Bored of sit-ups? Try these six ‘deep-core’ exercises to strengthen your abs instead

Boost your balance and stability by building a seriously strong core with this 18-minute equipment-free workout

A woman performing a deep core exercise on a yoga mat outside
(Image credit: Getty / Oleg Breslavtsev)

Your abs form part of your core—a section of mid-body muscle that improves your balance and performance. Which is why if you want a comprehensive core workout, many six-pack abs sessions barely scratch the surface.

Instead, try these six deep core moves from certified personal trainer Tanya Poppett, which hit important midsection muscles often missed by sit-ups and crunches.

You don't have to splash out on fancy equipment to give it a go either—the only thing you'll need is a pillow, although a yoga mat is useful for extra protection against hard floors. 

To try Poppett's workout, perform 10 repetitions of each exercise (except the dead bugs, where you'll do five). If it's a single-sided movement, perform 10 repetitions on either side of your body.

Work through the six exercises as a circuit, resting as little as possible between them. Complete three rounds of this circuit for a session that should take about 20 minutes. 

If you're new to deep core training, watch Poppett demonstrate each exercise in the videos below to learn how they should be performed. 

Watch Tanya Poppett's deep core workout

Unlike a HIIT workout for fat loss or intense outdoor run, Poppett's workout won't leave you as a sweaty mess. "The best thing about these moves is you can do them in front of the telly," she jokes.

Instead, it helps you build functional muscle using core strengthening exercises, which can lead to plenty of health benefits. Working these muscles boosts your stability, which helps with everyday tasks like carrying the groceries. 

And it'll also boost your performance in full-body compound exercises like squats and lunges, as your core connects your upper and lower body. Plus, stronger core muscles can reduce strain on your lower back. 

The use of a pillow, rather than a weighty dumbbell or kettlebell, may seem like a confusing inclusion. This is intended to help you perfect your technique by providing an "external cue." 

For example, during the side lying knee lifts, you are forced to squeeze your thighs together to keep the pillow in place. As a result, the movement has to be activated by your core muscles rather than using momentum by swinging one leg at a time. 

If you want to try more workouts like this one, why not try Sweat app trainer Britany William's eight-move deep core session

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.