When you think of a core workout, your mind might go to ab-blasting high-intensity sequences that fire your muscles and then leave you quivering. But the benefits of a good core workout go beyond strengthening your abs.
Core exercises also train key muscle groups in your pelvis, lower back, and even hips to work together harmoniously to promote better overall stability and balance, according to the Mayo Clinic. That stabilization can help prevent injury and increase your ability to stay active for longer. Sold!
But getting there doesn’t need to involve intimidating exercises like burpees or mountain climbers. While the variations of a killer core sequence are seemingly limitless (check out Well+Good’s YouTube channel for primo workouts to try at home), trainer and fitness coach Roxie Jones, the creator of BodyROX, says her go-to move right now to round out her core workouts is the reverse bear crawl. “I’ve been loving backwards bear crawls as a workout finisher,” she says.
The reverse bear crawl isn’t just an ab-focused move. It’s a true full-body challenge, ensuring that even though you are homing in on your abs, you also get a well-rounded workout without adding much time to your workout—as little as 15 seconds can offer legit benefits.
“You pretty much use every muscle in your body for a bear crawl and it’s especially challenging when done in reverse because you need to push through the ground while maintaining core engagement and stability,” Jones says.
Although she typically turns to it as her grand finale, Jones says it can be also be used to fire up your muscles at the beginning of a workout since it engages everything: “It hits shoulders, chest, back, quads, hamstrings and core.”
How do you do it? Start on all fours with your wrists aligned under your shoulders and your knees lined up under your hips. “It’s done in a bear crawl position, moving opposite limbs to travel backwards without letting the knees touch the floor,” Jones says.
Correct form is key on this move to properly engage your back and core muscles—focus on keeping a flat, tabletop back without letting it arch. Then, crawl backwards with each hand and the opposite leg. Work to keep your knees just an inch or two off the ground. It might sound simple, but the reverse bear crawl is a super-charged core strengthening exercise because of the extra attention you have to give your muscles to stay in proper alignment.
Give it a try and get ready to feel it. Jones does this move for a set amount of time. Start with 15 seconds and work your way up to 40, or even 60. Or, do this move in between each block of your workout, increasing by 5 or 10 seconds with each round.
“This makes you practice coordination, stability, core control, and the ability to push since you’re pushing through the ground to travel backwards,” says Jones.
“Building a strong core is all about keeping still, not doing hundreds of abdominal curl repetitions,” says Tidmarsh. “These three holds will create the foundation of a strong core, teaching you to keep your hips aligned and how to control your posture.”
Naturally you can do each of the exercises as part of a training session, but for a beginner core workout follow the suggested reps and rest periods below, doing five rounds in total of these three exercises.
Time 30sec Rest 0sec
The definitive core exercise. The plank involves minimal movement but maximal effort, requiring you to support your body on your forearms and toes while holding your body in a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. You can make it easier by resting on your knees, or harder by extending your arms so you’re supported by your hands.
Reps 10 Rest 0sec
Lie on your back with your arms extended straight up towards the ceiling, and your legs raised with your knees bent at 90°. Lower your right arm and left leg at the same time until they are hovering just above the floor, then return to the starting position. Then do the same with the opposite limbs.
Time 30sec Rest 1min
Sit on the floor with your knees bent. Lean back slightly, keeping your back straight, and hold your arms out in front of you as you raise your feet off the ground with your legs together. If you can, extend your legs so they are straight and your body forms a V shape. You can also raise your arms and spread your legs to make the hold harder.
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