure to add an extra towel for padding.
  4. Dumbbell Toe Touches | Lay on your back with legs extended straight up in the air, feet flexed. Hold a weight in both hands and crunch up, reaching your hands towards your toes. Lower back down a few inches and repeat. To make these more challenging, you never lower all the way down; shoulders stay lifted off the floor the entire time. The hardest part of this exercise for me is just keeping my legs straight—holy tight hammies! Adding a soft bend to the knees will make these easier, but try your best to keep those legs straight.
  5. Dumbbell Full Body Crunch | Start laying on your back with legs outstretched and hovering a couple inches off the ground. Holding a weight in your hands, arms should be outstretched overhead and hovering as well. From this starting position, crunch up, bringing your knees in towards your chest as you lift your shoulderblades off the ground and bring the weight up and over towards your shins. Extend back out, lowering to starting position. The goal is to never bring the legs and/or weight to rest on the ground when you extend back out.
  6. Russian Twist | Start seated, holding a dumbbell in both hands at your chest, feet lifted off the ground with your knees bent. Lean back slightly, core engaged, balancing on your tailbone. Twist to one side, bringing the dumbbell to the outer side of that hip; then repeat in the other direction. Really twist at the waist—you want your chest to be totally facing whatever side you’re bringing the weight.

Core Stacked Circuit Workout - this one takes just 13 minutes and you'll add on an exercise each roundWEARING | tank: Spiritual Gangster (old but similar here) // leggings: c/o Eddie Bauer (old but similar here) // sneakers: Nike

Try this workout or use the structure of it and customize with your own favorite core exercises!

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Tempo Change Core Workout

Tempo Change Core Workout - alternate between a slow and fast paceThere are lots of ways to change how an exercise feels. I’ve talked a bit on the blog about range of motion (this movement pyramid workout is a good example), but another great way to switch it up is to vary your speed. I was always of the opinion that faster = harder … until I tried a Lagree Fitness class. One isn’t necessarily better than the other–it just depends on the goal. Different speeds require our muscles to activate in different ways.

I love including both types of training in my weekly routine–a slow Btone class one day and then an explosive HIIT bootcamp workout the next. They’re different ways to challenge your body. Today’s quick workout is made up of some basic core moves that you’ll preform slowly at first and then as fast as possible. Pay attention to how the tempo changes the way the exercise feels. Going faster is more of a cardio challenge, but a full range of motion can be more challenging when you slow it down.

Tempo Change Core Workout

Equipment I Used:

You’ll spend a minute on each exercise. 20 seconds slow, 10 seconds as fast as possible, and repeat. Move immediately on to the next exercise without resting. I set my interval timer for 22 rounds of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest to time the workout. Once you complete all 11 exercises, rest for 30-60 seconds and then go through once more for a total of two times through. If you’re a beginner or want a shorter core blast, just go through once.

Slow should NOT mean easy. When you’re performing the exercise slowly, I want you to be super deliberate in your movements. Think of adding in a “squeeze” or pause at the top of each muscle contraction. For example, on the side plank hip dips, as you lift your hips slowly back up to plank, really squeeze the oblique at the top, pressing your hips that extra inch upwards. Tempo Change Core Workout - alternate between a slow and fast pace

