I tried this quick ab workout to see if you can build core strength in 10 minutes—here's what happened

I wanted to find out if this equipment-free ab workout could improve my balance, circulation, and workout performance

Man doing crunches at home
(Image credit: Future)

When I exercise, I tend to prefer strength training over cardio workouts. But these routines take time, and between work, family commitments, and meeting up with friends, it's not always easy to fit in a session.

For when I am short on time, I prioritize core strengthening exercises to help improve my balance, stability, and workout performance. I also have chronically low blood pressure, and, according to research, core strength promotes circulation. 

There are some days when I'm especially pressed for time, so I need a quick workout I can squeeze into my schedule. I'd heard many positive things about Pamela Reif's 10-minute abs workout, so I decided it was worth a shot.

After all, I can find 10 minutes to meditate every day for my wellbeing, so why not spend a few moments training my core to look after my body too? As you don't need any equipment, it's a quick and easy way to work your abs. 

Watch Pamela Reif's 10-minute ab workout

This was the first ab-focused workout I'd done in a long time, so I knew it would be challenging. But Reif's short routine has clocked up over 72.5 million views, so I figured there must be something to it.

I set aside 10 minutes, rolled out one of the best yoga mats so that I was comfortable while lying on the floor, and pressed play. It was a tough workout, but was it enough to build a stronger core? Here's what I found. 

1. Crunches are surprisingly effective

There's this popular idea that bodyweight exercises are the 'easy' option, and you can only build muscle with weights. That's certainly not the case, as Reif's ab workout shows.

The routine makes good use of crunch variations and finishes on another classic ab exercise, the plank. Crunches are well-known because they are very effective at working your upper abdominals.

Research published in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness showed that even a single day of crunches each week increases your ab muscle endurance in the first few weeks of any core training program.

I felt like I got a lot out of the short session, and because it's only 10 minutes, there's no reason I couldn't fit in at least a couple of sessions a week during my lunch break or quickly get through a round before work.

2. It's okay to take a short rest

Man performing crunches outside

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Reif's routine is definitely challenging. To fit an effective, 20-move workout into just 10 minutes, each move lasts 30 seconds, and there are no breaks between exercises. Even though I'm used to this training style, my abs started burning by the fourth move.

Although it's good to work as hard as you can, especially during short, high-intensity sessions, I noticed my form was taking a hit. This could lead to injury, but it also meant that I wasn't working my core correctly.

I decided that it was better to take a short rest, let my muscles recover a bit, and then start back up again. Because the routine isn't live, you can pause it if you don't want to miss out on any exercises.

There's some evidence from The Physiological Society that short rests between high-intensity exercises can boost the effectiveness of your workout. So, there's no need to feel bad if you do take a quick break.

3. You need more than an ab workout to build core strength

Doing crunches every day is a great way to develop your upper abs, but these isolation exercises don't train your lower abdominal muscles or challenge other parts of your core.

According to a study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, the key to developing core strength is a varied workout that targets multiple muscles. Training in this way means you may start to see results in as little as four weeks.

I prefer strength training to cardio, so I have been using one of the best kettlebells when exercising at home. These customizable weights are great for working multiple muscles at once, so you can develop your core and upper body simultaneously.

One of the top ways to work your core and lower body is by learning how to do a kettlebell swing. This compound (multi-muscle) move engages your whole body, raises your heart rate, and increases your metabolism for fat-burning, muscle-building results.

James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.

In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.