I tried Kayla Itsines’ 9-move arms and abs workout — and the results surprised me

Woman holding a med ball during Russian twist exercise ab workout
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you want to train like Kayla Itsines and can’t access the Sweat app, try this arms and abs workout instead. 

Itsines says, “People always ask me how I work out at home! Wednesday is always arms and abs day for me, and here’s a taste of some of the exercises I would do.” You can use a set of the best adjustable dumbbells if you have them or switch out for filled water bottles or kettlebells if you don’t. 

Below, we cover the nine moves included in the arms and abs workout and what happened when I tried it myself. Read on for my verdict. 

Watch Kayla Itsines’ 9-move arms and abs workout  

The workout includes three circuits with three moves per circuit, and you’ll complete four rounds of 30 seconds work. Itsines does the first lap with you, demonstrating each move with cues and adjustments you can make to modify exercises. 

You’ll then take 10 seconds and move through the next three rounds alone. Itsines jumps back in for the following circuit. Don’t worry — she posts the workout on the screen for you to follow and sets up exercises as you work so you can transition seamlessly from one to the next without rest (lucky you). 

Here‘s the 9-move arms and abs workout:

Circuit 1

Renegade row

Bicep curl

Straight-leg raises

Circuit 2

Double pulse push-up

Tricep extension

Reverse plank walkout

Circuit 3

Alternating side raises (lateral raises)

Side-to-side twist (Russian twist)

Lateral shoot-through

I just tried Kayla Itsines’ 9-move arms and abs workout — here are my results 

Itsines is renowned for her honed physique and has garnered a cult following for her online workouts, with dedicated followers keen to learn how she trains and maintains her sculpted muscles. 

Unlike some ab workout videos, Itsines guides you as if she were in the room training you rather than cranking up the music and simply cycling through exercises. But I like how she left me alone for three of the four rounds, allowing me to zone in on my arms and abs without looking back at the screen. 

As a personal trainer doing another trainer’s workout, that style works for me, but it might divide crowds for beginners, as you can’t consistently check back at your form against the video.

So, let’s break it down circuit by circuit. 

Circuit 1

It’s all about the biceps and abs during this one. Pulling and curling exercises target the back and biceps, and you’ll also hit the rectus abdominal muscles, hip flexors and various core muscles during the plank and leg raises. 

I held a dumbbell above my chest during leg raises, but if you find the exercise super easy, try holding a light dumbbell between your feet instead and thank me later. 

Circuit 2

During circuit two, the focus shifts to your triceps and pushing movements that work the pectoral muscles. I’m confident with push-ups, but the extra pulse at the bottom is killer, so lowering your knees is a great way to maintain form — don’t view it as defeat, as you’re still working the same muscle groups. 

I’m no stranger to reverse planks — I did 12-minute reverse planks every day for a week, and here’s my results. But this one comes with a twist — walkouts. The trick is to lift your hips and maintain a straight line from head to toe. I like to do this one in the mirror as it helps me check my form, and today was no exception. 

Itsines warms that moving from tricep extensions to plank walkouts burns out the triceps, and I concur. Moving from an isotonic exercise like tricep extensions (when your triceps are lengthening and shortening against tension) to an isometric contraction like a plank is a great way to strengthen muscles without heavy weights.  

Circuit 3

It’s a hello to your shoulders and obliques for the last part of the arms and abs workout. 

A surprise addition I don’t see often includes lateral shoot-throughs (one of my favorite exercises and a total body scorcher), which are efficient at activating the oblique muscles and increasing your heart rate. 

The exercise looks more complicated than it is. Learn how to do a bear squat here to help nail the starting position and muscle contraction, and the rest falls into place by pushing your leg underneath your body.

Russian twists and lateral shoot-throughs require twisting and might aggravate some back pain, so consider a check-in with a personal trainer before trying them yourself. If you can do them, they’re effective for hitting your waist and lower back muscles too. 

I recommend performing the lateral raises together for 30 seconds, but Itsines chooses to work single-sided. It’s up to you what you go for, depending on how much challenge the exercise provides. 

You can also choose to keep your legs lifted during the Russian twists and add weight or scale down by resting your feet and moving with your body weight instead. Russian twists are great for this reason, as you can make them harder or easier in multiple ways. 

Verdict

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this arms and abs workout, as I’ve never tapped into Kayla Itsines' workouts before. I was pleasantly surprised. She doesn’t just hit you with out-and-out ab exercises. Instead, she includes a mix of isolation vs compound exercises that challenges the body to work as one unit. 

Although the workout includes some isolation exercises — tricep extensions and bicep curls — the workout sits in the functional training camp using multi-joint, multi-muscle moves. The result? A 20-minute session arms and abs session that torches the body and improves mobility, functional ability and coordination. 

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III 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.