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I tried the Lily Sabri 7-day ab challenge — and I'm shocked by the results

A photo of Lily Sabri doing her ab workout
(Image credit: YouTube/Lily Sabri)

I remember going along to a Lily Sabri class in London a few years back, only to find that I could barely walk the next day and that my core was on fire for days. For those of you who haven’t heard of her, Sabri has amassed a following of 3.24 million on YouTube and is a chartered Physiotherapist and Pilates instructor who shares her free fitness challenges. 

One of these challenges is a 5-minute abs workout, which you complete for seven days to lose fat around the belly, waist, and abs. It requires zero equipment and can be done from just about anywhere.

“These abs and waist exercises will target your stomach, show you how to burn belly fat to help with fat loss from home. Are you ready to get a flat stomach and get rid of fat at home? Do this consecutively with good nutrition for 7 days to start to see results” Sabri writes in the description.

Can you actually get abs in seven days? Find out what happened when I tried to find out. 

The Pilates-inspired workout is designed to target and strengthen the core muscles in just five minutes. There are no breaks between the exercises, but for beginners, Sabri has added modifications for the more difficult moves. She also explains on her YouTube page that although these exercises target the abdominal muscles, there’s no way to do ‘spot’ fat loss. Sabri writes: "Please remember that we cannot spot reduce fat, meaning we can’t choose the areas on our body where we lose fat. However to get fat loss results I recommend the following:

1. Being in calorie deficit

2. Cardio/ HIIT workout (I often call these Fat Loss/Burn workouts on my channel)

3. Specific muscle targeted workouts. To strengthen and develop specific muscles."

What is the Lily Sabri belly fat loss workout? 

The Lily Sabri fat loss workout is one round of the following exercises. In the intro, Sabri explains that you can do multiple rounds if you like, but to complete the challenge and see results, you should do the five-minute circuit once a day for a week. 

The exercises are as follows: 

30 seconds of crunches with knee and ankle tap left - To do this exercise, get into a crunch position, with your core engaged and your head and neck off the ground. As you crunch, bring your right elbow to touch your left knee, as you would in a bicycle crunch, then lower back down to your starting position. The next time you crunch up, bring your right hand to touch your left ankle. Keep going for the full 30 seconds. The modification for this exercise is to remove the ankle tap — supporting the head and neck with your right hand behind your head, crunch your right elbow to your left knee, then lower back to starting position and repeat. 

30 seconds of crunches with knee and ankle tap right - Get into a crunch position, with your core engaged and your head and neck off the ground. As you crunch, bring your left elbow to touch your right knee, as you would in a bicycle crunch, then lower back down to your starting position. The next time you crunch up, bring your left hand to touch your right ankle. Keep going for the full 30 seconds. 

30 seconds sit-up with a clap on the left leg - For this exercise, start by lying on your back with your right foot flat on the floor and your left leg outstretched. As you sit up, lift your torso off the ground by engaging your core. At the same time, bend your left leg into the body. As you reach the top of your sit-up, clap behind the left leg and return to your starting position.

30 seconds sit-up with a clap on the right leg - Again, start by lying on your back with your left foot flat on the floor and your right leg outstretched. As you sit up, lift your torso off the ground by engaging your core. At the same time, bend your right leg into the body. As you reach the top of your sit-up, clap behind the right leg and return to your starting position.

30 seconds v-crunch with a twist - For this exercise, get into a v-hold position with your feet flat on the floor. To get into a v-hold, start by sitting up on your seat bones and lean your torso back until your feel your core muscles are engaged. Once you’re in this position, simply crunch forward, twisting your torso to the right, then return to your starting position before crunching forward and twisting to the left. 

30 seconds Russian twist - To do a Russian twist, stay in the same v-hold position you were just in. This time remove the crunch element and twist the torso side to side, almost tapping your clasped hands to the side of your body each time. To make the exercise harder, raise your legs off the ground, pressing your knees together. 

30 seconds flutter kick and open and close - For this exercise, make a V-shape with your hands and place them in a diamond shape underneath the lower back. Lift the legs up and lower them down as far as you can. Flutter kick the leg up and down for eight counts, then open and close the legs for four counts. If this is too difficult, or too intense on the lower back, keep the legs up higher towards the ceiling and flutter kick from there. 

