12-minute HIIT workout for your core

Strengthen your abdominals and enhance your gut health with the ultimate at-home fat-burning sequence — no equipment required

With gyms still closed, many of us are searching for new ways to shake-up our at-home workouts while still achieving our fitness goals. So, why not try an invigorating session that targets your core and optimises your digestive health at the same time? Plus, it requires no equipment at all, making it the ultimate lockdown workout.

About three years ago, I had a personal trainer who taught me this HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout when I wanted to focus on strengthening and toning my core and it made such a difference that I now regularly incorporate it into my exercise routine. It’s great because it uses full-body movements to really work your abdominals, including your obliques and deep core muscles, while getting the heart pumping and burning calories too.

Not only does strengthening your core promote good posture, flexibility and balance, but it can improve your digestive health too. A recent study showed that participants who exercised for 30 minutes, three days a week, for six weeks experienced a beneficial change in the composition of their gut microbiome. Experts also confirm that high-intensity training can provide a major boost for your gut health, bearing in mind you aren’t experiencing digestive discomfort at the time.

The best bit — this workout can be done anywhere, so you can do it in your garden, at your local park or even at the beach (as long as you’re social distancing). Just remember to warm up first – I find Joe Wicks’ pre-HIIT warm-up session does the job. Engage your abs and get ready to build an extremely robust stomach!

High knees running in place
High knees running in place engages your core, strengthens your quads and gets your heart rate up.

This is a great full-body exercise because it engages your core, strengthens your hip flexors and quads, gets your heart rate up and improves your coordination.

  • Low-impact option: do the same move, but at a slower speed
  • How long for: 30 seconds
  • How to: 
  1. Begin with your feet hip-width apart, then drive your right knee towards your chest and quickly place it back on the ground. Immediately drive your left knee towards your chest.
  2. Continue to alternate your knees as quickly as you can. Try and lift your knees as high as you can each time even if you feel fatigued.
Bicycle crunches
Bicycle crunches target your front core muscles, your obliques and your deep abs.

A simple yet effective way to target your rectus abdominis (front core muscles), obliques (side abdominal muscles) and transverse abdominis (deep abs) which will help you perform daily tasks more efficiently. 

  • Variation: for an intermediate-level exercise, hold a medicine ball between your hands while performing the bicycle crunch
  • How long for: 30 seconds
  • How to:
  1. Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed into the ground and place your hands behind your head.
  2. Draw in your abdomen to stabilise your spine and activate your deep abdominal muscles.
  3. With your hands holding your head, gently lift your shoulder blades off the ground and slowly raise your knees to a 90-degree angle, lifting your feet from the floor.
  4. Exhale and straighten your right leg out to about a 45-degree angle to the ground while turning your upper body to the right, bringing your right elbow towards the left knee. Ensure your rib cage is moving and not just your elbows.
  5. Alternate to twist to the other side while drawing your right knee towards your left elbow and extending your left leg out. This is one rep. Keep alternating for 30 seconds.

TIP: It’s not necessary for your elbows to touch your knees as this could cause strain in your neck.

Mountain climbers
Mountain climbers not only tone your core, but they work your shoulders and arms too.

While being an intense move that blasts calories, improves agility and cardio endurance and tones your abs at the same time (wow) this really isn’t as dreadful as it sounds! This fat-burning exercise is not only good for your core but your shoulders, arms and quads too.

  • Low-impact option: do the same move, but at a slower pace or simply try spider plank instead
  • How long for: 30 seconds
  • How to:
  1. Start in plank position, ensuring your shoulders are inline with your wrists and your weight is evenly distributed between your hands and your toes. 
  2. Engage your core to help you stabilise, then bring one knee towards your chest and push it back out again. 
  3. Bring the alternate knee to your chest and push it back out. 
  4. Keeping your hips down, continue switching legs as fast as you can. It should feel like you are ‘running’ in your plank. 
Burpees send your heart rate through the roof and challenge your core throughout.

Before you groan at this one, you’ll want to know why it’s a firm fave among personal trainers. As well as sending your heart rate through the roof, the exercise works virtually every muscle in your body including your shoulders, chest, abs, quads, inner thighs, butt and triceps. A total-body move that will help you get fitter and stronger faster.

  • Low impact option: Give the jumping a miss and simply step your feet back and forth one at a time
  • How long for: 30 seconds
  • How to:
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Push your hips back, bend your knees and lower your body into a squat. Place your hands on the ground directly in front of, and just inside, your feet.
  3. Shift your weight onto your hands as you jump your feet back softly to land on the balls of your feet in a plank position. Make sure your back isn’t dipping or your butt isn’t raised in the air to ensure you are working your core effectively.
  4. Jump your feet back towards your hands so they land just outside of them.
  5. Reach your arms overhead and energetically jump up into the air.
  6. Once your feet are back on the ground, immediately lower your body into a squat and begin your next rep.

Repeat the circuit three to four times, resting for one minute in between each.

Enjoyed this? Want to share your fave core exercises? Get in touch.

Be mindful of your own physical ability. All exercises are done at the participant’s risk.

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