I tried this 20-minute bodyweight abs workout with 14 million views — here’s what happened

Man doing mountain climbers
(Image credit: Getty/Morsa Images)

You don’t need to do sit-ups, planks and crunches to build a stronger core, as this excellent standing abs workout shows, but sometimes it’s good to get back to basics with a fast-paced session that uses all the classic bodyweight abs moves.

I tried one of the most popular 20-minute abs workouts on YouTube, which has 14 million views to date, and it is full of classic core exercises like sit-ups and planks. The home abs workout was created by fitness trainer Chris Heria on YouTube. 

The session involves doing 20 exercises with minimal rest to maximize time under tension for your core muscles, ensuring you get the biggest bang for your buck in terms of improved strength and definition. You don’t need any equipment for the workout, but it’s worth using one of the best yoga mats if you’re doing it on a hard floor.

Watch Chris Heria’s 20-minute abs workout

The workout involves doing 20 bodyweight exercises in 20 minutes, doing each exercise for 45 seconds before taking a 15-second rest. The moves come thick and fast and I found the 20 minutes flew by. Well, the rest periods certainly did anyway. 

Here are my key takeaways from the workout after giving it a go.

You do moves in groups of five

The exercises are broadly grouped into sets of five based on the position you start from, with the first five being moves you do lying down and the last five being plank variations, for example.

You don’t get any extra rest after each group of five, but the muscles being targeted change slightly as you move onto the next five, which I found a relief as my muscles were burning after five moves in a similar position.

I don’t think it’s suitable for beginners

Heria says the workout is suitable for all fitness levels in the intro, but I thought this was a challenging session and I’d recommend beginners try a different session like this 10-minute standing abs workout first. 

You can take extra breaks during the 45-second work periods of course, which means anyone can attempt the session, but I think the amount of extra rest you’d need during some moves mean that a different workout might be more effective.

The side pump move is one that stands out for me as being particularly hard for new gym-goers — even holding the position for 45 seconds is not easy without a good level of core strength, and trying to then ‘pulse’ up exhausted my abs in seconds.

The obliques get a lot of attention

The second group of five moves are all twisting exercises that target the obliques, an area of the body that I find often gets neglected during short core workouts. I enjoyed the extra focus on the sides of my abs and the twisting moves increase your functional strength. Those aiming for a six-pack will also enjoy the benefits of extra definition created by working the obliques.

The workout fatigues the abs effectively

The short rests and fast pace of the workout means that your abs and other core muscles spend a lot of time under tension and I found my muscles were burning by the end of each exercise.

After 15 minutes I could barely do a sit-up of any kind, and I had delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in my abs the next day — something that wasn’t helped by me neglecting to stretch a little after the workout. 

Prepare for planks

The final five minutes of the workout are all plank variations, which might sound like torture but I actually found this section easier than the rest of the workout and a much-needed change from the various types of sit-ups and crunches that you do for most of the first 15 minutes.

There are some ads to skip

There are a couple of ad breaks during the workout you’ll need to skip if you’re not a YouTube Premium member, so keep the device you’re using close by. Or you can let the ads run and get yourself some extra rest, which is likely to be needed.

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Nick Harris-fry
Senior Writer

Nick Harris-fry is an experienced health and fitness journalist, writing professionally since 2012. He spent nine years working on the Coach magazine and website before moving to the fitness team at Tom’s Guide in 2024. Nick is a keen runner and also the founder of YouTube channel The Run Testers, which specialises in reviewing running shoes, watches, headphones and other gear.

Nick ran his first marathon in 2016 after six weeks of training for a magazine feature and subsequently became obsessed with the sport. He now has PBs of 2hr 27min for the marathon and 15min 30sec for 5K, and has run 13 marathons in total, as well as a 50-mile ultramarathon.

He runs 50-80 miles a week and races regularly with his club, which gives him a lot of opportunity to test out running gear: he has tested and reviewed hundreds of pairs of running shoes, as well as fitness trackers, running watches, sports headphones, treadmills, and all manner of other kit. Nick is also a qualified Run Leader in the UK.