You don't need weights to build core strength—just this 12-minute ab workout

This high-intensity routine is an excellent way to work your abs and develop your core when you're short on time

Woman doing an ab workout at home
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you want to build muscle, you may think that the only way is to pick up some weights. While strength training with weights like kettlebells or dumbbells is an option, it's not your only choice, as this 12-minute, equipment-free ab workout shows.

You might already have core strengthening exercises in your regular workout program, but this quick session is a great way to give your abs and core a quick blast when you're tight on time, traveling, or as a finisher for your usual routine.

It's a time-efficient way to train, fitting 12 ab-focused moves into 12 minutes. To do this, you'll work for 45 seconds, take a 15-second rest, then start with the next exercise. It's an intense but effective workout developed by fitness YouTubers Tiff x Dan (opens in new tab).

As the pair wrote, "this workout starts out pretty mellow, and then by a few minutes in your core will get set on fire!" You don't need any equipment to get started, though you may want to use one of the best yoga mats as most of the exercises are floor-based. 

Watch Tiff x Dan's 12-minute ab workout

This workout style is known as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), where the aim is to keep the intensity high throughout the session. Since you only take short breaks, it's a time-efficient way to build muscle, increase your heart rate, and boost metabolism.

It's also why many people use a HIIT workout for fat loss as you burn energy during the intense workout and then for hours after. If you want to give the routine a go independently or add some of the moves into your regular workout, the exercises you need are listed below.

Tiff x Dan's 12-minute ab workout moves

  • Double leg raises
  • Alternating single leg extensions
  • Tuck to open leg extensions
  • Frog crunches
  • Extended legs open & close
  • Alternating single leg lowers
  • Alternating cross reaches
  • Butterfly reach through crunches
  • Sprinter's sit-up (right)
  • Sprinter's sit-up (left)
  • Plank step-outs
  • Plank climbers

There are many benefits to training your core, a section of mid-body muscle that includes your rectus abdominis, the six-pack ab muscle. For instance, according to a study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science (opens in new tab), a stronger core can help reduce chronic back pain.

But developing core strength also helps improve your posture, aids your stability and balance, and promotes circulation. Training your core also helps improve your performance in other exercises like dumbbell presses or push-ups.

If you do enjoy exercising with weights, you can pick up one of the best kettlebells and set about learning how to do kettlebell swings. This multi-muscle compound move increases your metabolism and works your core for fat-burning, muscle-building results.

James is a London-based journalist and Staff Writer 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.