One thing to know about me — I’ll try just about anything in my quest for my dream abs. Sure, I know abs are actually related to a person’s overall body fat percentage (here's how to calculate your body fat percentage and why it matters), but that doesn’t stop me googling ‘best abs workout’ at least once a week.
I recently turned to vlogger and fitness model Pamela Reif, to try her ‘brutal ab workout’. Reif describes this six-minute workout as an ‘intense six-pack workout’ and she wasn’t wrong — it’s like being thrown into the deep end of the pool from 10-seconds in, and the workout was easily some of the longest six minutes of my life.
It’s no surprise that Reif’s abs workout has racked up more than 16 million views on YouTube, but find out what happened when I put it to the test. Read what happened when I followed Reif's follow-up workout — a 10-minute ab workout that has already racked up 65 million views! I also tested her lower ab workout here.
Who is Pamela Reif?
To start things off, I’m getting pretty used to testing these ab workouts in my attempt to find the best home workouts to really torch my core from my living room. I’ve already tried one of Daisy Keech’s most popular ab workouts, and Bretman Rock’s ‘ab-solutely not’ workout, but I was a complete newbie to Pamela Reif’s channel.
If like me, you’ve not heard of Pamela Reif, she’s a social media influencer from Germany, known for her fitness workouts. She’s also written two books on health and nutrition and has amassed millions of followers on YouTube and Instagram.
Reif’s ‘intense six pack workout’ is one of the most popular videos on her channel, so I unrolled my yoga mat and followed along as Reif demonstrated the moves. The workout doesn’t require you to have any extra equipment and can be done from just about anywhere.
What is the 6 minute Pamela Reif brutal ab workout?
If you’d prefer to follow the workout without the video, here it is written out. It’s worth noting Reif doesn’t take any breaks between each exercise, which is partly what makes it so intense, but beginners might want to add a 15-second break between each move.
Bicycle crunch and leg lift - 30 seconds
To do this exercise, follow the steps for a normal bicycle crunch — crunching opposite knee to elbow, bracing the core, but extend the legs out straight as you do so. Keep the core engaged and the lower back pressed into the floor for the full 30 seconds.
Jackknife - 30 seconds
A jackknife is similar to a toe touch, but you lower your torso and extend your arms behind your head, keeping your neck off the ground, between each touch. Start by lying on your back. With your arms extended behind your head and your legs out straight a few inches off the floor, engage your abs to lift your arms and legs as if you are trying to touch your toes. Hold, then lower back down to the starting position.
Jackknife variation - 30 seconds
With this jackknife variation, Reif performs each section of the jackknife — lowering the arms and torso and lowering the legs down to the floor, separately. Starting at the toe-touch stage of the jackknife, slowly lower your upper body down, then crunch back up to starting position, then lower the legs down and repeat.
Crunch hold - 30 seconds
With your legs in tabletop position, lift your head, and neck off the floor, as if you are doing a crunch. Then pause and hold. Remember to breathe during this exercise and keep your abs engaged.
Starfish crunch right - 30 seconds
To do a starfish crunch to the right, start by lying on your back, with your arms out in a T-shaped position on your sides and your legs straight. Engaging your core, raise your right arm and lift your left leg to touch above your stomach, keeping your arm and leg straight; your head and neck should be off the mat. Lower back to starting position, keeping your head and neck engaged, then repeat.
Starfish crunch left - 30 seconds
To do a starfish crunch on the left, perform the same exercise as above, but raise your left arm to your right leg.
Flutter kicks - 30 seconds
To do flutter kicks, lie with your back pressed into the floor with your arms by your side. Raise your legs up to the ceiling, then lower them so that they are at a 45-degree angle from the ground. Kick your legs up and down as if you are swimming, keeping this movement small. Reif keeps her head and neck off the floor during this exercise, but if you need to support the head, you can do that too. If lifting your head and neck puts too much pressure on your lower back, keep them on the floor.
Ab hold with arm circle - 30 seconds
To do this move, get into a crunch hold, with your legs outstretched at a 45-degree angle and your head and neck lifted off the floor. While you are holding, circle your arms from behind your head to next to your legs.
Crunch hold - 30 seconds
With your legs in tabletop position, lift your head and neck off the floor, as if you are doing a crunch. Then pause and hold.
Russian twist - 30 seconds
Sit on the floor with your knees bent. Keep your back straight, lean back, and draw your legs up off the ground. Twist to one side — as far as you can go without touching the ground — and then twist to the other side. Here's more on how to do a Russian twist and the variations to try.
Plank and crunch in - 30 seconds
For this exercise, get into a plank position, and think about creating a straight line from your forehead to the heels of your toes. With your weight on your elbows, crunch your abs inwards, thinking about sucking your belly in and arching your back.
Spider plank - 30 seconds
From a plank position, bring one knee out to the side of the plank, as if you’re bringing it round to touch your elbow (although your knee doesn’t actually need to touch your elbow). Then take it back to your starting plank position and repeat on the other side.
Dolphin hold - 30 seconds
Start in a downward dog position, and lower your body weight onto your elbows, keeping your legs straight. Your head can rest on the floor between your elbows.
I tried the Pamela Reif six pack ab workout: here’s what happened
One word — ouch. Reif wasn’t lying, this ab workout is intense from the first few seconds and the changes from one exercise to the next were fast and snappy. Immediately I found the jackknifes tricky, and had to slow down to ensure I was keeping my lower back pressed into the floor; I suffer from sciatica after a horse-riding accident in my teens, so have to be careful with my lower back.
I’d never done the jackknife variation before; trying to pat your head and draw circles on your stomach is a real test of coordination, as well as being a core killer.
By the first round of crunch holds, my core was on fire. The 30-second countdown seemed to be slowing down, and I got the shakes by the time I’d completed the starfish movements on the left and right sides.
By the time I’d gotten to the ab hold with arm circles, I was regretting agreeing to test this workout, and seconds later, I was cursing Pamela Reif and her perfect abs during the crunch hold. The exercises weren’t causing my heart rate to rocket, or torching calories, but instead got me to engage and focus on my deep abdominal muscles.
At the end of the dolphin hold, my core noticeably ached and I felt like I’d been working out for a lot longer than six minutes. While it’s not a workout I’d look forward to doing again, it definitely works and it’s quick enough to fit in on my lunch break, or even between meetings at work. No workout will give you a six-pack overnight, but I definitely felt that this one forced me to engage deep core muscles I probably don’t use in my regular strength sessions. I’ll be doing this one again, but not until my core stops burning.
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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.