The chain of core muscles may be complex, but strengthening them doesn’t have to be. This trunk-focused routine, created by Equinox coach Michael Ryan, covers essential functional movements — push, pull, squat, hinge, and walk — in just six exercises that keep your entire torso engaged.
Single-Leg Hip Bridge
Core Focus: Glutes, Adductors
Lie faceup with knees bent, feet planted on floor near butt, arms out to sides on floor with palms up. Press through heels to lift hips up as high as possible, then extend left leg; drive hips up, and squeeze inner thighs together. Hold this position for three beats, then lower back down to start. Repeat on opposite side. Do three sets of 15 reps.
Single-Arm Strict Press
Core Focus: Spinal Erectors, Rectus Abdominis, Obliques, Transversus Abdominis
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, a kettlebell racked at right shoulder, left arm extended at side; shoulders should be down and back, abs and glutes tight. Press kettlebell straight overhead, elbow to ear. (As you press, push feet into the floor, squeeze glutes, and engage abs as though defending a punch; your torso should be rigid, with no swaying to one side or the other.) Hold for a beat and return to start. Repeat for 12 reps, then switch sides. Do three sets.
Core Focus: Obliques, Transverse Abdominis
Get into a side plank position: forearm down with hand in a fist, elbow directly under shoulder, feet stacked, and hips lifted to create a straight line from head to ankles. With control, lift your top leg as high as you can; hold for a beat, then lower leg back to start. Repeat for 12 reps, then switch sides. Do three sets.
Core Focus: Glutes, Quadratus Lumborum, Traps
Hold a kettlebell by the horns at chest, elbows tight to body, shoulders pulled down and back, feet hip-width apart with toes slightly turned out. Squat, pushing hips back to sit deep while maintaining a long spine and lifted chest; lower as far down as possible while keeping good form. Push through middle of foot to rise up to start; repeat. Do three sets of 12 reps.
Core Focus: Every Core Muscle
Hold a heavy kettlebell by the horns at chest, elbows tight to body (picture holding a towel in place between your ribs and arms), shoulders pulled down and back. Keep this exact form and walk forward. Continue for 30 seconds. Put the kettlebell down for 30 seconds. Repeat six times total. (Your goal: Work up to carrying the bell for 90 seconds.)
Stagger-Stance Single-Arm Row
Core Focus: Lats, Traps, Quadratus lumborum
Start with feet staggered, right foot in front of left, with a kettlebell on the floor on left side. Hinge forward from the waist, pushing hips back, and pick up kettlebell in left hand. Raise it to rib cage on left side, driving elbow up toward ceiling while simultaneously extending right arm at right side. As you lower the weight back to floor, drive right elbow toward sky. Repeat (hinging and reaching down to grab weight) for 12 reps, then switch sides. Do three sets.