  • Push Ups | Feel free to modify from your knees if necessary!
  • Crossbody Mountain Climbers | Start in a plank position with hands stacked under shoulders, abs held in tight (don’t let your low back arch down towards the floor). Pull your right knee across your body towards your left elbow, trying to make contact between the two if you can. Step the right foot back into your high plank and then repeat on the other side, left knee to right elbow. Especially when going slowly, I want you to try to physically tap the arm with your knee every time.
  • Superman Lifts | Start laying on your stomach, arms stretched overhead. From here, squeeze the shoulder blades, back and glutes to lift your arms and legs off the ground as high as you can. Pause for a second at the top, and then slowly lower extremities back down to starting position. For more of a challenge, don’t let your arms and legs ever come fully to rest on the ground; lower to a hover and then lift back up.
  • Rolling Sit Ups | Think Pilates C curve; think “tucking” at your favorite barre class. Start laying on your back with your knees bent and feet firmly planted on the ground, arms outstretched. You’re going to a do a sit up, keeping your feet on the ground and rolling up, vertebrae by vertebrae, keeping your low back glued to the ground until the last few inches of your sit up. Reverse the motion once you’ve reached the top, pulling the low abs in tight as you roll first your low back and then mid and upper back down to the floor. Try not to tuck your chin into your neck as you do this.
  • Bicycle Crunches | Start laying on your back, hands behind your head (but not pulling on your head) and legs extended straight out, hovering off the floor a couple inches. From here, bend your left knee in, keeping the right leg extended out straight, and crunch your upper back up off the floor, twisting the right elbow across your body to meet the left knee. Repeat to the other side, fluidly moving from one side to the next, legs alternating in a pedaling motion.
  • Leg Scissors | Lay on your back with hands under your butt for support or by your sides. Straighten your legs, lifting the left leg a couple inches off the ground to a hover and the right leg straight up in the air, perpendicular to the ground. You’re going to alternate leg positions, lifting and lowering them back and forward. The goal is to never rest the bottom leg on the ground; only lower it to a hover. As you do these, pull your abs in tight and press your low back to the ground. If you feel your low back lifting off the floor and straining in anyway, add a bend to your knees as you do these.
  • Leg Lifts | Lay on your back with hands under your butt for support or by your sides. Lift legs straight up, perpendicular to the ground and then lower until they are just a couple inches off the ground. Legs should stay straight the whole time, and should never come to rest on the ground in between reps. As you do these, pull your abs in tight and press your low back to the ground. If you feel your low back lifting off the floor and straining in anyway, add a bend to your knees as you do these.
  • Side Plank Hip Dips (Right) | Start in a side plank position, right hand stacked under right shoulder. From here, dip your hips down towards the ground and then squeeze your right sidebody to lift them back up to starting position.
  • Side Plank Hip Dips (Left)
  • Side Plank Leg Lifts (Right) | Start in a side plank position, right hand stacked under right shoulder. From here, lift your top, left leg straight up and then back down to starting position. For more of a challenge, never let that top leg rest on the bottom one; lower it to a hover and then lift back up. With this one, you’re using your oblique to keep the hips lifted and using your side butt to do the leg abductions. If your wrists bother you, you can do this one from your forearm.
  • Side Plank Leg Lifts (Left)

Tempo Change Core Workout - alternate between a slow and fast paceWEARING | bra: Fabletics // tank: c/o Marshalls // leggings: c/o Puma //sneakers: c/o New Balance

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Plank Challenge Workout

Plank Challenge Workout -- pick a starting interval length based on your  ability and gradually increase it!The excessiveness of my plank-related posts is getting slightly out of hand. But I just love the way you can build up the burn with a series of holds and movements in a plank pose. And core strength is important for good posture, daily movements, other exercise—everything.

I also love the way I’ve seen progress through plank and plank-based exercises. One time in college, I took a group fitness class at the Student Rec Center and we ended with a plank hold contest. My whole body was shaking after 30 seconds and I barely lasted a minute (I don’t know why I remember this so vividly haha). Now, thanks to years of regularly working out (and especially all those megaformer classes), holding a minute-long plank during a class actually feels like a recovery pose to me. What?!

Plank Challenge Workout

This is a workout that can adapt with you as your strength and ability improves. You pick the interval length that’s best for your fitness level and you pick the number of times you repeat the sequence (beginners, just one time through; more advanced, try three sets with a brief rest in between each). Next time you do the workout, challenge yourself to increase your interval length by 5 seconds or add on an extra set.

So to start, pick your interval length: If you’re a beginner, I would suggest 15 seconds. More advanced, try 30+ seconds. You’ll do each move for x seconds, moving right onto the next one at the end without resting or coming out of your plank. There are 8 moves total, so if you pick a 15-second interval, you’ll be in a variation of plank for a total of two minutes.

