I did this standing ab exercise every day for a week — and was surprised by the results

Woman holding kettlebell
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

As a fitness editor, I love nothing more than a slightly unusual workout challenge — from dead bugs every day, to counting 5000 steps, and comparing the tracking capabilities of the Apple Watch and Garmin Forerunner 265, I’ve tried it all. Next up on my list of challenges is a popular standing ab exercise — the goblet march. To find out more, I grabbed one of the best adjustable dumbbells and got marching from my living room every day for seven days. Read on to find out what happened. 

What is a goblet march? 

A goblet march is an exercise that can be performed holding a dumbbell or kettlebell either close to your chest, as you would in a goblet squat, or out in front of you — the further the dumbbell is from your body, the harder your core has to work in this move. As well as activating your shoulders, glutes, and hips, this exercise targets the abdominal muscles, as your core has to work hard to stabilize your body as you move your legs. Like a lot of standing ab exercises, this is a great functional exercise, as it mimics a movement you might make in everyday life, such as climbing the stairs while carrying a baby, or a heavy shopping bag. 

How to do a goblet march

Let’s take a look at how to do a goblet march. Again, you’ll need some sort of weight for this exercise, whether that’s a kettlebell or one of the best adjustable dumbbells.

  • Start by standing on an exercise mat, with your feet hip-width apart, and your core engaged.
  • Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell with both hands, either like a goblet, or lifted up and away from your body — the further the weight is from your body, the harder this exercise will be.
  • Keep your core engaged and march one leg up towards your torso, bending at the knee, then lower your leg back to its starting position, and repeat on the other side. Your weight should be transferring from side to side, forcing your stabilizer muscles to work to keep your upper body steady.
  • Complete all your reps, alternating between sides, before lowering the weight back down to the ground.

I did this standing ab exercise every day for a week — and was surprised by the results

I swapped my traditional ab workouts for the goblet march for a week, repeating 50 reps per day for seven days. Here’s what happened: 

I found the exercise harder than I thought it would be

I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting this one to be particularly challenging, but it didn’t take long for me to realize I’d underestimated the move. Of course, like all ab exercises, form is important here, and found I had to slow down to ensure my core stayed activated, and my back straight as I marched. Think about sucking your belly button into your spine as you lift and lower your legs during this move — it’s important to not let the lower back arch. If you do find your back arching during this move, lower the weight, or drop it completely. 

Each day I challenged myself to add an extra 10 reps to my challenge, and on the final day, 110 marches later, I could really feel the move in my obliques — the muscles that run along the side of the torso. 

I upped the ante by making this modification

As mentioned above, it’s each to make this move more challenging by lifting the weight up and in line with your face, and holding it out away from your body. This forces your shoulders to work harder to hold the weight as your march. 

Like a lot of these week-long challenges, it didn’t take me long to get a little bored with the exercise. To mix things up, I did a day of overhead marches instead, and instantly regretted it. As its name suggests, for the overhead march you hold the dumbbell up above your head in one hand as you march each leg up towards your torso. Halfway through, switch the arm holding the dumbbell. 

It only took me a few reps to realize I’d have to switch to a lighter weight for the single-arm marches. As a reminder, when it comes to selecting the right weight for your workouts, it should feel challenging by the final few reps, but not impossible. At no point should the weight compromise your form. 

I’ll be trying more standing ab workouts in the future

So, what did I learn from a week of practicing the goblet march? Firstly, I enjoyed this challenge and felt like it really forced me to work my deep core muscles to hold my torso steady. Yet compared to planks and sit-ups, it was easy to see how this core exercise would translate to my running and weight lifting. As a runner, I often find it difficult to engage my core and keep my body upright — my race photos often show that by the final miles of a marathon, I hunch a little as my body tires. Practicing standing ab workouts like this helped me work on my core strength, and translate it to my running. 

Of course, a week isn’t anywhere near long enough to see visible results or any real change in the core. If visible abs are your goal, you’ll need to focus on your overall body fat percentage. Cardio, your diet, sleep, stress, and hormones all affect your body fat percentage — here’s how to calculate your body fat percentage, and why it matters

One thing is for sure — I’ll definitely be practicing this move again in the future, especially as I work toward my next block of training. 

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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.