Forget Russian twists — this 30-minute yoga block abs workout sets your core on fire

Man in a push-up position with hands on yoga blocks during workout
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

According to Lindsay Bushman, the creator of this yoga block abs workout, you can ‘work your core without ever leaving the floor’ using a series of ab exercises and one yoga block to build a burn in the right places. 

If you don’t practice yoga, and a yoga block isn’t part of your best home gym equipment line-up, Bushman recommends a pillow or book instead. We’d opt for a book, as a pillow can be flimsy. However you approach the yoga block abs workout, get ready to set your core muscles alight in 30 minutes. 

This $10 accessory can do wonders for your home workouts, especially if you plan to travel or don’t have much equipment like dumbbells, kettlebells, or resistance bands to hand at home. Here’s how to do the yoga block ab workout for yourself and why we rate it so highly. 

What is the 30-minute yoga block abs workout? 

The abs workout derives from Pilates, and instructor Bushman teaches control, engagement and proper technique throughout the video, which is worth watching before you begin. Focus on squeezing your stomach (known as core engagement) and pressing your lower back into your yoga mat. 

If you arch your spine during ab exercises, you’re likely not engaging your core properly. Imagine someone is about to punch you in the stomach and brace for the impact — that’s the tightening sensation to aim for and sustain throughout. 

The yoga block ab exercises are suitable for beginners and advanced levels of practice, whether you’ve done Pilates before or not. If you’re wondering what an hour of Pilates can do for your body, regular practice could build better posture, strengthen your muscles, joints and bones and develop core strength. This workout uses a yoga block to marry the principles of Pilates with a good-old core workout worthy of firing up more than just your abs. I’m not a big fan of Pilates, but this one hit me hard, targeting the upper and lower abs, obliques and deeper core muscles responsible for stabilization. 

Here it is.

I tried this 30-minute yoga block abs workout — and my core muscles are still on fire

Although Bushman only lists six key moments in the abs workout — curl-ups, circles, twists, twists to the right, front plank rainbows and plank — you’ll work through many more ab exercises using variations during the 30 minutes spent on your mat. I picked up one yoga block and rolled out my mat, ready to tackle the session and pick up a few tips.

Set-up is crucial

Bushman sets the session up well, asking me to tighten my core and press my lower back down. The movement from curl-ups should come from the chest rather than the neck, and once set up, the first curl-ups, and all following ab exercises, are killer. As I began to warm up, Bushman also cues the breath, helping to connect with my core muscles and encouraging me to exhale during the concentric portion of the exercise — when the body meets with the most resistance. 

Slow means brutal

No surprises here. The slow and controlled movement helped me contract my core muscles and focus on where I was driving each exercise from. It’s tempting to move quickly during exercises, but slowing things down keeps the muscles under tension for longer, a technique known as time under tension.

Rather than setting reps to reach or working to a time target, the ab workout draws on the mind-body connection and focuses less on rep ranges and more on maximizing the time spent on each exercise. Bushman reminds me to relax my neck and shoulders, which helped me check in with the tiny deviations my subconscious made when feeling the strain. Checking alignment helped me ensure I was moving from the correct place — my core.

The session builds well

Like any good horror movie, the build-up is everything, and the same applies to any workout worth its salt. By 10 minutes, I was shaking. I’m referring to the type of wobble that renders speech useless. The session moved through various planes of motion, building toward a hefty portion that hits with crunches and leg raises combined — and some variations on them. 

I could feel my obliques during twisting and circling motions while my abs were pinging during flexion and extension. Raising my arms overhead during exercises like curl-ups and circles helped me focus on my posture while lifting my chest and lengthening through the spine, making the ab exercises harder, while the yoga block acted as a support beneath the mid back during the first half of the workout. Eventually, the block moves to the thighs, and the real fire begins. 

Remember, you can adjust the yoga block height to suit you and scale exercises to be harder or easier.

The lower abs aren't ignored

Around halfway through, Bushman cues a ‘hah’ breath like ‘you’re unfogging a mirror,’ as I moved through a series of crunch variations. I used my lower abdominals to pull the knee inward and the upper abdominals to drive the chest upward, meeting in the middle for an exercise that felt like a modified V-sit. Bushman combines leg raises and crunches to draw on lower ab engagement, activating the deeper core muscles — the transverse abdominis.

Like any good horror movie, the build-up is everything, and the same applies to any workout worth its salt.

During the leg raises section, the yoga block positions between your thighs, increasing engagement from the inner thighs and pelvic floor. I focused on squeezing the block between my thighs and lifting my hips without throwing my body weight into movements. If you’re relying on momentum during core workouts, you’re missing the point.

She also encouraged me and those watching to make some noise with my breath, which I enjoyed. Breathing is crucial during all exercises to help direct oxygen flow to your muscles and prevent a build-up of high blood pressure. Many people don’t want to appear puffed out during a workout, but I like to hear an audible breath from clients when I teach and decide to take my own advice during this workout.

I tried this yoga block abs workout — here’s my verdict

A big tick from me. As a personal trainer, I love learning from others and picking up tricks here and there. Of course, yoga blocks are a regular occurrence during yoga, but less often as an addition to core workouts or bodyweight exercises. 

We recently put together 5 ab exercises you can do with a yoga block and 5 yoga block exercises that sculpt and strengthen your quads, glutes and hamstrings to help people level up home workouts with limited equipment. You could combine these workouts for a full-body session if you have time to put aside.  

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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.