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 app trainer Britany Williams and only uses a couple of dumbbells. A pair of the best adjustable dumbbells 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

The inclusion of some of these moves may seem surprising, with many old-school ab workouts and core workouts for beginners 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. Or, if you want to build a balanced body, why not mix things up by trying some of the best leg workouts or giving this 30-day arms challenge a go. 

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.