You don't need weights to build core strength, just these five ab exercises

Work your ab muscles and develop a stronger core with these five bodyweight moves

Woman performing bicycle crunch ab workouts
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lifting weights can be a great way to develop muscle, adding strength-building equipment to your workouts. But you don't need any equipment to build core strength—you can use these five bodyweight exercises instead.

If you regularly train at home, it's still worth investing in a set of the best adjustable dumbbells, as you can use these customizable, space-saving weights to add extra load to many bodyweight or cardio-focused exercises.

But for times when you want to focus on your core—a collection of mid-body muscle that includes your rectus abdominis, otherwise known as the six-pack ab muscle—these equipment-free moves are a great place to start. 

This short routine was developed by Nicole McPherson, a Pilates and yoga instructor best known for her fitness-focused YouTube channel Move with Nicole. Pilates is a great way to train your core, and these five moves form a crucial part of Nicole's classes. 

As most of the moves are floor-based, you may want to roll out one of the best yoga mats to create a comfortable base during the routine. Nicole also demonstrates each exercise, so you can watch along and work on your form to get the most from your workout. 

Watch Nicole McPherson's five-move ab workout

While sit-ups and crunches are also great ways to train your abs and build your core, Nicole's plan has a bit more variety and includes ab curls, bicycles, double-leg stretches, leg drops, and criss-crosses.

You can use the five moves together as an ab-focused routine or build them into your existing workout. Although they're presented together here, McPherson doesn't specify a set amount of repetitions, so you can train in a way that you prefer.

If you're after a time-efficient way to build core strength, you could use them in an AMRAP workout, which stands for ‘as many repetitions as possible’ in a set amount of time. This is ideal if you're tight on time and can only spare 10 or 20 minutes.

It might not seem like a lot of movement, but you'll start to work your abs and develop a stronger core by keeping the intensity high. This is important as your core helps promote circulation, aids stability, and improves your overall workout performance.

That's why many people use core strengthening exercises, like crunches, ankle taps, and Russian twists in their training. If you enjoy training with weights, it's also worth investing in one of the best kettlebells.

You can add these versatile weights to bodyweight moves like squats, but you can also learn how to do a kettlebell swing for a full-body workout that'll work your core, raise your heart rate, and boost your metabolism.

James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.

In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.