A No-Equipment Back and Core Strength Workout Copy

These muscle groups are more connected than you might think.

We’re back today with a back and core workout that features a few moves you haven’t done before. Though it may not seem obvious at first, there are actually several benefits to building core and back strength—and those large muscle groups are more related than you might think.

When we talk about your core, you might think of those “six-pack abs” muscles on the front of your body, but core muscles like your internal and external obliques wrap around the sides of your body; and your transverse abdominis—your innermost core muscles—extend over the crest of your pelvis. Similarly, while your back is made up of several muscles, broadly speaking you can think about using your trapezius (the muscles at the top of your shoulders used for push-ups and planks), your rotator cuff muscles (used when throwing a ball), your latissimus dorsi (a large, wide muscle that wraps around the middle of your back), and your erector spinae (a deeper muscle group that help you sit up straight and aides in rotation).

One of the main benefits of building core and back strength is good posture. A strong core and back will help you stand up straight, keep your shoulders stacked over your hips, and keep your spine in a neutral position. Another benefit? You’re less likely to suffer a low-back injury or experience low-back pain if you’ve got a strong core.

For best results on this back and core workout, we recommend doing it as part of our Better Together Challenge. That means you’ll do this as one of five workouts per week, and you’ll aim to do the circuit described below at least three times. As a safety tip, keep in mind that it’s always important to do a warm-up first to reduce your risk of injury. If you’re prone to knee pain or are only doing low-impact moves, you should also skip hopping forward in the frogger, and instead step your feet forward one at a time. Remember that planks are a core move—and you should engage your core to prevent your hips or low back from sagging toward the floor—which leaves you at a greater risk of injury.

The back and core workout below is for Day 9 of the SELF Better Together Challenge. Check out the full month of workouts right here. Or go to the workout calendar here. If you haven’t signed up to receive daily emails, do that here.WORKOUT DIRECTIONS

Do each move below for your selected period of time. At the end of each circuit, rest for 60 seconds. Do the entire circuit 3–5 times.

  • Option 1: 30 seconds of work, 30 seconds of rest
  • Option 2: 40 seconds of work, 20 seconds of rest
  • Option 3: 50 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest


  • Duck Walk to Stand
  • Russian Twist
  • Superman With Arm Pulldown
  • Tuck-Up
  • Duck Walk to Stand


Do each move below back-to-back for 30 seconds, with no rest for a total of 2 minutes.

  • Forearm Plank to Dolphin
  • Tuck-Up
  • duck walkKatie Thompson1Duck Walk to Stand
    • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and core engaged. Do a squat, sending your hips back, bending both knees and bringing your thighs about parallel to the floor.
    • From this squat position, step your right foot forward, then your left foot forward. Now stand.
    • Squat again, and this time step back with your left foot first, followed by your right foot, so you return to your starting spot. Now stand.
    • Continue to repeat this pattern, squatting and walking forward to stand. Then squat and walk backward to stand. At the halfway point, switch the foot you typically lead with. (If you’ve always taken the first step with your right foot, try to take the first step with your left foot, so both sides stay even.)
  • woman doing Russian twistsKatie Thompson2Russian Twist
    • You can do this move with or without a weight. Sit tall with knees bent and feet flexed, so heels rest on the floor. Keep your back as flat as possible, chest up, and core engaged.
    • If you’re using a weight, hold one weight with both hands close to your chest. If you’re not using a weight, hold hands in prayer at chest height.
    • Rotate your torso and arms to the right, bringing hands down by your side. (Your hands do not have to touch the floor.) Keep your legs and hips as still as possible, and do not arch or round your spine as you twist.
    • Repeat on the other side. Move as quickly as possible, rotating side to side, while maintaining good form.
    • Make it harder: Lift feet off the floor, so shins are parallel to the floor and you balance on your sit bones throughout the exercise.
  • superman with arm extensionKatie Thompson3Superman With Arm Pulldown
    • Lie facedown on the floor with your arms at shoulder height and elbows bent to 90 degrees, so your shape roughly resembles a goalpost.
    • From this position, engage your core and upper back as you lift your shoulders and chest off the floor. Squeeze your glutes and lift your feet off the floor as well. Be mindful to not crunch your low back as you lift. This move is not about flexibility; it’s a strength move.
    • From this lifted position, gaze down toward the floor to keep your neck in a neutral position with your spine. Extend both of your hands overhead (so you’’re flying like Superman!), then engage your shoulders to pull your arms back to their goalpost position.
    • Exhale as you lower everything back to the floor.
    • Make it easier: Do not lift your feet off the floor, just focus on your upper body.

WATCH20-Minute Total Arms Workout

  • person doing a Tuck UpRemi Pyrdol4Tuck-Up
    • Lie faceup with your legs extended and arms overhead so that all of your limbs are resting on the floor.
    • Engage your core and lift both arms and legs a few inches off the floor to come into a hollow hold position.
    • Now crunch up, sitting all the way up and simultaneously bringing your knees to your chest, and wrap your hands lightly around your shins. Keep your core tight to balance on your sit bones—do not grip your shins or hug your knees in order to achieve balance.
    • Lower to return to hollow hold position and repeat.
  • forearm plank to dolphinKatie Thompson5Forearm Plank to Dolphin
    • Start in a forearm plank, with your forearms on the floor, elbows directly underneath your shoulders, hands facing forward so that your arms are parallel, and legs extended behind you. Tuck your tailbone and engage your core, butt, and quads. This is the starting position.
    • Press through your forearms and lift your hips up and back, creating an inverted V shape with your body. Your head should now be between your shoulders. This is your Dolphin Pose.
    • Pause for a second and then slowly lower back into a forearm plank.
    • Continue to move from plank to Dolphin.