To give you an idea of what interval length to pick, I can do 45 seconds if I only go through the sequence of exercises once. If I complete 2-3 sets, I’ll do 30-second intervals.

Plank Challenge Workout -- pick a starting interval length based on your  ability and gradually increase it

Beginners: I’ve placed an asterisk (*) next to all the moves that can be modified by doing them from your knees. Just make sure that if your knees are down, your butt isn’t sticking up in the air—it’s still a plank! Keep your hips lowered with abs engaged so that your body forms a straight diagonal line from knees to head.

  • Forearm Plank* | Most of us are familiar with a plank, so just a couple form queues: think of stacking your joints, elbows directly below shoulders. Pull the lower abdomen in to protect the low back (think of pulling up your jeans’ zipper). Squeeze the quads above the knees—notice how engaging these muscles helps straighten out your body even more.
  • Forearm Plank Hops Side to Side | Start in a forearm plank (elbows stacked underneath shoulders, core pulled in tight—don’t let your low back sag or your butt stick up in the air). From here, hop your feet in unison to the right, back to center, to the left, and back to center (that’s one rep). While you hop, try to hold your body in a straight line, not letting your bum pike up into the air.
  • Hip Dips* | This is a great one for the obliques. Start in a forearm plank position. From here, dip your left hip down towards the ground, twisting through your waist and rotating onto the outer edge of your left foot. Chest and shoulders stay square, only below the waist rotates. Come back through center and then repeat to the right. I think of it as tracing a smooth arc shape with my hips. Just be careful not to pike the bum into the air as you come up—it comes no higher than where it’d be in a static forearm plank.
  • Walking Plank* | You’re essentially just moving from low plank to high plank, up and down. Starting in a forearm plank position, press up into a high plank, one hand at a time. Reverse the movement when you’re in a high plank, lowering onto one forearm at a time. Important form notes:
    • Hands under shoulders, not in front. As you do these, think about keeping your shoulders stacked directly over whatever joint is on the floor (wrist in high plank, elbow in forearm plank). As you fatigue, the tendency is to have your hands far in front of your shoulders so that it’s easier to get back down to your forearms—don’t do this!
    • Hold your hips level. Instead of shifting your body weight and rocking the hips to the forearm side as you move up and down, stabilize through the core and hold the hips level. To do this, the arms need to work harder, elbows bending deeper (like when you do a push up).
    • Alternate your lead hand. Your body will want your dominate side to lead on this (from forearm plank: right hand presses up, left hand comes up, right forearm lowers down, left forearm comes down). Switch it up next time through so that your left side then leads the way.
  • Crossbody Mountain Climbers | Start in a plank position with hands stacked under shoulders, abs held in tight (don’t let your low back arch down towards the floor). Pull your right knee across your body towards your left elbow, trying to make physical contact between the two if you can. Step the right foot back into your high plank and then repeat on the other side, left knee to right elbow. I want the pace of these to be controlled: quick, but your focus is on pulling the knee as far forward as possible (try to tap the arm every time) more so than on the speed.
  • Rotating Side Planks* | Enjoy these! They’ll give your shoulders/arms some much-needed relief (albeit momentary). From high plank, shift your weight into your right hand and foot, rotating open into a side plank with your left hand reaching up towards the ceiling. Squeeze that right sidebody, keeping your hips lifted. Rotate back down to your high plank and then shift the weight into your left hand and foot, opening up into a side plank facing the other direction. Continue back and forth.Tip: Keep your feet closer together than you would in a normal plank so that you can easily roll from the edge of one foot to the other as you rotate between the side planks.
  • Plank Jacks | Start in a plank position with hands aligned underneath shoulders. Jump feet out to the sides (like a horizontal jumping jack) and quickly back together. Try to hold a strong plank alignment with your upper body as you jump the feet out and in—don’t let your butt pike up into the air or hips sag downward.
  • Plank* | End just like you started: holding in stillness, this time on your hands (although if your wrists are bothering you, feel free to do a forearm plank instead!). Wrists should be stacked directly under shoulders.

Plank Challenge Workout -- pick a starting interval length based on your  ability and gradually increase it!

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