Build a stronger core in just 30 minutes with this 8-move bodyweight abs workout

Dr. Robin Barrett performing mountain climbers
(Image credit: Dr. Robin Barrett)

If there’s one type of training session that deserves some extra praise and a definite spot in your weekly exercise routine, it’s a core workout. 

Without even realizing it, we call upon our core on a daily basis to help us go about our everyday actions whether it’s bending down to roll out a yoga mat before a quick morning flow, walking up and down a set of stairs, or picking up a pair of dumbbells with the correct form. 

The core is defined as the body’s mid-region and it’s made up of multiple muscles, including your rectus abdominis (more informally called your six-pack), transverse abdominis and diaphragm. 

To help you build a stronger core, and benefit from the many advantages doing so can bring, we spoke to Dr. Robin Barrett, a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified personal trainer and Ladder coach, who has devised an 8-move core workout with no equipment necessary. 

How to do this 8-move full-body core workout

Targeting the likes of your abs and obliques to your lower back and glutes, Barrett’s workout features many of the best core exercises known for building a stronger middle. Try completing three sets of 10 reps per exercise.

Just remember to breathe through each set, engage your core and maintain a good form throughout. To help you master the moves, Barrett has provided some easy-to-follow steps and performed each exercise so you can see what your form should look like.

1. Mountain cimbers & plank jacks

(Image credit: Dr. Robin Barrett)

If you’re hoping to build a stronger core, learning how to do a mountain climber is a great move to master. The bodyweight exercise is a compound move so it will work multiple muscles simultaneously.

In this case, this full-body move will target your core, shoulders, back, hips, quads, and glutes. Barrett recommends combining this with a plank jack, so your hamstrings and calves are targeted too. 

  • Begin in a plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders and glutes lowered.
  • Quickly alternate bringing your knees in toward your chest, keeping your core engaged. 
  • Complete 2-3 quick climbers while maintaining the plank position, then jump both feet out to the sides, wider than hip-width apart for one plank jack. 
  • Quickly jump your feet back together to return to the starting position for climbers. That’s one rep.

2. Reverse crunches

(Image credit: Dr. Robin Barrett)

So you’ve probably already completed (or swerved) many a crunch in your time. But have you tried doing one in reverse? Once you’ve mastered how to do a reverse crunch, you’ll be well on your way to building a stronger core, while giving your posture and flexibility a boost. 

  • Start in a supine reverse plank by placing your hands directly under your shoulders and lifting your hips off the ground keeping your body in a straight line.
  • Keep the weight in your upper body and at the heels of your feet. 
  • Contract your abs to lift your hips off the floor, bringing your knees towards your chest one leg at a time.
  • Lower your legs back down with control. That's one rep. 

3. Genie Sit

(Image credit: Dr. Robin Barrett)

A Genie Sit might look easy, but when done correctly, it packs a serious punch. According to Barrett, this move will target your transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques and quads. 

  • Begin by kneeling on the floor with your hips pushed forward together and hands clasped at the chest center. 
  • Engage your core muscles, lean back slowly, and lower your torso towards the ground while keeping your spine straight. 
  • Stop when you feel your core engaging and your abdominal muscles working. 
  • Hold this position for a moment, maintaining control and stability then slowly return to the starting position by using your core, quads, and glute muscles to lift your torso back up.

4. Glute bridge marches

(Image credit: Dr. Robin Barrett)

The marching aspect of this move makes the humble glute bridge that little bit harder. 

  • Start on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
  • Engage your core and lift your hips off the ground, forming a straight line from shoulders to knees. 
  • Lift one foot off the ground, bringing the knee towards your chest while keeping your hips level with your core and glutes tight. 
  • Lower the foot back to the ground and then alternate by marching your legs while keeping your hips lifted and stable. 

5. Dead bug

(Image credit: Dr. Robin Barrett)

dead bug is a stabilization exercise, meaning this core-building compound move not only targets the transverse abdominis and obliques, but also hits the erector spinae, which helps stabilize the spine and support the lower back. 

  • Start on your back with your arms extended toward the ceiling and legs bent at a 90-degree angle. 
  • Lower your right arm and left leg 6 inches above the floor, keeping your lower back pressed into the ground. 
  • Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side. 

6. Plank rainbows

(Image credit: Dr. Robin Barrett)

Bored of planks? Then try out a plank rainbow. It’s one of the best plank variations you can do to help build core strength and muscle, as Barrett says this move will still target your obliques and transverse abdominis, it just helps to keep things interesting. 

  • Start in a forearm plank position with glutes low to the ground.
  • Rotate your hips to one side, dipping them towards the floor. 
  • Make a rainbow motion with your hips bringing your glutes toward the ceiling and repeat the dip on the other side. 
  • Keep your core engaged and maintain a straight line from head to heels. 

7. Twisted frog kicks

(Image credit: Dr. Robin Barrett)

Frog kicks are an efficient exercise that, if performed correctly, will help you core muscle and endurance. According to Barrett, this move will target your rectus abdominis, obliques, hip flexors and lower back muscles.

  • Start in a seated position with your arms by your sides and your legs 6 inches off the ground extended straight.
  • Bend your knees, bringing them towards your chest, and rotate your legs to one side, dropping them towards the ground while keeping your upper body stable. 
  • Return your legs to the center, twist them to the opposite side then continue alternating.
  • Keep your core engaged throughout the exercise and rep it out rapidly.

8. Leg raises

(Image credit: Dr. Robin Barrett)

Lastly, it’s time to work out your lower abdominals and hip flexors with leg raises. 

  • Lie on your back with your legs straight and arms by your sides. 
  • Lift your legs upward, keeping them straight, until they are perpendicular to the floor. 
  • Slowly lower your legs back down without letting them touch the floor. 
  • Engage your core throughout the movement. 

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Becks Shepherd

Becks is a lifestyle journalist who specializes in writing about wellness and home products, from mattresses to weighted blankets and cooling comforters. She has tested a number of mattresses for Tom's Guide, putting them through their paces to see if they stand up to the brand's claims, and offering recommendations as to the type of sleeper they will (and won't) suit.