Strengthen your whole core without weights in just three moves

Develop your core muscles, improve your balance, and protect yourself from back injuries with this 16-minute abs session

Woman doing the plank
(Image credit: Getty Images/Kseniya Ovchinnikova)

A strong core will support your spine, protect you from injury, boost your balance and, even improve the way you move, whether you're exercising or just going about your everyday life. 

It's an essential area to train, but, thankfully, you don't need the gym or lots of equipment to get started — one of the best yoga mats, a bit of space, and 16 minutes are all you need. 

The routine comes from Natalie Barnett, founder of women-only gym The Girls Spot. There are only three moves — mountain climbers, planks and bicycle crunches — which make a nice change from endless sit-ups. 

Although Barnett doesn't list specific repetitions, if you want a time-efficient session, perform each move for 40 seconds, rest for 20 seconds, then start the next exercise. Do four rounds of the circuit, with 60 seconds to rest between rounds, for a comprehensive 16-minute core workout.

But to get the most from your training, it's crucial to work on your technique and engage the right muscles around your stomach, rather than arching your lower back. You can follow Barnett's demonstrations to perfect your form before you start. 

Watch Natalie Barnett's three-move core workout


♬ original sound - nataleebfitness

This type of exercise is known as high-intensity resistance training (HIRT), which is a lot like high-intensity interval training (HIIT), but with focus on strength building moves rather than cardio-boosting exercises. 

The aim is to train intensely in short bursts with minimal rest, which works your muscles hard and increases your heart rate. It's a great way to burn energy, and sustaining this high heart rate boosts your metabolism (the energy you burn throughout the day). 

This is why many people use a HIIT workout for fat loss, and a HIRT abs routine like this one can build core strength and help towards your goal of visible abs. There are differences between abs and core training, but many people target this area to develop six-pack abs. 

To make the muscles visible, you need to reduce the amount of fat around your stomach. However, you can't spot target fat, which is why full-body, metabolism-boosting sessions like this are a perfect way to hit your goals, even if you're tight on time. 

You also need to ensure you're consuming enough protein to help your muscles recover effectively. The best protein powers for weight loss are great blended to make a post-workout shake and won't get interfere with your aim of a leaner, stronger mid-section. 

Lois Mackenzie
Fitness Writer

Lois Mackenzie is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering strength training workouts with weights, accessible ways to stay active at home, and training routines for runners. She joined the team from Newsquest Media Group, where she was a senior sports, trends, and lifestyle reporter. She is a dedicated runner, having just completed her first marathon, and an advocate for spending time outdoors, whether on a walk, taking a long run, or swimming in the sea. 

Lois holds a Master's degree in Digital Journalism, and has written for Good Health, Wellbeing & The Great Outdoors,, and Newsquest Media Group, where her reporting was published in over 200 local newspapers.