I tried this Pamela Reif’s ab workout that uses a pillow to blast your core — here’s what happened

a photo of Pamela Reif doing an ab workout holding a pillow between her feet
(Image credit: Pamela Reif)

It’s been a while since I unrolled my yoga mat and did a Pamela Reif ab workout, in fact, the last time I subjected my abs to such torture was when I did Pamela Reif workouts every day for a week. Yet keen to find out what my favorite YouTube trainer had been up to in the past few months, I grabbed a pillow off my couch and did her 10-minute, intense six-pack workout. Read on to find out what happened. 

Why a pillow I hear you ask? The addition of the pillow adds a little weight to the ab workout — despite not feeling like much when you squish into them watching TV, a pillow adds a couple of pounds of weight to the move, forcing your ab muscles to work harder. Of course, if you’d rather you can add one of the best adjustable dumbbells, and hold it between your feet during the workout, but if you’re short on equipment, or you’re worried about dropping the dumbbell and upsetting your neighbors, a pillow is a safer option for this workout! 

As always, if you’re new to ab workouts, or you’re returning to exercise following an injury or pregnancy, it’s a good idea to check with a personal trainer to ensure you’re moving with the correct form. If visible abs are your goal, here are 5 reasons why you might not be seeing your ab muscles, despite working out

What is the workout? 

You can watch Pamela’s full pillow ab workout from her YouTube channel, but here are a couple of the exercises to expect: 

Russian Twists: 

To do a Russian twist, sit on an exercise mat, and engage your core as you lean backward, you can keep your legs on the floor, or lift them if you’re looking for a challenge. Bracing your core, twist your torso from side to side, and think about lowering the pillow to the side of you as you twist. 

Here’s more on how to do a Russian twist with perfect form, and the benefits of this ab exercise. 

Pillow crunch: 

For this exercise, sit on your mat with your legs outstretched, and put the pillow between your feet, squeezing it with your ankles. Sitting on your mat, lean your torso back as if you’re going into a V-sit. Place your hands flat on the floor behind your body, with your fingers facing your toes. Lift your legs, squeezing the pillow to prevent it from dropping to the floor. Engage your abs as you crunch your legs and torso towards each other, then lower back to your starting position.

Pillow planks: 

For this exercise, place the pillow on your back, and hold a high plank position, with your shoulders stacked over your wrists, your core engaged, and a straight line from your head to your heels. Don’t let the pillow fall off your back, and think about sucking your belly button into your core throughout. 

I tried Pamela Reif’s 10-minute abs and pillow intense six-pack workout — here’s what happened 

I grabbed a pillow and gave this exercise a go, here’s why you should too: 

The pillow made a huge difference

My cushions have never seemed so heavy, until I tried this ab workout. I used a standard, IKEA decorative cushion from my couch, rather than the kind of pillow you’d rest your head on at night. I went as far as to weigh the cushion after this workout, and according to my kitchen scales it was 1.3 pounds, that said, it felt a lot heavier as I crunched through the workout holding it. 

My cushions have never seemed so heavy, until I tried this ab workout.

As a fitness editor, I’ve worked out using some of the best home workout equipment on the market — from the best resistance bands to the best ankle weights. The beauty of this workout is that it doesn’t require expensive equipment — if you’re on a budget, or in a hotel without a gym, this one will still give all of the muscles in your core a workout. 

It worked my legs as hard as my abs

I wasn’t expecting my legs to be as sore as they were after this workout, but unlike standard ab workouts, your leg muscles are engaged as you squeeze the pillow. My legs were shaking from the first set of pillow crunches, and I had to pause the YouTube video at one point to reset. 

The addition of the weight forced my core to work harder to stabilize my body. Working on the stabilization muscles in your core can help you prevent injury, reduce back pain, and sit with better posture. 

My abs had that post-Pilates ache for hours

As I’m writing this, a full 24 hours after I completed Reif’s workout, my abs are still aching. This workout gave me that post-Pilates shake I’ve come to love — a sign my abdominal muscles have worked hard. 

Of course, there were no visible results after one 10-minute workout, but this is definitely one I’ll be trying again. As a reminder, if visible abs are your goal, you’ll need to focus on your body fat percentage, as well as a mix of cardio and strength workouts — here’s how to calculate your body fat percentage, and why it matters

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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.