A Pilates instructor recommends this eight-minute routine for strengthening your core and improving your posture

"The core muscles serve as the body's stabilizing foundation, supporting posture, balance and everyday movements"

A woman performing the bird dog Pilates exercise
(Image credit: Getty Images / Fizkes)

You don’t have to go to the gym to build a stronger core. This eight-move core routine from Veronique Ellis, a certified Pilates instructor and founder of Evolve Pilates, takes just eight minutes, and the only equipment you need is a yoga mat

“Building a strong core is crucial for overall health and functional fitness,” Ellis explains. “The core muscles, including the abdominals, obliques and those in the lower back, serve as the body's stabilizing foundation, supporting posture, balance and everyday movements.”

Strengthening these muscles can reduce your risk of back injuries by promoting proper body alignment and spinal support, she adds. 

“It also contributes to improved flexibility and better posture, which can alleviate back pain and enhance the efficiency of various activities in your everyday life.”

Veronique Ellis
Veronique Ellis

Veronique Ellis has been a certified Pilates instructor for more than eight years. She is also the founder of Evolve Pilates, an online fitness platform offering livestreamed and on-demand yoga, Pilates and guided meditation classes. 

How to do Veronique Ellis’s four-move Pilates core workout

  • Shoulder taps (warm-up) x6-8 on each side
  • Plank reach x5-8 on each side
  • Bird dog crunch x7-10 on each side
  • Knee hover to plank x7-10
  • Side plank x15-30 seconds on each side
  • Low plank to downward dog x7-10
  • Plank with knee taps x7-10 on each side
  • Child's pose x30 seconds

Perform these exercises in turn. If you’re looking for a beginner routine or you’re short on time, you can do one round of this sequence. If you have more time and you’re after an extra challenge, try completing three rounds.

Alternatively, you can follow along with Ellis's video above.

1. Shoulder taps (warm-up)

Evolve Pilates demonstrates shoulder taps

(Image credit: Evolve Pilates)

Reps: 6-8 on each side

  • Assume a plank position, with your weight spread evenly between your hands and feet. If this position is too challenging, you can drop down to your knees. 
  • Engage your core muscles and lift one hand off the floor, tapping it on the opposite shoulder then coming back to the plank position. Repeat on the other side. 

2. Plank reach

Evolve Pilate founder Veronique Ellis demonstrating a plank reach

(Image credit: Evolve PIlates)

Reps: 5-8 on each side 

  • Start in a plank position with your weight spread between your hands and toes. Your hands should be directly beneath your shoulders and your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels. You can also do this move in a modified plank, with your knees on the ground, to make it slightly easier. 
  • Keeping your hips parallel to the ground, reach one arm forward and extend it as far as possible in front of you without rotating your torso.
  • Return this arm to the starting position then repeat with the other arm.

3. Bird dog crunch

Evolve Pilates founder Veronique Ellis demonstrating a bird dog

(Image credit: Veronique Ellis / Evolve Pilates)

Reps: 7-10 on each side

  • Start on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  • Keeping a neutral spine, inhale as you brace your core, then exhale as you lift your left arm and right leg so they’re fully extended. 
  • Inhale as you bring your left elbow and right knee together under the bottom of your rib cage, then exhale as you extend them again. 
  • Do this eight times, then swap your arms and legs before repeating on the other side. 

4. Knee hover to plank

Evolve Pilates founder Veronique Ellis demonstrating a lnee hover

(Image credit: Veronique Ellis / Evolve Pilates)

Reps: 7-10 

  • Start on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. 
  • Inhale to prepare, then exhale as you lift both knees a few inches off the mat, maintaining a hover position. Keep a flat back from your head to your tailbone and your abdominal muscles held tight as you do this.
  • Step your legs out to a full plank, then bring the legs back in to the knee hover position.

5. Side plank

Evolve Pilates founder Veronique Ellis demonstrating a side plank

(Image credit: Veronique Ellis / Evolve Pilates)

Reps: Hold for 15-30 seconds on each side 

  • Lie on your side with your elbow directly beneath your shoulder and your forearm on the mat. Stack one foot on top of the other or stagger them for added stability.
  • Lift your hips, creating a straight line from your head to your heels, and hold this position for 15-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

6. Low plank to downward dog

Reps: 7-10

  • Come into a low plank position, with your weight spread evenly between your elbows and feet. 
  • Push your hips up and back, so that they're pointing towards the sky.
  • Come back down into the low plank and repeat. 

7. Plank with knee taps

Evolve Pilates founder Veronique Ellis demonstrating knee taps

(Image credit: Veronique Ellis / Evolve Pilates)

Reps: 7-10 on each side 

  • Assume a low plank position with your weight spread between your forearms and toes. 
  • Keeping the rest of your body in a straight line from your head to your heels, tap your left knee on the floor, straighten your left leg, then tap your right knee on the floor. 
  • Continue to tap alternating knees on the floor as if you were running. 

8. Child's pose (cool down)

Evolve Pilates founder Veronique Ellis demonstrating child's pose

(Image credit: Veronique Ellis / Evolve Pilates)

Reps: Hold for 30 seconds. 

  • Kneel on your mat with your feet together and your knees wide. 
  • Sit back onto your heels and reach your arms out in front of you.
Harry Bullmore
Fitness Writer

Harry Bullmore is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering accessible home workouts, strength training session, and yoga routines. He joined the team from Hearst, where he reviewed products for Men's Health, Women's Health, and Runner's World. He is passionate about the physical and mental benefits of exercise, and splits his time between weightlifting, CrossFit, and gymnastics, which he does to build strength, boost his wellbeing, and have fun.


Harry is a NCTJ-qualified journalist, and has written for Vice, Learning Disability Today, and The Argus, where he was a crime, politics, and sports reporter for several UK regional and national newspapers.