Get a stronger core fast with this 12-minute abs workout…

‘Engage your core.’ ‘Keep your core tight.’ ‘Work your core.’ You often get told to activate the core muscle group, but what is it and how do you do it?

Related: Ab workouts for women

Jen Devonshire, PT, Pilates and yoga teacher, and founder of Pause2Perform says that it’s more than just your tummy muscles. ‘The core doesn’t just include your abdominals, but also your glutes and lower back, which are very involved in maintaining the stability of the torso,’ she explains. ‘By working these muscles as well as the abdominal muscles, core work is a great way to prevent lower back pain.’

Indeed, a strong core offers a ton of health benefits. ‘Your core surrounds your spine like a corset, and the stronger your core muscles, the more protection your spine has – both when performing exercises at the gym and when doing everyday tasks,’ says Devonshire.

‘Moreover, a strong core simply helps you move about with efficiency and ease every day. Whether you’re power walking to work, carrying your shopping up or down the stairs or swinging a kettlebell, all activities will be safer and easier with a strong core.’

Related: Yoga for core strength: best poses for stronger abs

How to do this 12-minute abs workout:

If you want to target your middle muscles but don’t have a lot of time, try this speedy session. Perform the next six moves as a circuit, completing 10 reps of each exercise with good form. Complete the circuit twice through. Do this workout every other day to notice a difference in just four weeks.

To engage your core, really focus on tensing your stomach muscles as you do these exercises. When laying down, push your lower back into the floor to eliminate the space underneath, which ensures the transverse abdominis (the deep muscles on the front and sides of the abdomen) and the rectus abdominis (the ‘six-pack’ muscles) are engaged.

12-Minute Abs Workout

  1. Leg lowers with reverse curl
  2. Slow ab cycle
  3. Side-bridge clamshell
  4. Pullover to toe touch
  5. Side-plank rotation
  6. Foot-overs

Keep reading for full instructions!

woman demonstrates leg lower reverse curl in 12-minute abs workout woman demonstrates leg lower to reverse curl

1. Leg lowers with reverse curl

A great exercise for conditioning your lower abdominals, as well as your rectus abdominis.

Reps: 10

  1. Lie on your back with your legs at 90 degrees to your body (A). You can bend your knees if you have tight hamstrings.
  2. Lower your legs towards the floor, as far as you can without arching your lower back (B).
  3. Bring your legs back up and try and reach your feet towards the ceiling, so your buttock and lower back lift off the floor. Use your muscles for this, don’t swing or use momentum.
  4. Control the movement as you lower yourself back to the floor. You can keep your arms overhead to reduce the temptation to use them instead of your abs.
woman demonstrates modified version of slow ab cycle in 12 minute abs workout woman demonstrates slow ab cycle

2. Slow ab cycle

This exercise helps tone your obliques on the side of your waist, which can help to make your waist look slimmer.

Reps: 10 (each side)

  1. Lie on your back and bring your legs into a tabletop position, then place your hands behind your head and lift your head and shoulders off the floor (A).
  2. Twist your torso to take one elbow to the opposite knee as you extend the other leg (B).
  3. Pause and squeeze your stomach muscles whilst trying to lift your lower back towards you. Repeat on the other side and continue alternating.
woman demonstrates side bridge clam shell in 12 minute abs workout woman demonstrates side bridge clam shell

3. Side-bridge clamshell

Works your obliques, glutes and outer thighs, which will help stabilise your hips and protect against lower back pain.

Reps: 10 (each side)

  1. Start on your side with your knees bent and your feet in line with your bottom.
  2. Prop yourself up on your forearm, with your lower elbow underneath your shoulder (A), then lift your body as you open your top knee (B).
  3. Lower yourself back to the ground with control, making sure your shoulder stays down, repeat and then switch sides.
woman demonstrates pullover to toe touch woman demonstrates pullover to toe touch in 12 minute abs workout

4. Pullover to toe touch

The toe touch will help to tone the rectus abdominis, whilst the pullovers help with core stability.

Reps: 10

  1. Start on your back with your legs at 90 degrees to your body and your arms extended above your chest. Hold a weight (or full bottle) with both hands.
  2. Bring your arms overhead as far as you can without arching your back (A).
  3. Bring arms back to the starting position and simultaneously lift your head and shoulders off the floor to try to touch your toes (B). Slowly lower your body back down and repeat.
woman demonstrates how to do side plank rotation woman demonstrates side plank rotation in 12 minute abs workout

5. Side-plank rotation

Works the obliques and gluteus medius. The rotation element will help to mobilise the thoracic spine and ease any neck or lower back tightness.

Reps: 10 (each side)

  1. Start on one side with your legs straight and your feet either stacked on top of each other, or with the top foot in front of the bottom for more stability.
  2. Lift your body off the floor onto your forearm, then lift your top arm towards the ceiling (A).
  3. Open up your chest by reaching your arm behind you as far as you can go, then rotate your torso as you take your arm underneath your body (B).
  4. Raise the arm again and repeat, then switch sides.
woman demonstrates foot overs in 12 minute abs workout woman demonstrateds foot overs

6. Foot-overs

A challenging exercise that will not only work your lower abdominals but also your legs.

Reps: 10

  1. Begin in a seated position with your legs extended in front of you, leaning slightly forwards. Place a weight or water bottle to the side of one ankle (A).
  2. Next, lift your legs up and over the weight/bottle and tap your feet on the opposite side, then repeat in the other direction.
  3. This exercise can be modified by placing your hands on the floor (pictured) or using a smaller object to lift your feet over.

Repeat this abs circuit twice through.

Related: Cardio abs workout: burn belly fat and tone your midriff [VIDEO]

Words: Lucy Miller