I’ve never been one to focus on abs, core, or six or eight packs as a standalone part of exercising. I felt like — and still believe — that you strengthen all the parts of your core by doing standard strength training such as 5×5, 5/3/1, and the like.
However, I’ve recently decided to see if I could focus on the aesthetics side of core strength and development and to do that, I had to first develop some more of the lesser used muscles there and of course shed some body fat to reveal the results. Where I’ve ended up is pretty cool and resulted in a nice overall workout I wanted to share.
Three quick notes on the below:
- I use 30 second intervals with 15 second rests but feel free to alter these depending on your fitness level. It’s a nice way to build progressive overloading though. For example add 5 seconds to each exercise after you feel it’s getting too easy.
- This is all bodyweight but you can do things like add a kettlebell to the Russian Twist or a 10Kg plate to planked knees to elbows
- Focus on really hitting your form rather than struggling through. Better to do 20 seconds of near perfect form than 45 seconds rolling around like a dying fish.
The whole work out was inspired by and developed on top of the “6 Pack Abs for Beginners” from the Officialthenx YouTube channel. I’ve linked to his demonstrations below.
Warm Up: 5 minutes
Really dealers choice but I choose to do 5 minutes at a 10 minute mile pace on a treadmill at 2% incline. Just gets the blood moving so you choose whatever you like. Burpees, jumping jacks, high knees. Anything to get you switched on.
Main Workout: 48 minutes (12×4)
From your warm up go straight into the rounds here. Each one will work a different part of the core / abs. Keep moving and work to the clock. If you need to, slow down the tempo but don’t take long breaks at all between exercises; it’s just enough time to set up for the next one. Each round has a 90 second break between.
Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, with as tight form as possible. Focus on engaging your core, keeping taught, and drawing your belly button in throughout.
- Russian Twist (30 seconds): Legs straight, off the floor 6 inches, leaning back, chin to chest. Twist torso right to left, trying to touch fingertips to the floor on each rotation.
- Leg Raises (30 seconds): Same starting position as the Russian Twist but lift your legs straight up — keeping the as straight as possible — and lower again. Don’t go closer than a couple inches from the floor.
- Hip Raises (30 seconds): Lie all the way back, feet and legs off the floor slightly. Legs straight. Raise legs up and extend toward the ceiling, lifting your hips up with them. Lower in a controlled manner, not touching the floor at the bottom.
- Flutter Kicks (30 seconds): Prop yourself up like with the Russian Twist and Leg Raises and move your legs, left then right, up and down through about 1/3 of their range. Keep controlled and keep the core tight.
- Plank with L/R Knees to Elbows (60 seconds): Get into a plank position on your elbows and toes, tighten everything including your bum and lift your left knee to left elbow and then right knee to right elbow, keeping everything tight throughout.
- Chair Situps Left / Right (30 seconds each): On your back, legs up and bent 90 degrees slightly away from your body — don’t let your quads start to fall back to your chest. Extend your right arm out and lift up reaching for the ceiling, really squeezing your abs like a fist. Do this for 30 seconds on the right, then swap to the left.
- Seated Knees in Out (30 seconds): Finally, lean back and extend your legs, again the starting position for many of these exercises. Draw your knees up, keeping them together, then extend fully. Repeat for the period.
- Tabata Set (Bike 4 minutes 30 seconds): Jump on an exercise bike and pedal as hard as you can (90% max effort) for 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds. Repeat. Do this 8 times total. You can use a fancy HIIT or Tabata app or just a wall clock or the bike’s timer. Here’s a video if you need to see what’s going on.
- Rest (90 seconds): You know what to do. Take a few sips of water. Settle your breathing and get ready for the next round.
Repeat this 4 times if you can or until your form deteriorates. If you really struggle try 25 seconds or 20 seconds. If it’s super easy, try 40 or 45 seconds. Or add some resistance like a kettlebell or 3Kg weight to the seated in and outs.
Cool Down: 5 minutes
Take on some water and cool down however you like. Some stretching — especially your hips and quads from the bike or 15 minute mile pace on the treadmill. Or a nice walk outside.
Congratulate yourself! You’ve just crushed your core.