Hitting all areas of the core requires doing more than just crunches, sit-ups and leg raises. These popular ab moves all occur in the sagittal plane of motion, and they’re perfectly fine to do — just not exclusively because the muscles of the core are also highly involved in the other two major anatomical planes: frontal and transverse. This bodyweight obliques workout will get you moving through different planes, so consider it your ticket to an all-around stronger core.
This routine hits the frontal plane with a vengeance via a trio of side-bend exercises, plus a dose of transverse with a twisting movement (low-plank body saw). The side bends target the obliques, the diagonal muscles that run on either side of the torso, while also hitting deep core muscles and the rectus abdominis (six-pack) to an extent.
The four moves in this routine may look basic at first glance, but they’ll provide a surprising burn to your midsection, particularly with the 60-second sets programmed by ISSA-certified trainer Aneshea Shali, owner of Core Camp Challenge. “These are some great bodyweight core exercises that can be done anywhere,” she says. “I recommend incorporating these exercises into your daily routine for best results.”
Bodyweight Obliques and Core Workout
Complete each of the below four exercises for three sets, doing continuous reps for 60 seconds and resting another 60 seconds between each set. Between exercises (after set No. 3 of a given move) rest only 15 seconds.
If you’re at an advanced level or have done the workout multiple times, Aneshea recommends scaling up the workout as such: “You can add more sets and/or increase the duration of each exercise the more comfortable you become to challenge yourself.” This could mean, for example, doing four to five sets per exercise and/or 90 to 120 seconds per set.
|Exercise||Sets||Reps (“on”)/Rest (“off)|
|Standing Side Crunch Into Front Knee Raise||3||60 seconds/60 seconds|
|Rest 15 seconds.||–||–|
|Lateral Side Bend||3||60 seconds/60 seconds|
|Rest 15 seconds.||–||–|
|Low-Plank Body Saw||3||60 seconds/60 seconds|
|Rest 15 seconds.||–||–|
|Crunch-Hold Heel Tap||3||60 seconds/60 seconds|
Exercise Descriptions and Tips
Standing Side Crunch Into Front Knee Raise
Execution: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands behind your head and elbows bent. On one side, bring your knee up and elbow down so they touch just above hip level. Drop your leg back down (returning to the standing position), then lift that same knee up in front of you to at least hip height. Repeat this two-part series on the same side continuously for 30 seconds, then do the other side for the remaining 30 seconds.
Aneshea’s Coaching Cue: “On the front knee raise, bring your knee directly in front of you toward your chest at around a 45-degree angle. Each side crunch and front knee raise should be done at about a one-second pace [two seconds total for one side crunch plus one front knee raise].”
Lateral Side Bend
Execution: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hands down at your sides, palms facing in. Bend to one side, sliding your hand straight down your outer thigh until your fingers touch the side of your knee. Reverse the motion to stand back up straight, and go right into a side bend on the other side. Go back and forth at a steady, yet controlled, cadence until the 60 seconds are up.
Aneshea’s Coaching Cue: “Keep a straight back throughout — don’t bend forward as you do the side bends — and take a slight pause once you reach back to center between sides. Keep your core tight the entire time; your lower back shouldn’t round at any point during this exercise.”
Low-Plank Body Saw
Execution: Assume a plank position with your forearms on the floor and your body in a straight line, core tight. In a slow, controlled motion, drop your hips to one side and lower them all the way to the floor. When your outer upper thigh touches down, reverse the motion to return to the plank position, then go right into a rep on the other side. Alternate sides continuously for the duration of the set.
Aneshea’s Coaching Cue: “If you need to rest at any point, remain in the low-plank position and hold as long as you need. You’ll still get a good core workout even if you’re not doing the body saw the entire set.”
Crunch-Hold Heel Tap
Execution: Lie faceup on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat. Crunch up by lifting your shoulder blades off the floor a few inches, keeping your arms extended at your sides and hovering just above the floor. Keeping your shoulder blades off the floor throughout, bring one hand to the same-side foot and tap that heel. Return back to the middle position, then do a heel tap to the other side. Alternate back and forth at a continuous pace for the duration of the set.
Aneshea’s Coaching Cue: “Your feet should be between 2 to 4 inches away from your butt, with your upper back approximately 2 inches off the floor. Holding this ‘up’ position for an entire 60 seconds will really hit the abs and make them burn.”