You don’t need sit-ups to sculpt your core, just this 12-minute ab workout

All it takes is six moves (and there isn't a sit-up in sight)

A woman performing the bird dog exercise
(Image credit: Future)

You don't need sit-ups and crunches to carve a core of steel — this beginner-friendly ab workout puts your midsection to work without using either exercise. It takes little over 10 minutes too, making it a great option for a quick lunch break session. 

The workout is designed by Sweat (opens in new tab) app trainer Britany Williams (opens in new tab) and only uses a couple of dumbbells. A pair of the best adjustable dumbbells (opens in new tab) are a perfect fit as you can adjust the weight to suit your strength level, but kettlebells, ankle weights and even cans of beans or full water bottles can also be used to make each movement slightly more challenging. 

The session is made up of just six moves: the farmer's carry, kneeling wood chop, bird dog, supine march, reverse supine march and deadbug. You're tasked with completing 10 repetitions of each move (or 30-40 seconds of the carries) as a circuit for two rounds. 

The names of some of these moves may sound new and daunting, but each one has been chosen to be low impact and accessible, making this core workout a fantastic option for all fitness levels. 

Watch Williams' videos below to see how each exercise should be performed, practice them for yourself, then you're ready to go.

Watch Britany Williams' beginner-friendly ab workout

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The inclusion of some of these moves may seem surprising, with many old-school ab workouts and core workouts for beginners (opens in new tab) centering around flexion of the spine (or, in other words, curling your lower back, as you do during a sit-up or crunch). However, the core is a complicated beast made up of several muscles, and this session aims to hit all of them. 

For example, a farmer's carry will recruit the transverse abdominis (a core muscle that wraps around your torso) to provide stability. The kneeling wood chop calls your obliques (the muscles that stretch down the side of your trunk) into play while the rectus abdominis (responsible for the classic 'six-pack' aesthetic) will be active throughout bird dogs, supine marches and more.  

If you enjoyed this session, you might want to try our pick of the best ab workouts to build core strength without weights (opens in new tab). Or, if you want to build a balanced body, why not mix things up by trying some of the best leg workouts (opens in new tab) or giving this 30-day arms challenge a go. 

Harry Bullmore

Harry Bullmore is a fitness writer covering everything from reviews to features for LiveScience, T3, TechRadar, Fit&Well and more. So, whether you’re looking for a new fitness tracker or wondering how to shave seconds off your 5K PB, chances are he’s written something to help you improve your training.


When not writing, he’s most likely to be found experimenting with a wide variety of training methods in his home gym or trying to exhaust his ever-energetic puppy.


Prior to joining Future, Harry wrote health and fitness product reviews for publications including Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Runner’s World. Before this, he spent three years as a news reporter with work in more than 70 national and regional newspapers.