Celebrity trainer Erin Oprea loves to turn fitness “into a game or into a party,” the Nashville-based trainer to Carrie Underwood, Kacey Musgraves, Kelsea Ballerini, and Jana Kramer, among others, tells SELF.
And in a new 7-minute workout released today in collaboration with STRONG by Zumba, Oprea applies that philosophy to a series of core moves. The end result? A bodyweight circuit that Oprea manages to make look both seriously fun and also pretty damn challenging. You can check out the video, which features Oprea and two STRONG by Zumba instructors demoing the moves, here.
“I was really trying to make we sure got all angles of the core,” says Oprea when explaining her approach to crafting the workout. “And then of course we wanted to bring in the STRONG by Zumba style,” she adds, which is centered on high-intensity routines choreographed to music. This core workout is one of two 7-minute routines Oprea created in collaboration with the fitness program. Check out the other workout, which focuses on glutes and legs, here.
This workout targets your midsection, pretty much all over, including the rectus abdominis (what you think when you think abs), obliques (muscles on the sides of your stomach), and transverse abdominis (the deepest internal core muscle that wraps around your spine and sides). Though it will also get your heart pumping a little bit, says Oprea, it’s not a cardio-focused workout per se. Instead, the primary aim is good, solid core strengthening (though several of the moves, like the plank variations, will also work your shoulders, Oprea adds).
In general, there are loads of reasons to strengthen your core. Per Oprea, “core strength is the stability for your whole body.” And as SELF previously reported, the stability that a strong core provides can help you lift heavy objects (both in the gym and in everyday life), reduce lower-back pain, and in general improve your overall strength and fitness. Other perks of a sturdy midsection include better balance and better posture. So yeah, it pays to prioritize your core and this core-centric workout will help you do just that.
On the difficulty scale, Oprea rates this workout at about a 7 out of 10. “But it could be modified fairly easily if it needed to be,” she says. Above all, “the most important thing is that they have perfect form through this workout,” says Oprea. “But also smile and have fun and enjoy the music.”
Here’s how to do the 7-minute workout.
Because the workout was choreographed to specific music, you should play Oprea’s video as you attempt it yourself. The circuit flows from one move to the next with no set rest (though you should take breaks as needed depending on your fitness level—it’s more than OK to modify and always better to do moves safely and correctly than rapidly with poor form).
Also, to do all of these moves correctly, it’s important to continually engage your core, says Oprea. To do so, think about tilting your pelvis in, pulling your bellybutton into your spine, and keeping your low back pressed flat into the ground, she says.
Here are the moves you’ll need to know:
1. Crossover Crunch
- Lie on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the ground.
- Lift your left leg up and cross it over your right quad.
- Place your hands behind your neck with your elbows pointed out.
- From here, crunch your torso up and down two times, continuously engaging your core and keeping your left foot on the ground.
- Crunch your torso up again a third time and as you do so, raise your right foot off the ground. Keeping your left leg crossed over your right quad, bring your legs in towards your chest as you crunch. Lower back down.
- Repeat this pattern (2 grounded crunches; 1 moving leg crunch) for a total of 8 times.
2. Crossover Crunch with Oblique Twist
- Stay on your back with your left leg crossed over your right quad and your hands behind your neck, elbows pointed out.
- Crunch your torso up and across to the right so that your left elbow reaches towards your right quad. Your right foot should stay on the ground. Lower back down.
- Crunch your torso straight up, raising your right foot off the ground. Keeping your left leg crossed over your right quad, bring your legs in towards your chest as you crunch. Lower back down.
- Repeat this pattern (1 side crunch to the right; 1 straight up crunch with moving leg lift) for a total of 8 times.
3. Straight Leg Pulses
- Stay on your back with your hands behind your neck, elbows pointed out.
- Raise both legs up towards the ceiling, feet flexed.
- From here, engage your core, lift your head and arms slightly off the ground, and use the strength of your core muscles to perform micro pulses with your torso.
- Repeat for a total of 16 micro pulses.
4. Alternating Leg Lowers
- Stay on your back with your hands behind your neck, elbows pointed out and both legs raised up towards the ceiling, feet flexed.
- Engage your core and lift your head and arms slightly off the ground.
- From here, keeping your legs as straight as possible, alternate lowering one of them down to the ground and raising it back up again as the other leg remains pointed straight up towards the ceiling.
- Perform 14 total leg lowers (7 on each leg).
As you perform these alternating leg lowers, your back will naturally want to arch, says Oprea. Don’t let it. Instead, focus on engaging your core by tilting your pelvis inwards. If you find yourself unable to control your back arch, bend your knees slightly as you lower your legs. Or, bend your knees and lower just your heels to the ground instead of your entire leg. Both adjustments will make the move easier, says Oprea.
