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As a certified personal trainer, I’ve lost count of the number of clients who have turned up to our sessions over the years and said they want to spend a full hour training their core. My answer is always the same: no.
That’s not to say you don’t need to train your abdominal muscles. You do. There are many potential benefits, including better posture, reducing back pain, improving your core lifts, and, of course, aesthetics if you have a low enough body fat percentage. I just don’t believe it needs an hour because you can effectively train your abs in less time than this. In fact, as little as 10 minutes will do the job.
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Today, I (with an assist from Kate Meier, CPT, USAW-L1, CF-L1, and GGR Head of Content) will show you a 10-minute ab workout that requires no equipment. It’ll be a HIIT-style workout where you’ll be working all out for five minutes and then resting for five minutes between each exercise. I’ll also explain each exercise, as well as provide beginner and advanced alternatives for each movement.
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10-Minute Ab Workout, No Equipment Needed
Let’s get straight into the workout. “For those who don’t know, HIIT or high-intensity interval training is where you work with intensity for a period of time before resting for a dedicated time period,” says certified personal trainer (CPT), weightlifting and CrossFit coach, and GGR Head of Content, Kate Meier.
There are multiple benefits to exercising this way, including quicker workouts, increasing your metabolism, and helping reduce your blood pressure1. Our 10-minute ab workout goes a little something like this:
- Minute 1: Exercise 1
- Minute 2: Rest
- Minute 3: Exercise 2
- Minute 4: Rest
- And so on until you reach 10 minutes
You’ll go all out during the odd minutes and recover during the even minutes. There are only five exercises in total, which you’ll see below. I’ll also give some variations for those who need them.
Disclaimer: The plank is at the end to challenge you because you’ll already be sore when you get there. This is intentional (insert evil laugh).
10-Minute Ab Workout
- Lying Leg Raises
- Mountain Climbers
- Russian Twists
Exercise 1: Crunches
Why do it: ”One of the most popular ab exercises there is, crunches help improve core strength and stability,” says Kate Meier, CPT, USAW-L1, CF-L1. Specifically, the crunches exercise isolate the rectus abdominis, which is one of the main muscles that form the abdominal muscle group.
How to do it:
- Lie down on the floor or an exercise mat, facing the ceiling.
- Plant your feet firmly on the ground with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. To support your neck, clasp your hands behind your head.
- Brace your core, then lift your shoulders and head off the floor. Keep your head neutral throughout.
- When you can’t crunch any further, stop, and return to the starting position.
- Continue for the desired number of reps.
- Sit-ups. They may look similar to crunches, but the main difference is that the lower back comes fully off the floor during the sit-up. This gives you a longer range of motion, and activates the transverse abdominis, obliques, hip flexors, and erector spinae.
- Weighted Crunches. Adding loads to crunches can help to increase the activation of the abdominal muscles2. Instead of crunching your body weight, hold a dumbbell or medicine ball to make the exercise more challenging. Or, just use a can of baked beans…
- Bicycle Crunches. For an intense ab workout, bicycle crunches work your transverse abdominis and obliques as well as the rectus abdominis. This is because you’re rotating your torso from side to side, and moving your legs, too.
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Exercise 2: Lying Leg Raises
Why do it: Lying leg raises are a great core exercise to sculpt your lower abs. This is because instead of moving your upper body as you do with crunches (which you saw above), you’re moving your legs instead. It’s a great hip flexor exercise, too.
How to do it:
- Lie face up on the floor, with your arms down by your sides and your hands tucked underneath your hips. Your feet should be touching each other with your legs extended.
- Engage your core, then raise your legs until they’re perpendicular to the floor. Keep your legs straight throughout, or with a slight knee bend.
- Pause, then lower your legs toward the ground in a controlled manner, ensuring they don’t touch the floor.
- Raise for repetitions.
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- Single Leg Raises. If you’re not able to lift both legs off the ground at the same time, do one leg at a time instead. “We’re all at different fitness levels and this is a great way to build up to be able to lift both legs at the same time,” Kate says.
