by Alexandra Duron: In the faster-is-better world we live in, carving out 30 to 45 minutes a day for a good workout can seem like a major challenge—
and that can totally mess with your quest for a strong core. Enter: the 7-minute workout.
This strategic, super-effective form of high-intensity circuit training is supported by science. To complement the original—and give you even more 7-minute options, we asked Yusuf Jeffers, certified personal trainer and Head Coach at Tone House in New York City, to create a companion abs workout that requires only your body weight.
A killer combo of core-strengthening moves and cardio, this circuit’s designed to “attack” not only your abs and obliques, but also the muscles in your back, pelvic floor, and even your shoulders, says Jeffers. And, truth be told, it beats doing hundreds of crunches. “If you’re training for a sport—or just for everyday life—you usually don’t use any one muscle in isolation,” he says. “This correlates closer to actual, functional movements.” And that’s a good thing: While crunches certainly strengthen your abs, the body benefits more—by torching more calories, for example—from movements that recruit more than one muscle group.
Though it’s important to remember that high-intensity interval training isn’t meant to be a daily workout, it’s a great tool to have in your exercise arsenal, particularly on days when all you’ve got is 7 minutes to spare.
How to use this list: Perform each move below for 30 seconds, resting 5 to 10 seconds in-between. With this circuit, the goal is to go big or go home—meaning, working at the highest possible intensity for as many reps as you can without sacrificing form. Expect to perform anywhere from 15 to 20 reps, though remember that quality always tops quantity, says Jeffers. (So don’t stress if your rep count is on the lower end the first couple of times you try this—there’s always time to improve.) If time allows, you can repeat the circuit 2 to 3 times.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, core engaged. Shift weight onto right leg with left knee lifted and bent to a 90-degree angle and arms in front of you as if you’re climbing a ladder (just without the ladder). Extend left arm overhead as you push off right foot to explosively lift right knee until it is level with hips. Pull hand down as you lower right leg and shift weight to right side to repeat on left side. Continue alternating legs and arms as quickly as you can—this should feel as intense as High Knees.
2. Knee-In Crunch
Lie faceup with fingertips behind ears and legs extended. Lift legs until feet are about six inches off the ground. Engage core and lift shoulder blades off the floor like a crunch while also pulling knees in toward chest. Careful not to pull on your neck to crunch; use abs to lift. Reverse the movement to return to starting position.
3. Glute Bridge
Lie faceup with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Place arms on the floor by sides, palms facing down. Keep head and shoulders firmly planted on the ground as you press through feet, squeezing glutes to lift hips off the floor. This exercise is not only great for hip stabilization and boosting ab strength, but—bonus!—it also works your butt.
4. Bicycle Crunch
Lie faceup with fingertips behind ears, knees bent at a 90-degree angle, both feet off ground. Lift head and shoulders off mat. Bring right elbow to left knee as you extend right leg out straight. Quickly reverse the movement to repeat on other side bringing left elbow to right knee. Continue to alternate.
5. High Knees
Stand tall with feet hip width. Engage core and use lower abs to lift and lower one knee at a time as if running in place. Bring knees to the same height as hips, thighs parallel to the floor, and try not to lean back. Stay on balls of feet and alternate legs as fast as possible.
6. Reverse Crunch
Lie faceup with arms at sides. Bend knees so that hips and knees form 90-degree angles, core engaged. Activate your lower abs to lift hips off the ground, bringing knees toward chest. Lower back to starting position as slowly as possible to keep lower abdominals engaged.
7. Mountain Climber
Start in high plank position, core tight, hands directly under shoulders. Keep core engaged to stabilize hips as you drive right knee to chest. Return that leg to starting position and then repeat with left knee. Continue alternating legs to pump knees as fast as possible.
8. Windshield Wiper
Lie faceup with hands straight out to sides (so body forms a T) and legs extended. Raise both legs towards the ceiling until they’re perpendicular to the floor. Without lifting head or shoulders off the mat, lower both legs to the right—as close to the ground as you can get without losing form. Reverse the movement to lower both legs to the left. Continue to alternate like—you guessed it—windshield wipers.
9. Push Jacks
Stand with feet together, elbows bent, and palms just above your shoulders facing up. Quickly jump legs out as you pump arms up towards the ceiling (like you’re raising the roof!). Quickly reverse the movement and repeat as fast as you can.
This move gets both your abs and shoulders in on the action. Start in high plank position with hands directly under shoulders. Engage core and lift hips into the air as you jump straight legs forward—your body should look like an upside-down V. Keep a slight bend in knees if you don’t have the flexibility. Jump back to starting position.
Lie faceup with arms next to sides. Engage core and sit up while raising right hand and left leg simultaneously. Touch right fingertips to left toes. Return to starting position and repeat using the opposite hand and leg.
12. Hollow Body Hold
Finish strong with an isometric hold. Lie faceup with arms by sides and legs extended straight. Engage abs. Lift shoulder blades and straightened legs off the floor, keeping lower back pressed into mat throughout the entire exercise (the closer your legs are to the floor, the more challenging this is). Hold this posture for the full 30 seconds.