The secret to carving the perfect turn begins with the core.
The secret to carving the perfect turn begins with the core. (Photo: Courtesy Nate Cahoon)

This 10-Move Core Workout Will Kick Your Ass

A creative, challenging at-home circuit to get you fit, no matter your sport

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Despite the burn you feel in your quads after a long day in the mountains, skiing isn’t all in the legs. “For anyone who’s inspired to get stronger and more aggressive on skis, working on your core strength is the place to start,” says professional big-mountain skier Johnny Collinson.

When you ski, you want your legs to be able to work separately from your upper body, like when mogul skiers dart their skis around bumps while their torsos calmly float down the fall line. A strong core—which is your whole trunk (front, side, and back)—is the foundation of this movement, from initiating the turn to transitioning into the next. It provides a base to transfer power between the upper and lower body and gives you the stability to move swiftly and stay upright in unpredictable terrain.

If you haven’t been following Collinson’s Instagram feed, he’s a training fiend. The 28-year-old puts in hard training sessions four to five days per week, he says, and is active every single day. “Sometimes I’ll do core as a standalone workout if I’m really trying to get the whole thing involved,” he says. “But most of the time I’ll incorporate it into my warmup and the end of strength workouts.”

Collinson sees core training as three-dimensional: “I look at how I can hit the front, the sides, and the back, and I’ll rotate through exercises for each area.” This ten-move circuit, which can be done with little or no equipment, not only targets the core in its entirety but also strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, and hip adductors. And it isn’t just for skiers. Anyone who plays in the mountains, from professional athletes to weekend warriors, can benefit from a stronger core.

The Moves

Complete this workout as a circuit, ideally moving from one exercise to the next without rest in between. Take a short break between exercises if needed. Start with one round, and run through it again if you’re feeling good. Begin with a quick warmup to get the blood flowing: a light jog or ten minutes of jumping rope (30 seconds on, 30 seconds off), followed by some dynamic stretches.

Front Plank Progression

What It Does: Primarily strengthens the deep core muscles and engages the other core muscles, glutes, quads, and shoulders for stability.

How to Do It: Start with a 60-second forearm plank for the first round to serve as a warmup. Then, if you’re able, increase the challenge with a harder variation the second time through.

Forearm Plank (Easiest): Start in a kneeling position, and place your forearms on the floor shoulder-width apart, with your elbows directly below your shoulders. Extend your legs backward, feet together and toes tucked under, so that your body forms a straight line from your heels to your head. Keep your back flat—no sagging, arching, or rotating the hips—and your head extended so that your neck is in line with your spine. Maintain this form for the duration of the hold.

Three-Point Plank: Start in a push-up position, with your arms straight and hands directly below your shoulders. Place your feet one to two feet apart. (The farther apart they are, the easier this will be.) Maintain a rigid plank from your head to your heels. Then raise one arm, without rotating your shoulders or hips, and hold for ten seconds. Return to the starting position, and lift the other arm for ten seconds, followed by a leg, then the other leg, and so on. Continue alternating between all four limbs, holding each in the air for ten seconds for the duration of the plank.

Two-Point Plank (Most Difficult): Start in a push-up position, as you would for the three-point plank, but this time raise your opposite arm and leg simultaneously. Hold steady, without rotating your shoulders or hips, for 30 seconds. Repeat with the opposite hand-leg combo lifted.

Volume: Hold for 60 seconds. Once you can hit a minute with perfect form, increase the challenge by progressing to a more difficult variation.

Glute Side Plank

What It Does: Primarily targets the obliques and the gluteus medius (a stabilizer muscle at the back of the hip).

How to Do It: Start in a side plank position on your forearm, with your elbow bent and directly below your shoulder and your bottom knee bent to 90 degrees. (This position generates better glute activation on both sides, Collinson says.) Engage your core and lift your hips so that your torso forms a straight line. Keep your hips level and square. Then raise your upper leg as high as you can. Keep the upper leg straight and imagine driving your bottom knee into the floor. Hold this position for 60 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Volume: 60 seconds each side.

Elevated Glute Bridge

What It Does: Primarily strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.

How to Do It: Lie on your back with your heels elevated on a bench or chair. Raise your hips until you’re in full extension, squeeze your glutes, and engage your core. Imagine pulling your belly button toward your spine. Hold this position for 60 seconds. Keep your hips level, square, and in a straight line with your thighs and torso. If this variation feels too difficult, keep your feet on the ground. If it feels too easy, lift one foot and hold the bridge on only one leg. Repeat on the other side.

Volume: 60 seconds (each leg, if applicable).

Six Inches

What It Does: Primarily targets the deep core muscles and the hip flexors.

How to Do It: Lie flat on your back with your legs together and straight out in front of you. Place your arms alongside your body for balance and support. Start with your feet six inches off the floor. Raise your legs until they are vertical and directly over your hips. Then lift your hips off the floor. (It’s a subtle yet difficult motion.) Slowly lower your hips and reverse the movement until your feet are back to six inches above the floor—don’t let them touch. Repeat. Keep your legs straight, chin tucked, and lower back pressed firmly against the floor throughout the exercise.