30 seconds heel taps and leg raises - To do this exercise, keep your legs in the same position as the exercise above, drop one foot down until the heel taps the floor, then raise it back to the starting position. Repeat on the other leg, then raise the legs up to the ceiling and back down to the starting position. If this is too difficult the modification is toe taps, where you lie on your back with your legs in table top position and lower one leg at a time, tapping the toe against the floor. 

30 seconds ankle taps - For ankle taps, lie on your back with legs bent and your feet flat against the floor. Pull your stomach muscles in tight as you reach from side to side, touching your ankle each time. 

30 seconds plank with hip dips and see-saw - For the final exercise assume the plank position on your forearms. Once you’re in the plank position, drop the right hip down to the floor, then the left hip. After the hip dips, see-saw the body forwards then back to your starting position and repeat. The modification for this exercise is to lower your knees to the floor and just perform the hip dips in the plank. 

I tried the Lily Sabri 7-day abs challenge — here’s what happened 

In my quest to get abs like Sabri herself, I unrolled my mat and the end of my strength session and gave the bodyweight exercises a go. The first thing I noticed was that the 5-minute workout is short and sweet. You can, genuinely, do it just about anywhere and it really doesn’t take too much time out of your day. 

Next up, I liked the variations offered. As a Pilates instructor, Sabri performs each exercise with perfect form, so it’s helpful to follow along and copy her movements. As I’ve mentioned in previous workout reviews, I suffer from sciatica after a horse-riding accident in my teens, so I have to be careful when exercising to not put too much pressure on my lower back.

I opted for the modification in the first exercise, as I found the crunch and reach were a bit much on my back. I also opted for the modification for the heel taps and leg raise, as I find even with my hands supporting my lower back, lowering them right down to the floor and holding isn’t comfortable on my spine. (It’s important to remember that opting for a ‘modification’ isn’t an easy way out or a weaker option. Always listen to your body.)

Compared to say, the Pamela Reif ab workout, or the Bretman Rock ‘ab-solutely not’ challenge, I didn’t end with my core on fire. Sure, I could feel that I’d worked out, but it wasn’t too extreme. By day two, however, my abs burned from the second I started the five-minute workout. I was obviously targeting the same muscles again and I could feel it. 

On day three, the exercises definitely felt a little easier, I wasn’t as confused by the crunch and clap, which definitely took some coordination on day one. I was also realizing how easy it was to fit these five minutes of exercise in around my life. A barrier I think a lot of people face when it comes to fitness is feeling like they have to dedicate hours of their day, or week, to working out.

Actually, five minutes here or there makes a massive difference, and this workout can definitely be squeezed into a lunch break, or just performed when working at home to break up hours sat down behind a desk. (If you do spend all day sitting down, we’ve hand-picked the best exercises to do if you sit down all day here).  

By day four, I felt like my abs looked a little more noticeable when getting dressed in the morning. A lot of Sabri’s videos target that 11 line ab look, and I could definitely see this more prominently this morning. This left me feeling far more encouraged to hit the mat and get going. 

For the next three days, I continued with the workout. I definitely felt more confident in the moves and by day six, I knew the routine well enough to not follow along with Sabri on the video, I just listened to her audio cues. As it was a rest day and I wasn’t heading out for a run or lifting weights, I did the routine again, making the ab workout 10 minutes long, before heading out for a gentle walk with my hyperactive cocker spaniel puppy, Toby. 

And then we reach day seven, the last day of my challenge and my last five minutes on the mat with Sabri. I fit the workout in before doing my long run — seven miles at an easy pace, as I’m still letting my body recover after completing the London Marathon last month. When I examined my abs in the mirror when I got home, I was honestly shocked. They were definitely popping and looked more toned than they have done in a while.

Of course, how visible your abs are is all to do with your body fat percentage and eating well, but I was amazed to see how just five minutes of targeted exercises a day had transformed my body. I’ll definitely be keeping this bodyweight workout in my repertoire of ab workouts, and be on the lookout for my next challenge with Sabri, who is definitely still one of my favorite virtual trainers. 

If you've already tried this workout then check out Chloe Ting YouTube workout to feel the burn.

Jane McGuire

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 four 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.