Forget weights — build your core and strengthen your hips with this 3-move bodyweight workout

Image of women's midsection six-pack
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

We’ve got just the antidote to boring bodyweight exercises. You just need this three-move bodyweight to build your core and strengthen your hips.

This quick workout has been Tom’s Guide designed and approved, which means we can guarantee a muscle-torching good time. The three exercises build a stronger core and activate your hip flexor muscles without weights, which can help you build lean muscle mass in your midsection and improve your functional fitness.

Can I build muscle with bodyweight exercises?

Despite the heavy emphasis on the benefits of lifting heavy, you can still build muscle without weights, and many bodyweight exercises can increase functional strength. Rather than using external resistance, you’re working with your own body through resistance, which can build stronger bones and joints and stimulate muscle growth. Just like a regular calisthenics routine, bodyweight workouts can also improve relative strength — how strong you are compared to your size.

If you want to tone your torso and sculpt a stronger, more defined midsection, just remember that other factors will determine muscle definition. If you can’t see your abs despite working out, there are several areas you might need to look at, including diet and how active you are throughout the day (a little something known as NEAT), which can affect your metabolism.

3 bodyweight exercises that strengthen your core and hips 

We’ve pulled these three beginner-friendly bodyweight exercises to try. Here they are.  

Wall walks

a photo of a man doing a wall plank

(Image credit: Getty/urbazon)

Wall walks are a full-body exercise with a strong core and shoulder focus. Position yourself next to a wall and place your feet against the wall in a plank position — here’s how to do a wall plank in more detail. Your shoulders should stack over your wrists, and your bum should align with your shoulders. 

Begin walking your hands closer to the wall as you walk your feet further up the wall. If you can, continue to a handstand position or as far as possible, then walk your hands away and walk down the wall again into the plank position. 

Mountain climbers

Mountain climbers are a cardiovascular exercise that raises your heart rate while strengthening your core, hips, shoulders, arms and legs. Start in a high plank position with your shoulders over your wrists and tighten your stomach to brace your core. 

Maintain a straight line from head to toe, draw your right knee forward toward your chest, then return to the plank position and repeat with your left leg. To engage your oblique muscles, cross your left knee to the right and your right knee to the left to generate a gentle twisting motion. 

Here’s how to do a mountain climber step-by-step.

Butterfly sit-ups

The butterfly sit-up is a popular core exercise for taking the weight off your hips, isolating your abs and activating your inner thighs. Bring the soles of your feet together and open your knees, creating a diamond shape with your lower body. Press your feet down, then perform sit-ups using your core to drive your body forward and back. Remember to lower your back fully to the floor each rep.

We demonstrate the exercise using a weight, but you can use your body weight instead. Our writer and personal trainer did 50 butterfly sit-ups a day for a week, and here’s what happened.

What are the best bodyweight ab exercises? 

Bodyweight ab workouts are brilliant for beginners to master exercises using a full range of motion and driving with the core muscles before adding weights into the mix. One study by Physiology & Behavior found that during “no load resistance training,” you can grow muscle by using a proper range of motion to engage enough muscle fibers to stimulate change. 

Besides, you won't always have weights available, so bodyweight core workouts are endlessly scaleable and accessible for all levels of exercise. 

15-minute 3-move bodyweight ab workout 

Grab one of the best yoga mats and give this a go. 

EMOM (every minute on the minute) x 5 rounds

Wall walks x 5-8 reps

Mountain climbers x 50 seconds

Butterfly sit-ups x 12-15 reps

Perform wall walks for 5-8 reps, then rest for the remainder of the minute. If you prefer, you can bring your feet down between reps to reduce the intensity. On the second minute, perform 50 seconds of mountain climbers, then take 10 seconds to rest before round three.  On the third minute, perform 12-15 butterfly sit-ups, then rest. Repeat for five rounds. Adjust the reps after the first round if you’re struggling to gather 10-15 seconds of rest. 

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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.