Routine by Tatiana Lampa, Corrective Exercise Specialist, CPT | Photography by Paul Buceta

If you’re one of the many women who experience back pain, a typical abs workout can feel like a trip to the seventh circle of hell. This is because the repeated midsection movements that we tack onto the end of our workouts are often rushed, mindless, and monotonous. That combined with weak postural muscles as a special gift from sitting at your desk all day, and you might be thinking about skipping your abs workout altogether. But au contraire, because core work is exactly what you need to support that posture and give your back a helping hand—you just need to modify how you’re going about it. Which is where this low-back friendly core routine makes its debut. These exercises focus on stabilizing through the core, with an emphasis on form, function, and control—not whipping through your crunches like a whirling dervish. Add this workout to your line-up for a strengthened core, sans having your back take the heat.

The Workout

Complete each exercise for 45 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds before moving to the next exercise. Repeat for three rounds.

Equipment Needed

A moderate-weight dumbbell


Begin on hands and knees, keeping the core engaged. Extend the right arm forward and left arm behind you, maintaining a neutral spine. Pause, then return back to hands and knees and repeat on the other side.


Lie on your back with arms up towards the ceiling and knees bent and lifted. Gently press the low back into the mat as you extend the right arm and left leg. Return to the start position and repeat on the other side.

Forearm Plank

Lie face down and place your elbows directly under your shoulders. Lift into a plank position, pulling the shoulders away from the ears and bracing through the core.

Half-Kneeling Chop & Lift

Kneel on your right knee and place the left leg in a half-kneeling position. Hold the dumbbell in two hands at your right hip, and make a chopping motion towards your left shoulder, keeping the torso stable and squared. Repeat all reps, then change sides.

Trainer Tip: Avoid twisting the body and keep momentum out of the chop.

Side Plank

From lying on your side, place the right forearm on the mat with the elbow directly under the shoulder. Stack the feet and lift the left arm upwards as you lift the hips to come into a side plank.

Modification: To make this easier, drop the top foot to the ground in front of the other, or drop and stack the knees.

Shoulder Tap

From high plank, keep the core engaged as you tap the left shoulder with the right hand. Place the hand back down, then repeat on the other side.

Trainer Tip: Be sure to place the hands underneath the shoulders each time, and keep the hips stable instead of letting them rock.

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