Switch sit-ups for these four ab exercises to build a stronger core without weights

Improve your posture, enhance your circulation, and boost your mood with this three-minute abs workout

Woman holding a plank position outside
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Most workouts include ab-focused exercises. These moves strengthen your core, which plays a vital role in everyday tasks like lifting or carrying groceries, and help connect your upper and lower body. 

The most well-known midsection exercise is the sit-up, but doing endless sets can get a bit stale and make it hard to stay motivated. To help you out, we spoke to Sweat strength training expert Katie Martin about her favorite four-move core workout — and there's not a sit-up in sight. 

You don't need much to get started either; a yoga mat for support and just three minutes to spare. This short abs workout helps "work on your alignment [similar to posture, alignment is how everything from your head and spine to your hips and knees line-up]," explains Martin. 

You'll need four exercises; the straight-leg crunch, bent-leg jack-knife, plank rock, and hundreds in table top position. Don't worry if a few of these moves are new to you; you can watch Martin's video below for a quick demonstration of each one. 

To give the workout a go, perform all four moves one after the other. Spend 45 seconds on each one and don't rest between exercises. It's a perfect option when you're tight on time, but you can repeat the circuit for an extended session.

Watch Katie Martin's three-minute abs workout

If you want an extra challenge, Martin says you can try tackling three rounds of this circuit, while core training veterans can attempt five. If you're doing more than one round, rest for 30 seconds after each four-move circuit.

Martin also has a few tips for helping you get the most from your training. "You want to inhale to engage your core and then exhale through the harder part of the movement. For example, during a crunch, you would exhale as you lift your upper body off the ground, then inhale as you lie back down."

You should also aim to take your time with each repetition. "You want to ensure you are moving as slowly as possible, in time with your breath, and that you aren’t racing your way through the reps."

Although it's designed to complement your existing workout routine, Martin adds that she is "a big believer that doing something is far better than nothing, so if this three-minute workout is all you get done today, that is still fantastic!"

It can be helpful to have targets or goals for how long you'll exercise, but life often gets in the way. This doesn't mean you've veered off track — being accepting of how your body feels or what you can do is a great self care idea that'll help boost your wellbeing in the long run. 

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.