- Hanging Leg Raises. Okay, show off! If you find lying leg raises too easy and you really want to get those six-pack abs, add these into your ab routine. Hang off a pull-up bar and lift your legs until they’re parallel to the floor.
- Scissor Kicks. Instead of lifting your legs up and down, you hold your legs a few inches above the ground and then continuously cross them over each other in a scissor motion (hence the name!).
Exercise 3: Mountain Climbers
Why do it: “Mountain climbers are a full-body exercise because they work the core, hip flexors, chest, shoulders, and triceps,” explains Kate. “You can also do them quickly if you want to reap cardio benefits at the same time.”
How to do it:
- Go into a high plank position, with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Activate your core muscles and glutes, then bring your left knee towards your left elbow, before returning your left foot to the floor.
- Repeat, but this time, bring your right knee to your right elbow.
- Keep going, alternating sides until you’re finished.
- Cross-Body Mountain Climbers. Compared to regular mountain climbers, I find the cross-body version works my obliques and hip flexors to a greater degree. It’s easier to lose your form on this version, however, especially when you’re tired.
- Chair Mountain Climbers. This is an easier variation for getting a core workout without the floorwork. Place both hands on a chair for stability and perform the mountain climber motion.
- Sliding Mountain Climbers. These are a more fluid—and some say more fun—way to do mountain climbers. You can even use hand towels if you don’t have dedicated exercise sliders.
Exercise 4: Russian Twists
Why do it: A six-pack workout wouldn’t be complete without Russian Twists, would it? They hit your obliques and hip flexors, and help to improve your balance and coordination. This is because your feet are off the ground during the movement.
How to do it:
- Sit on the floor, with your feet flat on the ground, and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Lean backward, lifting your feet off the ground as you do so. You should feel your midsection here, as it’ll be working to stop you from falling backward.
- Clasp your hands in front of your body. Twist your torso to the left as far as you can, before returning to the center.
- Repeat on the right side.
- Twist for the desired number of repetitions, switching sides each time.
- Weighted Russian Twists. You can use a dumbbell, kettlebell, medicine ball, weight plate, or anything you can find at home (Bring back that can of beans!) to make the standard Russian twist more challenging. Hold the weight in both hands and perform the exercise as above.
- Decline Russian Twists. Seriously hit those upper abs by doing the Russian Twists on a decline bench instead of doing it on the floor. This increases the range of motion, making the exercise more difficult.
- Kneeling Russian Twists. If you find the above variations too hard, get on your knees, and lean backward. Engage your core, and then twist from left to right as you would the regular version. This variation may even help you build up your stamina at your own pace.
Exercise 5: Plank
Why do it: Planks are seen everywhere in the fitness world, whether that’s at a gym or at a Pilates class. There’s a good reason why. Planks can help you build a stronger core, which may also help to reduce chronic low back pain3.
How to do it:
- Get into the plank position. You’ll be looking down at the floor, with only your forearms and toes touching the ground.
- Keep your head neutral, and ensure there’s a straight line from your head to your toes.
- Hold for the desired length of time.
RELATED: Plank Exercises
- Chair Plank. If you’re unable to plank on the floor, this is a much easier alternative. Place a chair against a wall for stability, then place both hands on the seat. Get into the plank position, holding for as long as you can.
- Side Plank. They improve your balance while strengthening your core at the same time. “I like doing side planks regularly because they put less pressure on your lower back and neck compared to some other core exercises,” Kate says.
- Plank Shoulder Taps. Holding a regular plank for a long period of time can become boring. Instead, tapping your shoulders works your upper body muscles and keeps you moving. You’ll need to keep your hips and shoulders steady throughout.
10-Minute Ab Workout: Final Thoughts
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a lot of time to get a great ab workout. Ten minutes should be enough, provided you’re working at high intensity and the exercises are challenging.
