Build core strength and prevent lower back pain with this 20-minute abs workout

This 10-move Pilates-inspired abs workout strengthens your core without weights

Fitness trainer Grace Albin performing a bodyweight Pilates abs workout
(Image credit: Grace Albin)

Over the years, there have been a lot of new products promising to help you build a rock-solid core. However, one of the best tools for building midsection muscle is free, and you already own it — your body. 

This Pilates-style workout from fitness trainer Grace Albin will help you build comprehensive core strength with just 10 bodyweight moves. The only piece of equipment you might want is a yoga mat to cushion your spine. 

"This workout is incredibly effective for building core muscles in a small amount of time," Albin told Fit&Well.

"These movements are for 360 degrees of waist-strengthening. In addition to the rectus abdominis [the technical term for the muscles responsible for the six-pack shape], the lower back and oblique muscles are also involved.  

"Keeping those complimentary muscles balanced prevents injuries and improves posture."

Watch Albin demonstrate the 10 exercises in the videos below, and mirror her form to perfect your technique for each one. 

Watch Grace Albin's 10-move core workout

To turn these 10 moves into a workout, Albin recommends performing them back to back as a circuit, completing 12 repetitions of each. If you're newer to core workouts, try doing two rounds of this circuit, or if you're looking for a more challenging session, finish four rounds in total. 

This way, this workout has something to offer a variety of exercisers, and that's not the only way you can scale it to suit your fitness level. 

"Even though it's an advanced routine that challenges experienced athletes, it is modifiable for new participants," Albin says. "For the first five exercises, beginners can modify these moves by keeping their hands on the floor for balance. 

"The last five moves can by modified by keeping your feet on the floor rather than lifting them, as I demonstrated."

A woman performing a boat pose as part of a Pilates session

(Image credit: Getty)

If you want to try this workout, Albin's top tip is to avoid rushing through the movements to finish as fast as possible. After all, she says, "form matters much more than speed".

"The best way to make this workout effective is to go slowly and glide smoothly through the exercises; your movements should be controlled, never jerky.

"Resist the urge to arch your lower back or slouch your upper back during any Pilates exercise. Instead, keep that spine and long and straight. Your neck should also feel comfortable and natural 100% of the time, never clenching or straining."

If you enjoyed this workout, you might want to try our Pilates plan for beginners. Or, if you want more ways to train your trunk, take a look at our feature on the best core workout for beginners.  

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.