Burn calories and strengthen your ab muscles in just 20-minutes—here’s how

This workout combines cardio with core strength training to burn calories and tone your ab muscles

Woman jumping outside
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Cardio is a great workout tool for lowering your body fat percentage and when you pair this with some core training you are on a great track for building a strong set of abs. Fortunately, this 20-minute workout routine fits both these types of exercise into one session and requires no equipment.

While aesthetic goals such as having a six-pack are a priority for many, keeping up with regular core strengthening exercises is also really beneficial for carrying out everyday activities. Your core muscles are situated at the center of your body and support your neck, back, and spine. So whether you’re getting out of bed, bending down to pick something up, or playing your favorite sport you can guarantee that your core is in use.

This workout is designed by Sophie van Oostenbrugge, known best online as ‘Gainsbybrains (opens in new tab)’, and packs into 20-minutes some fast-paced cardio followed by three intense minutes of ab exercise. 

The cardio section of this workout is completed as a typical HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout, which is an extremely efficient way to burn calories. According to a research paper published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (opens in new tab), you can burn 25-30% more calories doing 30 minutes of HIIT over 30-minutes of other forms of exercise like running, cycling, or weight training.

For the last three minutes of the workout, you will move on to the abs section. This is just three moves, still working with the same interval periods: 45 seconds on followed by 15 seconds rest.

Watch Gainsbybrains 20-minute Cardio and Abs Routine

This workout is a really time-efficient way to work toward your fitness goals. But like with most things, consistency is key. Cramming one session of this into the end of a sedentary week won’t undo lots of sitting down or unhealthy eating. This isn’t just concerning your visual results but your overall health.

According to the American Heart Association (opens in new tab), adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise in a week, and there should be some resistance training added in there.

Moreover, as you grow in strength it’s a good idea to continue to challenge your body so that places like your core can continue to develop muscle strength and definition. Incorporating some of the best adjustable dumbbells into your ab workouts will increase the resistance and help with your progress.

Plus, having a stronger core means things like your posture, balance, and stability should also improve. This will make growing older easier and maintaining your fitness abilities more feasible.

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

Jessica is Staff Writer at Fit&Well. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 


When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.