This 25-minute ab workout was intense, but it did really strengthen my core

The short routine combines cardio exercise with multi-muscle moves to develop mid-body strength

Man holding a plank
(Image credit: Future)

As a fan of strength training workouts, I wouldn't usually opt for an equipment-free cardio and core routine. I say usually, but I really mean that I don't. This isn't necessarily a problem—you're more likely to develop regular practice if you choose activities you enjoy.

I work out with a set of the best adjustable dumbbells most evenings and take a morning walk every day, so I get a regular dose of strength training and cardio exercise. But I rarely explicitly target my core.

Sure, there are core strengthening exercises in most of my workouts, but it's not the primary focus. But after taking a week off for some vacation time, I decided to get back into the rhythm with fitness YouTubers Tiff x Dan's bodyweight session.

Watch Tiff x Dan's 25-minute core workout

It felt achievable at just 25 minutes, and I didn't have to worry about finding my weights before getting started. Instead, I rolled out a mat in the kitchen, got the video on my laptop, and gave it a go. This is what I learned.

1. Building your core takes more than crunches

The routine starts with squats, cross punches, and knee drives. You're exercising for 30 seconds with only 15 seconds to rest, so it's a high-intensity opening. These moves don't immediately sound like they'd train your core, but I noticed my core and abs engaging.

Squats are a compound exercise, working your whole body (including your core), while cross punches and knee drives require balance, stability, and coordination between your upper and lower body—all hallmarks of core strength.

Later on, Dan included some traditional ab-focused moves, like bicycle crunches, plank variations, and mountain climbers, but the varied routine reminded me that you don't need to dedicate hours to sit-ups to strengthen your mid-body muscles.

2. Technique is everything

Towards the end of the workout, I was noticeably tired. There were a few times when I didn't keep my focus on the exercise, as my mind drifted to just getting to the end of each set. Inevitably, I stopped paying attention to my form.

When I noticed, I'd adjust myself back into the proper position and immediately feel the difference—it's easy to get into a plank position, but it's not as straightforward to really learn how to do a plank properly with your core engaged.

Perfecting your technique makes each move more effective, but it's also vital to avoiding injury. During the plank jacks, I started to lean into my lower back, and I didn't want to have to deal with the consequences by taking up Pilates for back pain.

3. Varied workouts are the most effective

In the past, I've tried 15-minute dumbbell arm workouts and given 10-minute dumbbell chest workouts a go. These are mainly focused on static strength training exercises, aiming to do a certain amount of reps or continue until the timer buzzes.

Sometimes, I use high-intensity resistance training (HIRT) to raise my heart rate and work up a sweat while building muscle, but because I prioritize these strength routines, I don't have time to do a more cardio-focused workout too.

Tiff x Dan's session combines the two, with heart rate-raising, metabolism-boosting moves like burpees and lunge jumps and multi-muscle bodyweight activities, including squats, plank variations, and push-ups for a well-rounded muscle-building, fat-burning workout.

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.