Now, repeat moves 1 through 4, and while doing moves 1 and 2 again, switch legs so that your right leg is crossed over your left quad.
5. Side Plank to Side/Front Crunches
- Get into a forearm side plank with your body propped up on your left forearm. Your elbow should be directly underneath your shoulder and your hand should be in front of your body. Straighten your legs and stack your right foot on top of your left. Squeeze your abs and glutes to lift your hips off the floor. Extend your right arm over your head. This is the starting position.
- From here, perform a plank side crunch by bending your right arm and bringing it towards your torso as you bend your right leg and bring it up towards your torso. Your left arm and left leg should stay fixed in the side plank position. Extend your right arm and right leg back to the starting position.
- From here, perform a plank front crunch by bringing your right arm and right leg straight out perpendicular to your body as you keep your left arm and left leg fixed in the side plank position.
- Continue this pattern of 1 side crunch, 1 front crunch for 8 total rounds.
- Switch sides so that you’re planking with your right forearm. Repeat the alternating plank crunches for 8 total rounds.
If you feel wobbly as you plank and crunch, place one foot behind the other (instead of stacking them) to help with stability, says Oprea. You can also add stability by dropping your right knee to the ground and performing the plank side and front crunches from there, she suggests. Just make sure your elbow stays stacked underneath your shoulder, she adds.
6. Leg Claps to Bent Knee Crunches
- Lie on your back and place your hands behind your neck, elbows pointed out. This is the starting position.
- Engage your core (again, think about tilting your pelvis in) and crunch your torso up as you simultaneously raise your left leg off the ground and lift it towards your torso, keeping it as straight as possible. As you do so, keep your right leg on the ground and bring your arms around to your sides. At the top of the crunch, touch your hands together underneath your left leg. Then, as you continue to engage your core, lower your arms and leg back down to the starting position.
- Repeat this crunching motion with the right leg raised.
- Crunch your torso up again and this time, simultaneously bend both knees and bring them in towards your chest as you bring your arms around to your sides. At the top of the crunch, clasp your arms around your knees. Lower back down. Repeat this crunch again.
- Repeat this pattern (two alternating leg clap crunches; two bent knee crunches) for four total rounds.
To modify this move, bend your knees on your straight leg raises, suggests Oprea.
7. Plank Commando Shoulder Taps
- Get into a high plank position with your feet and hands about shoulder-width apart, your arms extended, hands flat on the floor, wrists directly under your shoulders, and your core, glutes, and quads engaged.
- Lower yourself down into a forearm plank by first lifting your left hand off the ground and placing your full right forearm down on the ground. Repeat with your right hand.
- From here, raise yourself back into a high plank position by first lifting your left forearm off the ground, extending your arm out, and placing your left hand flat on the floor. Repeat with your right hand.
- From this high plank position, lift your left hand off the ground and quickly tap it to your right shoulder. Put your left hand back down on the ground and then repeat with the other side (right hand taps your left shoulder).
- Tap each shoulder again for 4 total shoulder taps.
- From your high plank position, lower yourself down into a forearm plank by first lifting your right hand off the ground and placing your full right forearm down on the ground. Repeat with your left hand.
- From here, raise yourself back into a high plank position by first lifting your right forearm off the ground, extending your arm out, and placing your right hand flat on the floor. Repeat with your left hand.
- Perform 4 more shoulder taps, alternating sides each time.
- Perform 2 push-ups, then 4 more shoulder taps.
- From here, lower yourself down into a forearm plank by first lifting your left hand off the ground and placing your full left forearm down on the ground. Repeat with your right hand.
Your goal on this multi-part move, says Oprea, is to not let your hips wiggle as you tap your shoulders and move between the forearm and high plank positions. Do this by continually keeping your core tight and squeezing your glutes, she says.
To make the move easier, you could widen your stance slightly or drop to your knees, Oprea suggests.
8. Plank Hip Drops
- Staying in the forearm plank position established from the previous move, continue engaging your core as you rotate your hips to the left. Pause for a moment and then rotate your hips back to center. Pause for a moment and then rotate your hips to the right. Pause for a moment and then rotate your hips back to center.
- Continue this pattern until you’ve performed 16 total hips drops (8 on each side).
As you drop your hips side to side, keep your glutes squeezed and your core tight. “Don’t let that back arch or sag,” says Oprea. As with the previous moves, think about tilting your pelvis in throughout the reps.
If you perform this circuit correctly and all the way through as Oprea demos, it’s “such a killer,” she says, as your core has “zero rest.” That said, “take a little break if you need to,” she adds. After all, core strength isn’t something you build overnight, so it’s more than OK to go at your own speed and modify as needed.
Whatever your level, just remember Oprea’s overarching advice: Focus on form—and focus on fun.
Watch the full workout here: