Forget sit-ups — this 3-move ab workout chisels concrete core muscles in just 15 minutes

Man against concrete backdrop performing a crunch with hands behind head
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If sit-ups have run their course and you need more creative ab exercises to set your core alight — we have just the antidote to boring abs workouts.

The three moves aren’t for the faint of heart, so check in with your personal trainer or doctor if you’re returning from injury and easing back into exercise, as these ab exercises might not be for you.

Good to go? Use a barbell or a weight that you can rest across your upper back like the best adjustable dumbbells, and try this 15-minute workout without sit-ups, crunches or burpees. 

What is the no sit-ups 3-move ab workout? 

high angle view of young sportsman with bare chest doing abs exercise on fitness ball at gym

(Image credit: Shutterstock/ Light Field Studios)

When sculpting a chiseled physique, we know that some hard graft goes into building muscle definition. These ab exercises help increase strength and muscle (the two aren’t mutually exclusive processes, as we explain here: hypertrophy vs strength training), but they don’t guarantee a six-pack.

If you can’t see your abs, chances are, your body fat percentage has something to do with it. Many factors affect how we store fat, especially around the midsection, like sleep, genetics and not moving enough throughout the day, known as a process called NEAT. To learn more about your body’s fat-storing processes, we cover 5 reasons you can’t see your abs yet, despite working out

Now, on to the workout! Here are three ab exercises to hit your core muscles hard without sit-ups. 

1. L-sit

Man outside on the beach performing an L-sit using two bars

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The L-sit is a bodyweight isometric exercise that holds your muscles under tension without lengthening or shortening. It’s low-impact and commonly found in a calisthenics workout to build stronger muscles all over. 

This exercise is insanely tough to hold for long periods and puts your shoulders, arms, quads, abs and hip flexors through the wringer. 

Start with your knees bent, then progress by extending your legs in front of you. You could also make the move harder by doing it on the floor rather than using benches or boxes for elevation.


  • Stand with two boxes or benches on either side of you. You could also use handlebars or anything sturdy that elevates your body from the ground. Place your hands down on them
  • Engage your stomach muscles and contract your arms and shoulders as one unit
  • Keep your shoulders stacked over your hips as you press through both hands and lift your bodyweight away with knees toward your chest without swinging your bodyweight or leaning forward
  • As you get stronger, practice extending one leg at a time or both legs in front of you at hip height. Hold in an upright position.

2. Dolphin planks

Woman doing Dolphin Plank pose exercise in 2 steps for guide. Illustration about abs workout position introduction.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

At Tom’s Guide, we love planks, so we rounded up the best plank variations for you to try. This one is similar to the Dolphin pose (shout out to the yogis) and requires some existing flexibility in the hamstrings, shoulders and back. Done properly, it hits every muscle group.


  • Start with a forearm plank position and brace your stomach, glutes, quads and shoulders
  • Push your hips upward and back and keep your weight on the balls of your feet, drawing your heels downward
  • Keep your forearms pressed into the mat and clasp your hands together behind your head, resting the top of your head on the mat between your elbows. Hold
  • To make the move harder, lift your head away from the floor.

During the ab exercise, your arms shouldn’t bear much weight, so try to balance the weight between your head and feet. Remember to breathe.  

3. Barbell ab walks

Woman facing away from camera holding a barbell across her shoulders

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Your core muscles are working hard to keep you stable as you move during this ab exercise while walking with weights targets every major muscle group typical of compound, functional exercises. Backloading heavy weights will emphasize your quads, glutes and back.


  • Start with a heavy barbell, sandbag or dumbbell and load it across your upper back, avoiding your neck
  • Keep your spine tall and stomach braced without excessively leaning forward, back or sideways
  • Go for a walk.

Forget sit-ups — try this 3-move ab workout at home

Be sure to test each ab exercise before trying this core routine. Building foundational strength first is the best way to approach advanced ab workouts so you can properly prepare your body.

Once you are confident with each move and its regressions and progressions — give this EMOM a try.

EMOM (every minute on the minute): 5 rounds

Minute 1: L-sit hold 

Minute 2: Dolphin plank

Minute 3: Barbell walks 

Start with the L-sit and hold for 45-50 seconds, resting until the next minute begins. Repeat this for each exercise and complete five rounds.

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III qualified fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.