Improve your ab tone, posture and low back health with this 10 minute core workout. Although it’s a short workout, it covers everything. You’ll work all your ab muscles with a combination of 6 pack, obliques and deep abdominal muscle training. For best results, do the workout 3 times a week.
About this workout
Please read these general exercise guidelines before you do the workout.
Also, please be aware that the plank is a static exercise (that is, muscles are held in contraction) and is therefore not advisable for anyone with high blood pressure.
You will need an exercise mat or some other form of cushioning, such as a folded blanket.
10 minute core workout exercises
Apart from the hundred and the plank, you should do 24 reps of all the exercises (12 on each side where applicable.
#1 Pilates hundred
- Lie on the floor as shown above, with your legs bent and your head and shoulders raised.
- Breathe in and then pulse your arms up and down by your side 5 times as you breathe out. Keep the arm movement as you breathe in for 5 pulses and then out again. Keep going with this for 10 breaths – that is, a total of 100 pulses.
- Lie with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor about hip distance apart.
- Put your hands behind your head to prevent neck strain. You should just be supporting your head, not pulling on it.
- Engage your abdominal muscles and curl your spine smoothly away from the floor.
- Stop when your shoulder blades have left the floor and start to reverse the movement. Again, it should be a smooth, curling movement on the way down.
- Lie on your back with your legs vertical.
- Making sure you don’t let your back arch, lower and raise one leg at a time.
#4 Oblique crunches
- Lie on the floor with your legs together, bent to 90° at the hips and knees.
- Rotate your left elbow towards your right knee. It doesn’t matter if you can’t lift your shoulder high enough for your elbow to touch your knee, just get it as close as you can.
- Lower your left shoulder blade back to the floor and swap sides.
#5 Reverse crunch
- This time, start by extending your legs so that they are vertical.
- Engage your lower abs as you curl your lower spine off the mat. Again, it should be a smooth curling movement.
- When your lower back has left the floor, start to reverse the movement – curl your spine back down under control.
#6 Side reach
- Lie on the floor with knees bent and feet about hip distance apart, your right hand behind your head and your left your palm facing inwards towards your body.
- Lift your head and shoulders slightly off the floor.
- Reach your left hand towards your left foot. Complete 12 reps on this side and then lower your head to the floor, change sides and repeat.
#7 Bicycle crunch
- The start position is with your feet in the air and your hands behind your head.
- Extend your right leg to a 45° angle with the floor.
- At the same time, bring your left knee towards your upper body and lift your right shoulder off the floor to reach your elbow towards your knee.
- Now extend your left leg and bring your left elbow towards your right knee.
- Keep alternating until you’ve done all the reps.
#8 Double leg stretch
- Lie on your back with your knees and hips bent at right angles and your hands behind your head, as shown.
- Curl your head and shoulders off the floor as you straighten your legs
- Return to the start position and repeat.
#9 Mountain climber
- Get into an all-4s position on the floor. Make sure your hands are directly below your shoulders.
- Take your legs out behind, keeping your back slightly curved.
- Now bring one knee at a time in towards your arms.
#10 Elbow plank
- From a kneeling position, lean forwards and put your forearms on the floor, making sure your shoulders are directly above your elbows.
- Have your palms facing, curled into a fist.
- Straighten one leg out behind you, with the toes on the floor.
- Engage your core strongly and extend the other leg behind.
- Your body should be making a straight line
- Now hold this position
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Related to 10 minute core workout
Ab workouts FAQ
The stock answer to this is that you can’t get rid of fat from a specific area. This is repeated frequently and emphatically by almost everyone involved in fitness. Given that it’s the go-to answer, you would think that there’s a pile of evidence to support it. In fact, the evidence is surprisingly weak. On the other hand, there’s no evidence that you can exercise to burn fat from a specific area either.
What we do know for sure is that our bodies have preferred places to store fat – and the abdominal area is one of them. So you’re not likely to have a fat-free belly until you’re a healthy weight. The best way to be a healthy weight is of course to have a healthy diet and to exercise regularly. Any exercise helps with weight control.
Even if it doesn’t burn belly fat, regular ab exercise will make a difference though. The deep core muscles pull the abdominal area flat and having a strong core can make a real difference. In fact it’s often the case that what people think is fat is just poor muscle tone allowing the abdomen to protrude.
So, the best things you can do to look slimmer around your middle are to make sure you’re a healthy weight and do some core training.
Plank holds have been an enormously popular abs exercise for years now. This is probably due to the buzz surrounding the exercise in the form of challenges and extreme hold times, rather than being due to its merits as an effective exercise.
Done correctly, the plank will engage the deepest abdominal muscle, the transverse abdominis (TA). This is the one that plays the biggest part in pulling the abdominal area in flat, as well as playing an important role in pelvic and spinal stability. It’s a challenging exercise and most people will struggle to hold the correct position for more than a minute. These are the good points. However, the plank has its drawbacks:
- Doing it with correct technique is difficult for those who are not used to core training. To be effective, the back and legs must form a straight line (like a plank). Inexperienced exercisers fail to do this.
- It’s a static exercise (ie the muscles are held contracted). There are two problems with static exercises. One is that the muscles are only worked in one position and the other is that it causes blood pressure to increase.
- It’s not functional – we do nothing vaguely resembling the plank in every day life. If we want to train our TA to engage when we’re active, then holding it in a static contraction isn’t the best way.
So should you do plank holds? Yes, it’s good to add them to your abs routine sometimes or to do a plank challenge for variety. But you should make sure your technique is correct and you shouldn’t waste your workout time trying to build up excessively long holds.
As with most “best exercise” questions, the answer depends on what you’re trying to achieve. The two main goals people have are flat abs and 6 pack abs. To have a flat abdominal area you need to train the deeper abdominal muscles. This is done by doing core stabilising exercises. The 6 pack muscles are the top layer of ab muscles and are trained by crunches and similar exercises – any exercise in which the upper body and lower body come closer together against a resistance. If you want to train all your ab muscles, bicycle crunches are a good all-round exercise.