Three 10-minute ab workouts that hit all the muscles in your core

10-minute abs workout
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Most people do ab workouts to achieve a flat stomach with defined ab muscles, but there are reasons other than showing off a six-pack to get yourself into an ab workout routine. Core strength and stability are important to overall fitness, and strengthening your core can help you run faster, lift heavier, and walk with a better posture. 

The best ab workouts will target more than just your abs and are great supplements to your regular fitness schedule. As a bonus, they don't require much time, space, or equipment. But where do you start? To help, we've written three 10-minute ab workouts, that can be modified to fit your fitness level. It's a timed workout: the goal is to do as many reps as you can in the allotted time. There are four exercises in each workout. Ready? Grab one of the best water bottles and your yoga mat, and let's get started. 

Workout 1: 10-minute, equipment-free ab workout 

Do each exercise for 30 seconds and rest for 20 seconds. Go through the circuit three times:

an illo of a woman doing a high plank

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Plank: To do a plank, get into the push-up position — hands and feet shoulder width apart, back and legs straight. Some people consider this to be the regular plank, but I prefer the forearm plank: Lower your body until you're resting on your forearms with your elbows below your shoulders and your hands pointing forward. Use a mirror, a spotter, or a phone camera to make sure your back isn't arched and your hips aren't dropped. Then focus on engaging your abs and hold it!

Here's how long you need to hold a plank to see results

an illustration of a woman doing a side plank

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Side plank: To do a side plank, start by lying on the floor on your side. Stack your feet (one foot on top of the other) and keep your body straight (and your spine and head neutral) as you raise yourself up to rest on your elbow. That's it — the move is simple, but form is everything. Focus on keeping your muscles engaged so you don't lose your form. Here's what happened when our fitness editor did side planks every day for a week

bicycle crunch

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Bicycle crunches: To perform this exercise, lie on the floor with your back flat against the ground. Place your hands next to your head (behind your ears — not behind your head or neck, because you'll be tempted to pull your head up), bring your shoulders off the ground, and bend your knees and draw your legs up off the ground. Bring on knee toward your chest as you straighten the other leg, and twist your body so that your opposite elbow touches your knee. Repeat this motion on the other side, keeping your legs and shoulders off the ground the entire time. Here's more on how to do bicycle crunches with perfect form. 

Image of person performing a reverse crunch on their back with knees bent towards their chest

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Reverse crunch: To do a reverse crunch, lie flat on your back with your arms at your side and your palms pressed against the ground. Bend your knees and draw your legs up toward your chest. Now, lift your hips off the ground as you point your toes toward the ceiling (you can keep your legs bent or you can straighten them) and come back down. Here's more on how to do reverse crunches and the variations to try. 


Workout 2: 10-minute, challenging ab workout 

Do each exercise for 30 seconds and rest for 20 seconds. Go through the circuit three times:

a man doing an elevated plank

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Elevated Plank: If you want to make the regular plank more difficult, try elevating your feet. Keep your forearms on the floor, but place your feet on something higher. I normally use a workout bench, but if you don't have that, you can also use a chair or a stair.

a photo of a woman doing a side plank twist

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Side plank with twist: Adding a twist to the side plank makes it much more challenging. Start in side plank position, but bring your free arm up and place your hand next to your head (touching your ear). Now, twist your upper body down until your elbow touches the hand of the forearm you're leaning on. Make sure to keep your ab muscles engaged as you do this: You should be twisting your upper body, not your hips.

a man doing the windshield wiper exercise

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Windshield wiper: The windshield wiper is another twisty move that targets your obliques, and there are plenty of ways to make it extremely difficult (try the hanging windshield wiper). To perform this exercise, lie flat on your back with your arms stretched out perpendicular to your torso. Bring your legs up, keeping them straight, until they're pointing directly at the ceiling. Now lower your legs slowly to one side — go as low as you can go without touching the floor, and then lower them to the other side. Keep your legs off the floor the entire time.  

Dead bugs

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Dead bug: The dead bug is an exercise that works out all of your ab muscles, and also helps with balance (and coordination — it's harder than it looks). To perform this exercise, lie flat on your back and draw your legs up (with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle) until they're perpendicular to your torso. Raise your arms so they're also perpendicular to your torso — this will be your starting position.

From this position, slowly lower and extend one leg until it's straight and hovering just above the floor. At the same time, lower the opposite arm straight back until it's also hovering just above the floor. Return to your starting position and do the same move with the opposite arm and leg. Your arms and legs should never touch the ground during this exercise. Here's more on how to do a dead bug with perfect form, plus read what happened when our fitness editor did 100 dead bugs a day for a week.


Workout 3: 10-minute ab workout for the gym

Do each exercise for 30 seconds and rest for 20 seconds. Go through the circuit three times:

a woman doing a plank on a stability ball

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Swiss ball rollout (equipment needed: Swiss ball): If you have a Swiss ball (also known as an exercise ball), you can make your planks even harder with the Swiss ball rollout. To perform this exercise, get into a regular plank with your forearms resting on the ball. Slowly roll the ball forward and then bring it back in, keeping your back straight and your abs engaged.

a woman doing a side bend

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Dumbbell side bend (equipment needed: dumbbells): The dumbbell side bend is a great alternative oblique exercise if you have access to heavier weights — most people will use heavier weights than they normally use with ab exercises. To perform this exercise, start in a standing position with the dumbbell or weight at your side. Keep your back straight and your abs engaged as you slowly bend to the side. Repeat the motion on the other side. If you're doing this exercise in the circuit, you can also alternate sides in each round instead of switching after each rep. Here are the best adjustable dumbbells for weightlifting at home. 

how to do a russian twist

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Russian twist (equipment needed: dumbbell): The Russian twist also targets your obliques, gets that twisting motion in, and is especially fun when you add weight. To perform this exercise, sit on the floor with your knees bent. Keeping your back straight, lean back and draw your legs up off the ground (this is basically the boat pose with bent knees). Pick up your weight and twist to one side — as far as you can go without touching the ground — and then twist to the other side. Keep the movement controlled; don't let the momentum of the weight help you. Here's more on how to do a Russian twist, and the variations to try, plus what happened when this writer did 50 Russian twists a day for a week

an illo of a man doing a hanging leg raise

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Hanging Leg Raise (equipment needed: Pull-up bar or captain's chair): The hanging leg raise (or its variation, the captain's chair leg raise) is an excellent exercise, but it didn't make the initial cut because you need a pull-up bar or a captain's chair. But the exercise itself is simple — hang from a pull-up bar using an overhand grip and draw your legs up as far as you can. You can keep your legs straight or bend at the knees — straight legs make the exercise more challenging. If you need even more of a challenge, hold a dumbbell between your feet. Read what happened when this writer did 50 leg raises a day for 14 days

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal

Sarah is a hardware enthusiast and geeky dilettante who has been building computers since she discovered it was easier to move them across the world — she grew up in Tokyo — if they were in pieces. She's currently senior editor at our sister site Tom's Hardware and is best-known for trying to justify ridiculous multi-monitor setups, dramatically lowering the temperature of her entire apartment to cool overheating components, typing just to hear the sound of her keyboard, and playing video games all day "for work." She's written about everything from tech to fitness to sex and relationships, and you can find more of her work in PCWorld, Macworld, TechHive, CNET, Gizmodo, PC Gamer, Men's Health, Men's Fitness, SHAPE, Cosmopolitan, and just about everywhere else. In addition to hardware, she also loves working out, public libraries, marine biology, word games, and salads. Her favorite Star Wars character is a toss-up between the Sarlacc and Jabba the Hutt.