Strengthen your core and boost your balance with this trainer's quick standing abs workout

Skip the crunches and try these standing exercises instead

Woman times herself as she does a standing abs workout
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Our abs are important for all kinds of reasons. Found along the front of the stomach, they make up some of the external muscles of our core, and work hard to keep us standing up straight and moving easily. 

It's worth strengthening them if you want to improve your core stability and boost your balance. But you don't have to stick with grueling options like sit-ups and crunches

If, like me, you can't face unrolling your mat for another abs-blasting session, you can try standing exercises instead. By adding weight to functional standing movements like a side bend, you can engage these abs muscles and work to strengthen them without having to get on the floor. 

NASM-qualified trainer Elethia Gay has put together this five-move standing abs workout for Fit&Well readers. All you need to do it is a couple of light dumbbells, but you could also use water bottles to add some weight to the movements. 

Elethia Gay
Elethia Gay

Elethia Gay is a NASM-qualified trainer and yoga teacher. She is the founder of the Roots to Wellness program, a virtual training platform for women, and the non-profit Hiking for Hope group.

How to do this standing abs workout

  • Standing toe reach: 10-12 repetitions
  • Standing criss-cross crunches: 10-12 repetitions
  • Woodchop: 10-12 repetitions
  • Side bends with dumbbell: 10-12 repetitions
  • Cherry pickers: 10-12 repetitions

Repeat the above routine one to three times, to get a comprehensive standing abs workout. 

The exercises

1. Standing toe reach

Personal trainer Elethia Gay performs a standing toe reach

(Image credit: Elethia Gay)

Reps: 10-12 on each side Sets: 1-3

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  • Slowly lift one leg off the ground and extend it straight out in front of you. While keeping your leg straight, lean forward from your hips and reach towards your toes with the opposite hand. If you can't reach your toes, go as far as you comfortably can. Hold this position for a few seconds.
  • Slowly return to the starting position and switch to the other leg. 

2. Standing criss-cross crunches

Personal trainer Elethia Gay performs criss-cross crunches

(Image credit: Elethia Gay)

Reps: 10-12 on each side Sets: 1-3

  • Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart and your finger tips behind your ears.
  • Lift your right knee, while simultaneously crunching your torso to bring your left elbow toward your right knee. Keep your core engaged and focus on the twisting motion to work your obliques.

3. Woodchop

Personal trainer Elethia Gay demonstrates a wood chop

(Image credit: Elethia Gay)

Reps: 10-12 on each side Sets: 1-3

  • Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell with both hands. Raise the weight up and to the side, so that it's held over your shoulder on one side. Keep your arms straight and your core engaged.
  • Begin the movement by rotating your torso and hips, bringing the weight diagonally down and across your body towards your opposite hip. As you rotate, shift your weight onto the opposite leg to maintain stability.
  • Exhale as you bring the weight down, and inhale as you return to the starting position. Remember to keep your arms extended and your upper body stable throughout the movement.

4. Side bend with dumbbell

Personal trainer Elethia Gay performs a weighted side bend

(Image credit: Elethia Gay)

Reps: 10-12 on each side Sets: 1-3

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your back straight and core engaged.
  • Slowly tilt your upper body to the side while keeping the dumbbell close to your thigh. Lower the dumbbell as far as comfortable, feeling a stretch on the opposite side of your body. Focus on controlled, smooth movements to avoid straining your muscles.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

5. Cherry pickers

Personal trainer Elethia Gay performs cherry pickers

(Image credit: Elethia Gay)

Reps: 10-12 Sets: 1-3

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Lower yourself into a squat position, keeping your back straight and chest up, while bringing your hands to the side of each leg or heel.
  • As you stand up from the squat, bring your hands to your hips.
  • At the top of the movement, press the hands over head. You can add a jump here too.
  • Reverse the movement by bringing the hands to the hips and then squatting to the floor, bring hands to the side of each foot. Focus on engaging your legs, core, and shoulder muscles during each repetition.

Need help finding a new set of dumbbells? Our guide to the best adjustable dumbells can help.

Lou Mudge
Fitness Writer

Lou Mudge is a Health Writer at Future Plc, working across Fit&Well and Coach. She previously worked for Live Science, and regularly writes for Space.com and Pet's Radar. Based in Bath, UK, she has a passion for food, nutrition and health and is eager to demystify diet culture in order to make health and fitness accessible to everybody.


Multiple diagnoses in her early twenties sparked an interest in the gut-brain axis and the impact that diet and exercise can have on both physical and mental health. She was put on the FODMAP elimination diet during this time and learned to adapt recipes to fit these parameters, while retaining core flavors and textures, and now enjoys cooking for gut health.