Forget sit-ups — this 12-move ab workout develops core muscle in 8 minutes

Woman performing a Russian twist during ab workout outdoors against a grey backdrop
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The best ab workouts could help you develop strength and muscle in your midsection and contribute toward overall toning. That said, building ab definition relies on several factors.

This 5-move ab workout helps develop your core in less than 10 minutes. Of course, we don’t mean that it only takes one session to grow abs of steel, but performing an ab workout regularly alongside compound exercises like squats and deadlifts and regular exercise could help you see progress. 

For this ab routine, we recommend a mini loop band from our best resistance bands guide. A medium-intensity band is ideal for beginners, but if you train regularly, a thicker band will add extra resistance for muscles to work through and torch your body even more.

Two women performing an ab workout on exercise mats with right leg on the air and opposite arm tapping the foot

(Image credit: Getty images/ Westend61)

Your core muscles are the powerhouse center of your body and include muscles that you might not be aware of, like your glutes and the erector spinae muscles that hug your spine. 

Strengthening the superficial and deeper muscles helps support safe movement and stabilization of your trunk. The payoff includes better movement quality and achieving heavier lifts during strength programs with less chance of injury. 

This resistance band ab workout by fitness influencer Eylem Abaci takes eight minutes. It activates your legs, glutes and various core muscles like the external and internal obliques and rectus abdominis. 

Watch this 8-minute resistance abs workout video 

According to Abaci, "This workout makes your core stronger, your belly flatter and your ab muscles more defined and visible.” We can’t emphasize enough that one ab workout isn’t going to achieve the stomach of your dreams, but this is still a certified core torcher to add to any exercise regime. 

You’ll perform each exercise back-to-back for 30 seconds per exercise. Abaci recommends pressing your lower back into the mat, adding, “No gaps please,” as this puts added pressure on your spine. This is particularly important during exercises like leg raises that can cause discomfort in lower backs without proper core activation. 

If you’re unsure how to flatten your back properly, we've suggested that clients zip their belly buttons inward and tilt the pelvis towards the spine. Abaci also recommends laying your head on the mat if your neck hurts at any stage. 

Repeat the workout two to three times a week to develop your core, and Abaci adds that you could combine it with other ab workouts for an extra spicy burn. Eight minutes isn’t long, but it’s enough to pack a punch to your abs with very little equipment necessary.

woman performing high plank exercise

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Exercises like the humble plank are great at activating additional muscles in your arms, shoulders, glutes and quads, while the leg press is a simple way to engage your hip flexors, legs and stabilizer core muscles. 

During the leg press, lift your upper back for the whole 30 seconds to maximize engagement, and give your stomach a healthy squeeze to prevent your back from taking over while pressing your foot away from your body in a straight line.

As a reminder, crunches aren’t for everyone and could exacerbate existing injuries. If you’re unsure, we discuss sit-ups vs crunches here, where you can decide if the exercise is right for you. Otherwise, check with a personal trainer or physician first. 

My favorite exercise in this sequence is the crunch hold. Although your arms and legs place differently, your core positioning resembles the hollow hold that famously gasses even the toughest exercisers.

Each exercise requires pressing against the loop band, firing up muscles to resist the tension it creates; this can be difficult to adjust to if you’re new to resistance band training, so start with a thinner band and progressively increase the difficulty as your body adapts. 

Some of the moves — like the press and lift — combine two exercises. Be sure to watch the video first to check for the correct form. Start with your hands down by your sides for support and graduate to hands behind your head as you begin to feel more comfortable. 

My favorite exercise in this sequence is the crunch hold. Although your arms and legs place differently, your core positioning resembles the hollow hold that famously gasses even the toughest exercisers. 

If crunches are off the table completely — no crunches, no planks — you just need 10 minutes and one kettlebell to sculpt stronger abs.  

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III 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.