Forget Russian twists — this 5-move ab workout torches your delts, abs and obliques in just 15 minutes

Woman against a grey backdrop in workout clothes holding two dumbbells in front of her during dumbbell workout
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

It’s a misconception that you only need crunches, Russian twists and other famous ab exercises to sculpt concrete core muscles. You can torch your midsection in many ways. 

Sure, there’s a place for isolation ab exercises, but we like to use compound exercises to build functional core strength and a robust body. That means the five full-body exercises below will strengthen your abs and obliques (sought after for defining midsection muscle) but also hit your shoulders, chest and back.

If you have a medicine ball or similar, grab it, otherwise a medium to heavy adjustable dumbbell will do the trick. And, of course, your body weight. The dumbbells and med ball can be used interchangeably throughout. Here’s a five-move ab workout to try from home in just 15 minutes, without crunches or twists but with a whole lot of spice.

What is the no crunches, no Russian twists 5-move abs workout? 

Woman performing an upright row holding a kettlebell up to her chest against a white background, showing abs

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The exercises below don’t look like a typical core workout — there are a few big names from the ab workout world missing (Russian twists, crunches, planks — you get the drift). 

But trust us, these five moves increase muscle and strengthen your torso, although you’ll need to consider your lifestyle and genetics if you’re peering at your midsection in search of a sculpted six-pack. 

While we can help build muscle and a stronger core, definition takes a lot of work — unless you’re genetically gifted, of course. We discuss 5 reasons you can’t see your abs yet, despite working out to help you decode the process. 

In the meantime, these five full-body exercises provide a high-intensity sweat session while also hitting your core. What more could you want?

1. Sprawls

Sprawls require your core stability as you jump forward and back. It’s a burpee variation that allows you to move faster because your chest doesn’t touch the floor, and you won’t stand up, meaning you could develop explosive power and speed while torching your shoulders, chest core and legs. 

From a push-up position, brace your stomach and shoulders and jump both feet just outside your hands, planting both heels down. Lift your chest and hands to face forward without standing up, then place your hands back down and jump back again. 

Find out what happened when I did 80 sprawls every day for a week.

2. Deficit push-ups

Famously, push-ups work the fronts of your shoulders — the anterior deltoids — triceps and pectoral muscles, developing a strong and defined upper body. But did you know that your core does a lot of work? Deficit push-ups elevate your hands and encourage a greater range of motion, working those muscles even longer. 

Raise your hands on push-up bars, kettlebells or dumbbells, then lower your chest to the floor, keeping your hips aligned with your shoulders. Pause, then push back up to your starting position. Start on your knees until you feel comfortable. 

Learning how to do a push-up first could help you develop proper technique. 

3. Burpees

The humble burpee brings so much joy to trainers and fear to exercisers but remains a cardio classic. Burpees hit nearly every major muscle group, but if you struggle with them, step or jump back without lowering your chest to the floor. 

From a standing position, place your hands on the ground in front of you and jump back into a push-up position. Lower your body to the floor, keeping your core engaged, then push the ground away by extending both arms and lifting your chest and hips. Jump your feet behind your hands and jump into the air. Avoid arching your back and dragging your hips underneath you.

Find out what happened when one writer took on 100 burpees a day for 30 days.

4. Medicine ball slams

You could opt for a light ball to focus on cardio or a heavy wall to prioritize strength training. They’re also a great stress reliever if you’ve had a tough day. You could follow the same movement pattern by holding a dumbbell — just remember not to throw it.

Stand with a ball in front of you and feet shoulder-width apart with your core engaged, then squat down to pick up the ball on either side. Keep your chest up and back flat as you drive the ball above your head with bent elbows. Extend your arms at the top, then slam the ball to the ground beneath your feet, catching the ball on the bounce.  

5. Butterfly sit-ups

Butterfly sit-ups isolate your abs by removing the hips from the equation. Hold a dumbbell in both hands to activate your shoulders and increase core engagement. The move also stretches the groin and hips. 

Start with the soles of your feet together and open your knees toward the ground. Lay on your back and hold a weight close to your chest with both hands. Engage your core, then perform a sit-up, keeping the weight close to the body at all times. For more shoulder and arm engagement, hold the weight with arms extended overhead and keep the weight tracking in line with your shoulders. 

Here’s how to do butterfly sit-ups in more detail. 

Forget crunches — here's a 5-move ab workout to try at home

Set a 15-minute timer and give this 5-move AMRAP a go. 

Pyramid AMRAP (as many rounds as possible): 15 minutes

Start with 2 reps of each exercise. Once you’ve completed one round, increase the rep count to 4. Continue 6,8,10, and so on until you reach 15 minutes. 


Deficit push-up


Med ball slam

Weighted butterfly sit-up.

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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.