There’s a wealth of abs workouts for beginners out there, because the demand is never-ending. Whether you're a seasoned HIIT workout pro or you've just started using one of the best ab rollers, men and women alike want a toned, tight core in time for summer, but not many people have a great deal of spare time to devote to it. But we reckon we’ve found one of the best workouts for abs to help that six pack shine – and, what's more, it can be done in under 20 minutes.
Alex Crockford is a personal trainer and creator of fitness app Crockfit, as well as our 30-day bulk-up workout plan for packing on muscle in under a month. What he doesn’t know about getting a six-pack isn’t worth knowing (see pic below for the proof…), so it made sense that we’d call on Alex for an abs workout for beginners.
But while rocking a set of abs may be aesthetically pleasing, working out our core muscles is important for a number of other reasons.
‘The abdominals play a huge role in stability, balance and spine support,’ says Alex.
Alex explains that our abs, or our abdominal muscles, are located in our trunk – the middle of our body, consisting of several different muscle groups.
‘Our abs are composed of the rectus abdominis, which is the six-pack looking muscle in the stomach that attaches from the sternum all the way down to the pubis. Then there’s the transverse abdominis, which is the deep core muscle that wraps around the spine like a corset. And then the internal and external obliques which are located on the side of the torso.’
Now we’re a little more clued up on these six-pack muscles, it’s time to get them working with an abs workout. Alex has designed a 20 minute bodyweight abs workout which is suitable for home and gym.
Why do this abs workout?
This abs workout is ideal for working all areas of the core, as mentioned above.
‘Specific abs workouts are great for strengthening all these core muscles so whether you’re looking to improve your abs strength, stability, or build the muscle to make them look better, it’s important to spend some time on workouts isolating the abs,’ explains Alex.
Will this workout help to burn fat? Well, that’s a little more complex.
‘Remember that fat loss and looking toned in the abs area doesn’t specifically come from abs workouts but more from a whole overall approach to fat loss,’ says Alex. This means having a low enough body fat percentage to actually see the abs. Getting to this level of lean means you'll need to eat healthily, as well as maintaining a good level of general activity and movement.
An effective way to do this is combining cardio workouts, such as running or using one of the best ellipticals in the gym or at home, with resistance training. Resistance training is geared towards building muscle rather than losing fat, which is the umbrella this workout falls under.
The abs workout for beginners
This workout involves eight exercises. You’ll be doing each move for 20 seconds and then taking a 10 second rest between each move. That takes around four minutes to complete. You’ll do the entire circuit of moves three times, so after resting between each set of moves, the total time of this workout will be around 15-20 minutes. All you need is a bit of floor space at home, in the gym or outside: if the surface is too hard, consider a yoga mat to create a comfortable, even surface to perform this workout on.
If you fancy making the workout a little harder, do each move for 30 seconds with a 10 second rest between each move.
- Toe tap crunch
Lie back on your mat with your legs at a right angle to your body, up in the air. Crunch your torso forward and bring your arms up to tap your toes.
If you can’t touch your toes, that’s fine. Instead touch your shins.
- High plank jacks
Start in a plank position, on the palms of your hands. Your shoulders should be in line with your wrists and your body should be in a straight line. Keeping your arms and core tight, jump your feet in and out. If jumping feels too much however, simply step your feet in and out instead.
- Knee raise
Lie back on the ground, arms down by your sides, legs stretched out in front of you. Keep your lower back pressed down into the floor and ensuring your legs stay together and as straight as possible, bring your legs up towards your face. Your lower back and hips will come off the ground slightly as your legs come up. Slowly lower the legs back down to the ground and keep repeating.
- Side plank on forearm
Lie down on your left side on the ground. Lift up your torso and balance on your left forearm, keeping your shoulder in line with your elbow. Your feet should stay stacked one on top of the other. Hold this for 15 seconds then swap sides.
Advanced? On each side plank, slightly pulse the hips up and down towards the ground. This is a great move to work the obliques.
- Bicycle crunch
Lie back on the ground, legs stretched out in front of you. Place left hand behind left ear, and right hand behind right ear, elbows bent.
Keeping the lower back pressed into the ground, bring your left knee towards your right elbow, crunching the torso up as you go, aiming to bring the knee and elbow together.
Then, return to the start position and repeat with the right knee and left elbow. Then return to the start. Keep repeating for the full 20 seconds.
- Heel taps
Lie on the ground, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. As before, keep the lower back pressed into the ground.
Your arms should be straight down either side of your body. Reach your left hand towards your left heel, bending the torso to the left. Then come back to the start position, and repeat on the right side. Keep alternating sides for the full 20 seconds.
The whole time, your shoulders should stay off the ground to maintain tension in the stomach and core.
- Knee hug crunch
This can be a tricky move.
Lie down flat on the ground, hands behind your head. Then bring your arms up, crunch the torso up off the ground, bend the knees and hug the arms around the knees.
Next, slowly lower back to the start position and drop feet to the ground. Ensure your lower back stays flat against the ground throughout. Keep repeating this crunch for the full 20 seconds.
Too easy? If you want to advance the move slightly, keep feet off the ground at all times.
Recover from your abs workout
This six pack workout isn’t the only contributor to six pack abs. Alex explains that after the workout, as with any resistance-based workout, you should aim to eat a protein rich meal. This could be protein powder mixed with oats and fruit, blended together for a smoothie, or perhaps a chicken salads with vegetables and brown rice.
'A high protein diet and lots of fresh nutrition food will fuel the muscle repair and growth. If you have fat you’d like to burn, then this is achieved through a calorie deficit by burning more calories than you consume,' says Alex.
A good way to track your calories is using a food tracking app such as My Fitness Pal.
And that's it! Once you’ve mastered and feel confident with these basic moves, you can progress to more advanced ab exercises, potentially even incorporating an ab roller.
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Lucy is a freelance journalist specializing in health, fitness and lifestyle. She was previously the Health and Fitness Editor across various women's magazines, including Woman&Home, Woman and Woman’s Own as well as Editor of Feel Good You. She has also previously written for titles including Now, Look, Cosmopolitan, GQ, Red and The Sun.
She lives and breathes all things fitness; working out every morning with a mix of running, weights, boxing and long walks. Lucy is a Level 3 personal trainer and teaches classes at various London studios. Plus, she's pre- and post-natal trained and helps new mums get back into fitness after the birth of their baby. Lucy claims that good sleep, plenty of food and a healthy gut (seriously, it's an obsession) are the key to maintaining energy and exercising efficiently. Saying this, she's partial to many classes of champagne and tequila on the rocks whilst out with her friends.
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