Are you ready for a 31 day challenge? Join us on the START Today Facebook Group for daily guidance and motivation, to connect with others following the plan, and to get real-time guidance from trainer Stephanie Mansour!
Many people are surprised to discover that our core is more than our abs. It includes the abs, glutes, inner thighs and lower back. A strong core promotes stability and a strong midsection, while helping to tone and tighten the midsection. Whether you’re looking for better core strength, better balance, a smaller size, or a more defined midsectionthis package is made for you!
Traditionally, when people think of the basics, they expect a plan with planks, crackles and mountaineers. I chose exercises that are more accessible to those looking for an entry-level abs routine. While they may seem softer – and they are in some ways – they’re actually extremely good at building a strong, well-rounded core. Using my background in Pilates and my experience with personal training clients for nearly 15 years, I’ve curated my favorite core exercises into a workout routine that will really help you target those deep muscles and teach you to engage them correctly.
31 Day Core Workout Routine
This month’s routine is split into two different sets. Basic workout #1 is done entirely on the floor, like in a Pilates mat class. It could even be done in bed! Basic workout #2 is done in a standing position without getting down on the floor. For each routine, I added a warm up movement: pelvic tilt. This is an important step that I recommend people do before any ab routine. Training your body to properly engage your core starts with proper alignment of your spine and engagement of your abdominal muscles. By performing a pelvic tilt and doing all the basic exercises from this position, you automatically engage the deepest abdominal muscle, the transverse abdominis, which supports the lower back and strengthens the front of the body.
Basic Workout #1
Warm-up: pelvic tilt
Lie down on a mat with your hands at your sides and your knees bent with your feet flat on the floor. Inhale and fill your stomach with air, then exhale tilting your pelvis forward so that your lower back presses the floor with the abs engaged. Inhale and release. Repeat 10 times.
pilates ab crunch
Get into the pelvic tilt position from the exercise above. From this reclined position with your lower back pressed into the floor, place your hands behind your head. Exhale as you curl up with your head, neck, and chest. Imagine that you are holding an egg between your chin and your chest that you don’t want to break. Then pulse gently upwards 10 times and rest.
Lie on your back with your head resting on the floor. Keep your arms straight at your sides with your palms on the floor, then bend your knees so your heels are under your knees. Slowly raise your hips towards the ceiling. When you are fully extended, hold the pose for ten seconds. While holding the pose, contract your glutes – gluteal muscles – together too. Also, pull your belly button towards your spine and make sure your shoulders are relaxed with your shoulder blades still on the floor. Lower your hips and repeat the exercise 10 times.
Lying on your back, bend your knees and open your feet as wide as your hips. Relax your arms at your sides. Pull the navy towards the spine as if you were putting on tight pants. Slowly roll the hips so that the lower back is lifted off the ground, then the middle and finally the upper back. Press into the feet, then lift the right foot off the floor as if you were beginning to walk. Repeat 10 times, alternating between left and right legs.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Raise your legs and bring your heels together with your toes spread and your knees as wide as your shoulders. Exhale as you press your legs up at an angle of about 45 degrees, bringing your inner thighs together. Inhale to return to the center and repeat 10 times.
Half Rolled Pilates
Sitting on the floor or on a mat, bend your knees. (For a more advanced exercise, straighten your legs.) Then extend your arms out in front of you with relaxed shoulders. Pull the naval towards the spine and slowly roll halfway to the mat. Reach arms overhead, then bring arms back to center and slowly return to starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Lie on your stomach and stretch your arms forward and your legs back. Open the legs as wide as the hips and the arms as wide as the shoulders. Pull the navel inward and away from the floor to engage the abdominals. Relax the shoulders as you lift the arms off the floor and squeeze the quadriceps to lift the legs off the floor. Avoid putting too much pressure on your lower back by making sure your abs stay tight. Hold for a few seconds and then relax. Repeat 10 times.
Basic Workout #2
Warm-up: standing pelvic tilt
The standing pelvic tilt can be done while standing against a wall, making it a comfortable exercise for the abs. (You can also do this without the wall.) Leaning against the wall, bend your knees slightly. As you exhale, tilt your pelvis forward and away from the wall. Your lower back should press gently against the wall; engage your abs to maintain good form. Release and repeat 10 times.
standing bird dog
Reach your right arm toward the ceiling and put your weight on the right foot. Then lean forward, extending your right arm forward while bringing your left leg behind you. Keep the arm and leg straight and bring the limbs parallel to the floor. Keep your abs engaged and squeeze your left glute and tendon while pressing the right foot into the ground. (Squeezing the right buttock will help with stability). Then return to the center. Repeat on the other side. Alternate, performing 10 total reps.
Wide side crunch
Stand with your feet wider than your shoulders and turn your toes so they face outward. Place your hands behind your head with your elbows wide open. Then descend into a open toe wide leg squat with your back straight and your pelvis tilted forward with your abs engaged. Reach the right elbow towards your right thigh and smash the right side, then return to the center. Repeat on the left side. Continue alternating side to side for a total of 10 reps.
Standing bike crunches
Begin in the same starting position as the standing crunch. With your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your elbows and place your hands behind your head. Bend your right knee bringing it towards your left elbow. Alternate sides, squeezing your abs throughout. Repeat 10 times on each side.
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands placed behind your head. Focus on keeping your shoulders back and down and your abdominal muscles engaged. Inhale deeply and exhale, bend your upper body forward, supporting yourself at the hips, and lower it in an upside-down “L” shape until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings -legs. If you feel any pain or uncomfortable pulling, you have lowered yourself too much! Slowly return to a standing position as you exhale. Repeat 10 times.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and stretch your arms above your head. (To make this harder, hold on to a light dumbbell or something nearby, like a pillow or water bottle.) Extend your arms straight up and pull your marine toward your spine. Extend your arms to the right, forward, left and back. Continue for 10 circles to the right before repeating 10 circles to the left. All the while, engage your core by pulling your navy towards your spine, squeezing your glutes, and trying to keep your hips still.
Free-standing swing gate
Stand on your left leg with your right knee bent at 90 degrees, foot off the floor. Place the knee in front of you, then engage your core to open the knee to the right as if opening a door. Bring it back to center. Repeat 10 times then switch to the left side.