You may not realize it, but your abs are vital muscles that help you move well in tons of different scenarios. So doing an abs circuit as part of your regular workout routine as a way to strengthen those all-important muscles is always a workout win.
Contrary to popular belief, abs work doesn’t have to take up much time in order to be effective. Case-in-point: This awesome abs workout, which hits every part of your core, takes less than 10 minutes.
“So many of us are daunted by abs workouts and core workouts,” certified personal trainer Francine Delgado-Lugo, CPT, movement and strength coach and cofounder of Form Fitness Brooklyn, tells SELF. That’s because there’s a common misconception that you have to do abs exercises every day—and for hundreds of reps apiece—in order to see results. With that mentality, “a lot of us just neglect [abs work] altogether or we have negative associations with doing abs workouts,” says Delgado-Lugo. “It doesn’t have to be that way.”
In fact, doing abs workouts too often could actually undermine your fitness goals. That’s because your core muscles are just like any other muscle group in your body—they need enough rest after a workout to repair and build back stronger, says Delgado-Lugo. If you don’t give your core this crucial downtime, you may increase your risk of injury and decrease your chances of an effective workout.
With that in mind, Delgado-Lugo created the following six-move bodyweight abs workout you can slot into your routine today. It’s filled with exercises that will challenge your abs—and the rest of your core muscles, too—without overworking them. Your core includes your abs, of course, but it also houses a bunch of other muscles in your back, hips, butt, and torso, and it’s important to work all of them.
Together, your core muscles help you perform lots of actions in day-to-day life, including stabilizing in order to resist a force (think: bracing to keep your body upright when a dog barrels into your knees) as well as dynamic movements where your core is in motion (like twisting and rotating to pick up a squirming child). So if your goal is to have the strongest, most stable core possible, it’s important to do both anti-movement exercises (like planks) as well as dynamic exercises (like crunches and sit-ups). The following routine checks both boxes with moves including the plank to side plank, bird-dog crunch, Superman, and dead bug.
Do this abs circuit just once or twice a week, either as a standalone workout or at the beginning of an upper-body or cardio-focused session, says Delgado-Lugo. Just make sure you do a warm-up first so your body is properly primed—this five-move routine is designed to prep you for any workout.
Ready to work your abs—and your entire core—with a quick-but-effective bodyweight circuit? Right this way for everything you need to know!
What you need: Just your bodyweight. You may also want an exercise mat for comfort.
- Plank to side plank
- Forearm plank to dolphin
- Bird-dog crunch
- Dead bug
- Do each exercise for 10 reps, then move onto the next exercise without resting. (Of course, take breaks if your form starts to falter or if you feel like you can’t catch your breath.) After all six exercises are complete, rest for 30-60 seconds.
- Complete two rounds total, though for an extra challenge, more advanced exercisers can shoot for three rounds.
Demoing the moves below are Amanda Wheeler (GIF 1), host of the Covering Ground podcast; Cookie Janee (GIF 2), a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Gail Barranda Rivas (GIFs 3, 5-6), a certified group fitness instructor, functional strength coach, Pilates and yoga instructor, and domestic and international fitness presenter; and Lanoa Curry (GIF 4), a group fitness instructor in NYC who teaches classes at Mile High Run Club and Crunch Gym.