Here are a few more points to consider when doing a 10-minute ab workout:
- Warm-up and cool-down. Even though this 10-minute ab workout is short, it may be worth spending a minute or two on either side doing warm-up exercises and cooling down before you get into the thick of it. Jog in place, do some shoulder circles, and kick your legs.
- Focus on form. While you should definitely progress with harder variations once an exercise becomes too easy, do it when the time is right. Performing an exercise with proper form for the full minute is important, and only you can be the judge of this.
- Intense means intense. This HIIT workout is designed to be intense. I understand you may find it difficult to get through that minute at times, but that’s the whole point. Rest for the following minute and get back to it.
10-Minute Ab Workout: FAQs
Can a 10-minute ab workout be effective?
Yes, 10 minutes is enough for an ab workout, especially if you’re doing it more than once per week, and the exercises in the workout routine are challenging. The abdominal muscles are smaller than some of the other muscle groups in the human body, so you don’t need to spend hours working them. A shorter, 10-minute ab routine is also easier to fit into your lifestyle.
RELATED: Best Ab Exercises
How many times a week should I do a 10 minute ab workout?
“If you’re not doing any other form of ab training, I’d suggest doing a 10-minute ab workout two to four times per week,” says Kate Meier, CPT, USAW-L1, CF-L1, and GGR Head of Content. Like any other muscle, you don’t want to overwork your abs as they need time to recover. If you’re doing other core-focused exercises at the gym or in your home workout, you could even do a 10-minute ab workout once per week.
Is 10 minutes of core a day good?
Personally, I don’t believe you should or need to work your core for 10 minutes a day. While 10 minutes doesn’t sound like much, the core muscles still need time to recover between workouts. Training them too often could lead to muscular imbalances or injury. At most, I’d recommend exercising your core every other day.
How much does 10 minutes of abs burn?
The amount of calories 10 minutes of abs can burn depends on a number of factors, including how intense the workout is, your weight, how much muscle mass you have, your age, your gender, and more. As a rough guide, estimate that a 10-minute ab workout burns anywhere between 50 and 150 calories. For most people, it’ll be at the lower to mid-range of this.
How many calories does a 10 min ab workout burn?
There’s no way to give an answer to this because it’s going to depend on your body fat percentage, work rate, and a million other factors that can vary from person to person and day to day.
- Carpes L, Costa R, Schaarschmidt B, Reichert T, Ferrari R. High-intensity interval training reduces blood pressure in older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Exp Gerontol. 2022 Feb;158:111657. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2021.111657. Epub 2021 Dec 16. PMID: 34921916.
- Moraes AC, Pinto RS, Valamatos MJ, Valamatos MJ, Pezarat-Correia PL, Okano AH, Santos PM, Cabri JM. EMG activation of abdominal muscles in the crunch exercise performed with different external loads. Phys Ther Sport. 2009 May;10(2):57-62. doi: 10.1016/j.ptsp.2009.01.001. Epub 2009 Mar 10. PMID: 19376473.
- Fernández-Rodríguez R, Álvarez-Bueno C, Cavero-Redondo I, Torres-Costoso A, Pozuelo-Carrascosa DP, Reina-Gutiérrez S, Pascual-Morena C, Martínez-Vizcaíno V. Best Exercise Options for Reducing Pain and Disability in Adults With Chronic Low Back Pain: Pilates, Strength, Core-Based, and Mind-Body. A Network Meta-analysis. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2022 Aug;52(8):505-521. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2022.10671. Epub 2022 Jun 19. PMID: 35722759.
As a certified personal trainer, I’ve lost count of the number of clients who have turned up to our sessions over the years and said they want to spend a full hour training their core. My answer is always the same: no.That’s not to say you don’t need to train your abdominal muscles. You do. There are many potential benefits, including better posture, reducing back pain, improving your core lifts, and, of course, » Read more about: Ultimate 10-Minute Ab Workout, by a Certified Personal Trainer » Read more
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