For an easier variation, hold your legs straight and feet six inches off the floor, as described above, but bend your knees as you raise your legs to vertical. Slowly reverse the movement, and repeat.

Volume: 15 to 20 reps, or move at a steady pace for 60 seconds.

Bosu Side Crunch

What It Does: Primarily targets the obliques and the hip adductors.

How to Do It: For this, you’ll need a Bosu, a pillow, or a rolled-up towel. Place the prop a leg’s length away from a wall. Lie on your side, with your hip on the prop and your feet planted against the wall. Stagger your feet heel to toe, with the top foot in front of the bottom foot. Press your feet into the wall for leverage and raise your torso into a side crunch, like you’re arcing a ski turn. Reverse the movement until your torso hovers just above the floor, and repeat. Do not lower to the ground between reps. Move slowly and in control through the full range of motion. Keep your body in the same plane, and keep your hips vertical throughout the movement. (Avoid twisting or leaning to one side.) For a harder variation, hold your upper foot in the air, parallel to your lower leg and hip-width apart.

Volume: 15 to 20 reps, or move at a steady pace for 60 seconds on each side.

Bird Dog Variation

What It Does: Targets the deep core muscles to train strength and stability and helps improve shoulder and hip mobility.

How to Do It: Start in a tabletop position, with your hands below your shoulders, knees below your hips, and back flat. Then simultaneously lift and extend the opposite arm and leg until they are level and in line with your body. This is the starting position. From here, bring in your raised elbow and knee to touch below your torso, and reverse the movement back to full extension. Now pivot your arm and leg out to each side until they are perpendicular to your body. (Keep them parallel to the floor.) Pause for a second or two, and reverse the movement to the starting position. This counts as one repetition. Repeat all reps on one side, then switch to the other. Move slowly and in control. Keep your back flat and your hips level and square throughout the movement.

Volume: Eight to ten reps.

Slow Straight-Leg Sit-Up

What It Does: Primarily targets the deep core muscles and the hip flexors.

How to Do It: Lie on your back with your legs straight and together. Place your hands alongside your body for support (easiest), on your chest, or interlocked behind your head (hardest). Then sit up slowly—take about five seconds to complete the movement—until your torso is vertical. Lower slowly—over another five seconds—until your torso hovers just above the floor. Repeat the movement without lowering all the way to the floor between reps.

Volume: Eight to ten reps.

Hollow Rock

What It Does: Primarily targets the deep core muscles and the hip flexors while training total core tension.

How to Do It: Lie flat on your back with your legs straight and together and your arms extended overhead. Engage your abs—again, imagine pulling your belly button toward your spine—to eliminate any gap between your lower back and the floor. Then raise your arms and legs so that your body forms a shallow U-shape. Hold this position and gently rock forward and backward for 60 seconds. If this is too hard, eliminate the rocking motion for a static hollow-body hold.

Volume: 60 seconds.

(Mary Mathis)

Copenhagen Plank

What It Does: Primarily strengthens the obliques and the hip adductors (inner thigh).

How to Do It: Lie on your side with your upper foot on a bench, chair, or coffee table. Your lower foot should float freely below without touching or weighting anything. If the bench is short, place your forearm on the floor, with your elbow directly below your shoulder, bent to 90 degrees. If the bench is tall, place your hand on the floor below your shoulder and keep your arm straight. The idea here is to choose the arm position that will keep your body horizontal or as close as possible. Then lift your hips to enter a side plank. Your body should form a straight line from your feet through your hips and up to your shoulders. Hold this position for 60 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

This one is easy to overdo, which can stress the hip adductors, Collinson says. If it feels too difficult, you can make it easier by positioning the bench closer to you. That way, the inside of your lower leg or thigh will rest on the support, rather than your foot, which reduces the leverage.

Volume: 60 seconds each side.

Broomstick Pass-Through

What It Does: Strengthens the core through all three phases of muscle contraction—concentric (raising, or shortening under load), eccentric (lowering, or elongating under load), and isometric (static hold).

How to Do It: Grasp a broomstick with your hands shoulder-width apart, and start in a hollow-body hold, described above, with your arms extended overhead. Sit up as you simultaneously bring your knees to your chest. Pass the broomstick over your feet, and slowly reverse the movement back into the hollow-body hold position, now with your arms extended forward and the broomstick beneath your legs, down by your butt. Pause for a few seconds, then tuck up again, pass the broomstick back over your feet, and reverse the movement to the starting position. This counts as one rep—double whammy! Move slowly and in control. Keep your chin tucked, core engaged, and lower back pressed firmly against the floor throughout the movement.

Volume: 12 to 15 reps.

Lead Photo: Courtesy Nate Cahoon

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