I tried this 10-minute ab workout, and it worked more than just my core

This short routine will not only challenge the abdominal muscles, but it also improves balance and coordination

Fit & Well writer Alice Porter performing a v-sit as part of an ab workout
(Image credit: Alice Porter)

I’m no stranger to ab workouts — when I first joined the gym and wasn’t familiar with the machines, rolling out a mat and working on my core was a regular part of my routine. 

Nowadays I favor strength training and follow a progressive overload-based program at a CrossFit gym. However, I still try to incorporate ab exercises into my training when I can, as a strong core is essential when it comes to lifting weights.

Planks and sit-ups are all well and good for strengthening your abs, but I often find myself getting bored doing the same movements each week, and I don’t feel particularly challenged.

That’s why, when I saw an ab workout with some unusual movements I’d never tried, I knew I had to give it a go. 

Created by personal trainer and online coach Ella-Mae Rayner, it’s a circuit-style session with six Pilates-inspired exercises, which I knew would test my balance and coordination as much as my core strength.

Watch Rayner’s reel below to see her demonstrate each of the movements.

Watch Ella-Mae Rayner's ab workout

For me, the key to a successful ab workout is keeping it short and sweet — I find pushing through that mid-body burn for more than fifteen minutes feels practically impossible. Fortunately, with only six movements and minimal rest, I finished this session in about ten minutes during my lunchbreak.

Ten minutes is definitely long enough though, as the exercises are a lot more challenging than Rayner makes them look. The scissor kicks and dish hold in particular required a lot of balance, and I'll admit I did fall out of position a couple of times before stretching out and getting back to it.

V-sit exercises like the ones in this workout are among my favorites for building total core strength as you can feel the muscles in your upper and lower abs working hard as you move. I also like how they are more effective if you move slowly, as this challenges your balance and increases the total time under tension for your core muscles.

One surprising thing I found was that this workout engaged my legs as well as my core; my quads were burning during the exercises where I had to hold my legs in the air.

I tried to focus on mind-muscle connection, squeezing my abs as I moved to ensure they were working harder than any other muscle in my body. And, when I finished the workout, I felt confident I'd pushed my core to its limit; it was seriously sore and my abs already appeared slightly more defined.

This is definitely a workout I’ll come back to regularly as I felt it strengthened my entire core and I know it will benefit my strength training.  

It will also help me progress gymnastic-focused CrossFit movements I’m trying to improve like pull-ups and toes-to-bar (this guide to calisthenics is a good place to start if you're looking to do the same).

I plan on alternating Rayner's workout with this standing abs workout, which engages slightly different muscles, as well as this HIIT-style core session to ensure I’m challenging my body in new ways every time I exercise.

Alice Porter
Freelancer Writer

Alice Porter is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle topics including health, fitness and wellness. She is particularly interested in women's health, strength training and fitness trends and writes for publications including Stylist Magazine, Refinery29, The Independent and Glamour Magazine. Like many other people, Alice's personal interest in combining HIIT training with strength work quickly turned into a CrossFit obsession and she trains at a box in south London. When she's not throwing weights around or attempting handstand push-ups, you can probably find her on long walks in nature, buried in a book or hopping on a flight to just about anywhere it will take her.