Forget planks — this seated ab workout sculpts your core in just 10 minutes

a photo of a woman doing a workout on a chair
(Image credit: Getty Images/Rapeepong Puttakumwong)

Strong abs are far more than just an aesthetic goal — they can help you sit with better posture, and protect your spine from injury. But not all ab workouts were created equal, and if you’re a complete beginner, you have limited mobility, or you’re looking for an ab workout you can do from your desk, you might be looking for a seated ab workout. 

Seated ab workouts are low-impact workouts that can be done from a chair, targeting your abdominal and core muscles. Unlike ab workouts that involve lying on your back on an exercise mat, seated ab workouts are accessible to those who can’t get down on the floor, have limited space, or simply want a workout that they can do sat from their office chair during a meeting (just remember to mute your mic!) 

I did a 10-minute seated ab workout, created by Donovan Green Fitness on YouTube to learn more. The workout doesn’t require you to have any additional equipment — all you’ll need is a sturdy chair (I recommend using one without wheels), and the motivation to blast your core. 

What is the workout? 

The seated ab workout involves a number of different exercises that target the various muscles in your midsection. There are seated sit-ups, leg lifts, and various abdominal twists, targeting the oblique muscles that run along the sides of your trunk. Here are a few examples of what to expect from the workout: 

Seated sit-ups: For this exercise, start by sitting on the edge of your chair, with your feet flat on the floor. Extend your arms out away from your body and engage your abs. From here, lower your torso back towards the back of the chair, then squeeze your abs to rise back to your starting position. Remember the movement should be coming from your abdominal muscles. 

Seated bicycle crunches: Starting on the edge of your chair, with your feet flat on the floor, place both hands behind your head, resting on your temples. Twist from your core, and lower your left elbow towards your right knee. At the same time, lift your left foot off the floor to touch your elbow (don’t worry if they don’t actually meet). Make sure the move is coming from your midsection, and you’re not pulling on your neck to move your body.

Leg marches: For this exercise, sit on the chair and raise both of your arms overhead. Bend one knee and lift your foot off the floor, then lower it back to your starting position and repeat on the other leg. Keep marching your legs, alternating from side to side. 

I tried this 10-minute seated ab workout — here’s what happened 

I was surprised by how hard my abs worked

I’m the first to admit, I wasn’t really expecting this one to hurt. How hard could a sitting-down workout be, I thought, as I clicked play on the YouTube video. Ten minutes later, I could really feel this one in my abs. From the seated position, I was able to isolate my abs and I could really feel my deep core muscles — the transverse abdominal muscles — working hard as I moved through exercises in the V-sit position. 

It went quickly

The workout consisted of 30 seconds on each exercise, before moving on to the next. The instructor was super-engaging, offering modifications for those who might need it, and the 10 minutes flew by. 

I’ll be doing this one again

This workout is perfect for complete beginners who want to target their abdominal muscles without lying on their back, but it’s also one I’ll use again between meetings for a quick ab blast. The low-impact workout doesn’t put any stress on the joints or spine, so it's perfect for anyone recovering from an injury. 

As a reminder, if building visible abs is your goal, you’ll need to focus on your overall body fat percentage, not endless ab workouts — here’s how to calculate your body fat percentage, and why it matters. If you’re returning to exercise following an injury, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor or a personal trainer before trying a new ab routine.  

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Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.