You don’t need sit-ups to build a stronger core — just use this 5 minute bodyweight workout instead

a woman performing bicycle crunches
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Sit-ups are an obvious exercise to jump into when it comes to training the abs but, let’s be honest they can get pretty boring and sometimes even uncomfortable on the lower back. What if we told you that you can train your core in as little as five minutes and there are no sit-ups involved? 

You read that right. The following workout only takes five minutes to complete and uses a variety of bodyweight moves to blast the core, helping to define and strengthen this important muscle group. Another bonus is this workout requires no equipment, just yourself and your enthusiasm to engage that core during five exercises.

It’s not essential, but if you can it’s worth getting your hands on one of the best yoga mats, this will make completing the five moves a little more comfortable on your joints. 

Gaiam Yoga Mat 6mm: was $39 now $29 @ Amazon

Gaiam Yoga Mat 6mm: was $39 now $29 @ Amazon
With a reversible textured sticky non-slip surface, the Gaiam yoga mat ensures excellent traction, keeping you stable and secure throughout your core workouts. Plus, it's lightweight so you can easily carry this mat around and get your sessions done wherever.

 What is the 5 minute core workout? 

Five minutes of ab exercise doesn’t sound too brutal. However, there are no breaks in this routine designed by fitness trainer Kayla Itsines, just one core exercise after another.

You will spend 30 seconds on each exercise, making sure to engage that core throughout each and every second in order to get the most out of the short time you are working for. If you need to take breaks in order to realign your position or let your core recharge for a moment, that’s ok. 

You will find a list of the exercises below and if you’d like some pointers on form, there is also a video underneath showing Itsines blast through the workout herself.

  1. Push up to side plank - 30 seconds
  2. Side plank and hi dip - 30 seconds
  3. Ab bikes - 30 seconds
  4. Inchworms - 30 seconds
  5. Standing crunches - 30 sec

An obvious benefit of this core workout is its sheer convenience. Whether you're late in the morning but still want to get some exercise in, on the road without access to equipment, or simply seeking a quick ab finisher after a larger workout, this routine is versatile and can be completed anywhere, anytime, requiring minimal space. 

Plus, with summer around the corner, it's the perfect addition to outdoor workouts as it can easily be performed in a garden or local park. Ticking off a workout and getting to do it outdoors in nature can benefit both your physical and mental wellbeing, so it's a win-win really.

Engaging in exercises that target the core can significantly build strength and muscle in this important muscle group. As expected, consistency is key, you will need to perform exercises like the ones above regularly and look to adopt progressive overload into your training. 

You might even like to consider adding in some weight, like one of the best kettlebells to increase the challenge, engage the core muscles more intensively and promote greater strength and stability.

Woman performing side plank

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Sadly, you aren’t going to wake up with abs after doing one five minute core workout. To work on growing visible abs, you will need to focus on reducing overall body fat through a combination of exercise (including both cardio and strength training) and a balanced diet that supports fat loss.

But it isn't all about aesthetics. A strong core is essential for aiding our everyday movements like bending, lifting, twisting, and even sitting or standing. Bodyweight core exercises, like the ones above, help develop functional strength that transfers into better performance in daily activities and sports.

Whether you're a frequent weightlifter looking to enhance your lifting form with some core targeting exercises or you're recovering from an injury and are relying on a strong core to make movement feel easier — this is an easy workout to pick up and do. If you are recovering from injury, don't try these exercises before getting a thumbs up from a professional.

More from Tom's Guide

Jessica Downey
Fitness Writer

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her love for keeping fit and fueling her body with healthy and enjoyable food quite naturally led her to write about all things fitness and health-related. If she isn’t out testing the latest fitness products such as the latest running shoe or yoga mat for reviewing then she can be found writing news and features on the best ways to build strength, active aging, female health, and anything in between. Before then she had a small stint writing in local news, has also written for Runners World UK (print and digital), and gained experience with global content marketing agency, Cedar Communications.

Born and raised in Scotland, Jessica is a massive fan of exercising and keeping active outdoors. When at home she can be found running by the sea, swimming in it, or up a mountain. This continued as she studied and trained to become a PPA-accredited magazine journalist in Wales. And since working and living in London, she splits her time between weight training in the gym, trying new fitness classes, and finding scenic running routes. Jessica enjoys documenting this on her fitness-inspired Instagram page @jessrunshere where she loves engaging with like-minded fitness junkies.

She is a big fan of healthy cooking and loves learning more about this area with expert nutritionists she has met over the years. Jessica is a big advocate for building healthy relationships with food rather than building restrictive attitudes towards it. When she isn’t eating or running she also enjoys practicing yoga in her free time as it helps her to unwind and benefits her performance in other sports.