Forget weights — 4 bodyweight moves for toning your core and upper body muscles

a photo of a woman performing a plank
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you have seven minutes then you absolutely have time to work out. This equipment-free workout is designed to target your abs and upper body muscles when you're short on time, or it makes for a great workout finisher.

Finding exercises that work both your upper body and abs not only saves time by combining muscle groups, but can also help to improve posture, stability, and a balanced physique.

While you don’t need any weights or gym equipment for this upper body workout, it’s worth finding a workout mat to perform the exercises over. We tend to reach for one of the best yoga mats to ensure our joints and muscles are protected while exercising. A layer of cushioning is particularly beneficial during exercises that involve impact or prolonged contact with the ground, enhancing overall comfort during your workout.

Eager to get a quick upper body and ab sweat on? Get your exercise wear on and get ready to try this workout from Kayla Itsines’ Instagram

What is the workout?

The express upper body and abs workout from Itsines is a high-intensity, time-efficient routine designed to provide a quick yet effective challenge. This four-move routine is intended to be a standalone session or a powerful finisher after your main workout. Set a seven-minute timer and aim to complete as many rounds as possible within the time frame. 

Lay-Down Half Burpee (10 reps)

Begin in a plank position with your hands directly beneath your shoulders. Perform a frog jump by bringing both feet toward your hands while keeping your hands on the ground. From the frog position, quickly transition into a plank before resting the front of your body on the ground and extending your arms in front of your head. Now repeat. 

Commando plank ups (12 reps, 6 each side)

Begin in a plank position with your wrists directly under your shoulders. Lower your right forearm to the ground, followed by your left forearm, coming into a forearm plank. Push back up to the starting position, first with your right hand, then your left. Alternate the starting hand for each repetition, maintaining a stable plank position throughout.

Straight-Leg Sit-Up (12 reps)

Lie on your back with legs fully extended and arms reaching overhead. Engage your core and lift your torso off the ground, reaching toward your toes. Keep your legs as straight as possible throughout the movement. Slowly lower your torso back to the starting position with control.

Side Plank & Hip Lift (20 reps, 10 each side)

Begin in a side plank position with your elbow directly beneath your shoulder. Lift your hips upward to create a straight line from head to heels. Lower your hips back down, hovering just above the ground. Complete the designated number of reps on one side before switching to the other side.

What are the benefits of this upper body and abs workout?

One notable advantage of this workout is its convenience and versatility. With a mere seven minute time commitment, it can be seamlessly integrated into a busy schedule or serve as a powerful finisher to an existing workout routine. The exercises require no equipment, making it accessible for individuals with varying fitness levels and allows you to perform the routine virtually anywhere.

While it's crucial to acknowledge that significant fitness results do not happen overnight, this express workout serves as an effective starting point. The routine's emphasis on continuous movement within a time constraint not only burns calories but also promotes cardiovascular fitness.

Remember, consistency is key, and this is just one workout that provides an accessible and effective avenue to kickstart or enhance your fitness journey. Discover more workouts below.

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Jessica Downey
Fitness Writer

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her love for keeping fit and fueling her body with healthy and enjoyable food quite naturally led her to write about all things fitness and health-related. If she isn’t out testing the latest fitness products such as the latest running shoe or yoga mat for reviewing then she can be found writing news and features on the best ways to build strength, active aging, female health, and anything in between. Before then she had a small stint writing in local news, has also written for Runners World UK (print and digital), and gained experience with global content marketing agency, Cedar Communications.


Born and raised in Scotland, Jessica is a massive fan of exercising and keeping active outdoors. When at home she can be found running by the sea, swimming in it, or up a mountain. This continued as she studied and trained to become a PPA-accredited magazine journalist in Wales. And since working and living in London, she splits her time between weight training in the gym, trying new fitness classes, and finding scenic running routes. Jessica enjoys documenting this on her fitness-inspired Instagram page @jessrunshere where she loves engaging with like-minded fitness junkies.


She is a big fan of healthy cooking and loves learning more about this area with expert nutritionists she has met over the years. Jessica is a big advocate for building healthy relationships with food rather than building restrictive attitudes towards it. When she isn’t eating or running she also enjoys practicing yoga in her free time as it helps her to unwind and benefits her performance in other sports.