I tried this four-move bodyweight core workout, and it proved you don't need weights to build practical muscle

This workout helped me developed functional strength that I can use both in and out of the gym

Harry Bullmore performing a tuck-up
(Image credit: Future / Harry Bullmore)

Core workouts are important, I know that, but I sometimes struggle to muster the motivation to do them. 

To relight my training fire and inspire me to tackle more regular mid-section sessions, I decided to mix up my training and try a sit-up-free bodyweight routine I happened across on Instagram. 

So, I unrolled my yoga mat and got to work. 

The workout, designed by personal trainer Jay Maryniak of JTM_Fit, only has four moves; v-ups, tuck-ups, hollow rocks and hollow holds. Perform 10 repetitions of each one in turn, rest for 60 seconds, then repeat this sequence until you've hit four or five rounds. 

You can watch demonstrations of each move in the video below. 

Watch JTM_Fit's core workout

Anyone who's used to training with weights might be forgiven for thinking this bodyweight workout is going to be a breeze in comparison. However, having taken the session for a spin, I can confirm that's not the case. 

You're performing 40 repetitions each round and resting as little as possible between each one. I found this quickly tired my core muscles, making every round feel harder than the last.

It's cleverly programmed too. As you progress through the four-move sequence, each core strengthening exercise is a slightly easier variation on the last, helping you keep moving without taking breaks (this training technique is sometimes called a mechanical drop-set). 

This might seem like a blessing at first, but in reality it means your core muscles aren't given any chance to recover, testing your muscular endurance and putting the progressive overload principle into practice to build serious core strength. 

Harry Bullmore performing a hollow hold

(Image credit: Future / Harry Bullmore)

I soon felt the customary burning sensation that the best abs workouts can bring, and my core muscles began to shake during the hollow holds. By the third round I was forced to add short rests between the later exercises, and it was a struggle to finish each set of 10 unbroken. 

It also felt like it was working muscles that wrapped around my entire midsection rather than just the front of my stomach, offering a more comprehensive core workout than your average cocktail of sit-ups and crunches

These moves task you with repeatedly flexing (bending) your spine, targeting the rectus abdominis muscles which are responsible for that coveted six-pack shape. But there's far more to the core than this (check out our feature on abs vs core training for the deeper details). 

The moves in Maryniak's workout hit other core muscles such as your obliques,  transverse abdominis, and hip flexors. These play a pivotal role in supporting good posture, stabilizing your spine, and taking strain off your lower back, helping prevent pain and injuries in this area. 

I also loved the hollow rocks and hollow holds; fun alternatives to moves like the plank which also have plenty of practical applications in my regular CrossFit training, helping encourage good positions for many gymnastic movements. 

Would I do this workout again?

I'm definitely keen to try this workout again in a few weeks' time. It only took about 12 minutes but still strengthened a wide range of my mid-body muscles, ticking all the boxes for a time-savvy core challenge. 

It's also an enjoyable way to test my progress as I try to improve my core strength — next time, my aim is to complete at least the first three rounds completely unbroken. 

I will say though, this is a demanding starting point for anyone looking for an at-home core workout for beginners. To make it more accessible, try halving the number of repetitions you need to perform of each exercise to five (and five seconds for the hollow hold). 

Then, as your training progresses, add one repetition to each round until you can build up to the full 10. 

Harry Bullmore
Fitness Writer

Harry Bullmore is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering accessible home workouts, strength training session, and yoga routines. He joined the team from Hearst, where he reviewed products for Men's Health, Women's Health, and Runner's World. He is passionate about the physical and mental benefits of exercise, and splits his time between weightlifting, CrossFit, and gymnastics, which he does to build strength, boost his wellbeing, and have fun.

Harry is a NCTJ-qualified journalist, and has written for Vice, Learning Disability Today, and The Argus, where he was a crime, politics, and sports reporter for several UK regional and national newspapers.