Hate ab workouts? Try this 12-minute low-intensity Pilates workout to build your core

This Pilates-inspired routine doesn't take long to work your abdominal and core muscles at a steady intensity

Woman doing Pilates on a mat outside
(Image credit: Getty)

The great thing about ab workouts is that they tend to be short, making them a very time-efficient way to exercise. However this shorter workouts are also often associated with moving at a high intensity. If this is the part that puts you off training your abs then this 12-minute Pilates based core workout is one for you to try.

Pilates is a low impact exercise that uses controlled movement, typically performed on top of one of the best yoga mats, to develop strength (especially in the core) and improve your balance, mobility, and flexibility.

In this Mary Braun (opens in new tab) workout you will use core strengthening exercises at a slow and controlled pace and intensity to build a stronger core and to develop a more defined mid-section of your body.

Braun, who is a both a fitness trainer and yoga specialist, demonstrates the routine in full showing how each exercise should be performed to help get the best results. Alignment and form is really key to Pilates practice so take your time to learn the moves and ensure your core is engaged in each move not only to work it hard but also to support the rest of your body as you workout.

Watch Mary Braun's 12-Minute Pilates Ab and Core Routine

People can be quick to assume that low-intensity exercise has lesser results than a high-intensity workout but there is research showing just how effective a workout like Pilates can be on your body. One study published in the Proteus Journal (opens in new tab) reported increased strength and endurance of core muscles amongst a group of postpartum women who completed just four weeks of Pilates-based mat exercise.

The physical benefits of having a stronger core are vast. The core stabilizes your body, allowing you to move around with ease and helping you to carry weight. So whether you just want to make everyday tasks easier, especially as you get older and your body starts to become weaker, or you want to be able to enhance your exercise performance, a stronger core is essential.

Plus, many people have the aesthetic goal of carving out a set of defined abs across their stomach area. While this is possible to achieve with some of the best abs workouts, results will vary depending on your body composition and fitness levels. Braun highlighted this herself, "Remember, every body is different and visible muscles, like ab muscles especially, are better seen when having a low-fat body percentage!".

If you have been relentlessly completing sets of crunches and sit-ups but seeing no visible difference, then it might be that your body fat percentage isn't low enough for this to be noticeable.

A simple equation for this is to eat less and move more. For some, this will sound a lot easier than it is to keep up. However, once you equip yourself with knowledge on what to eat to lose belly fat and factor in some fat-burning workouts into your fitness regime, you should start to notice results.

Also, if you are someone with limited time to work out then get to know workouts that are more time efficient and effective at burning fat. For example, this HIIT workout for fat loss is a great time saver. Or if you hate spending hours on the best exercise machines to lose weight and can't decide between cardio vs weights, you can actually burn more calories doing a weight lifting session instead.

A set of the best adjustable dumbbells are a great home workout tool for those looking to build muscle at home without investing in a full rack of weights.

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.