Core Workouts You Can Do With Almost No Equipment

Certified Personal Trainer By Krista Stryker, NSCA-CPT
Certified Personal Trainer
Krista Stryker, NSCA-CPT is the founder of 12 Minute Athlete and a leading expert on high intensity interval training (HIIT) and bodyweight fitness, living in Venice, California. She has her bachelor’s in international affairs and communication from Lewis and Clark College and is a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
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If you've ever watched a gymnast flip, handstand, and crush their routines, you know how strong their cores must be. How else would they pull those moves off? Here's the thing, though: You won't see most gymnasts doing a ton of crunches or even holding a basic plank for minutes on end. Like the rest of us, gymnasts want to get the most out of their workouts in the shortest amount of time possible.

So, what's their secret? Here are five exercises inspired by gymnasts that will help you build a super-strong core and feel more confident than ever:

1. Hollow body holds.

Photo by Krista Stryker

Hollow body holds may appear easy, but they're tougher than they look—and they'll help you build a rock-solid core. Start by lying down flat on your back and contract your abs, pulling your belly button toward the floor. The arms and legs should be held straight out from the body with your hands and toes pointed.

Slowly raise your shoulders and legs from the ground as you keep your lower back in contact with the floor. The goal here is to find the lowest position you can hold the arms and legs in without them touching the floor and without breaking lower back contact. For an even greater challenge, rock back and forth while holding the position.

If you want to make this exercise slightly easier, reach your arms toward your feet. You can also try bending your knees instead.

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2. V-ups.

V-ups are a staple in gymnastics training for a reason: They're a super-effective core exercise, and they don't require any equipment. Start by lying down on your back, then stretch your arms overhead and keep your legs straight. Slowly raise your shoulders and legs to the ground as you keep your lower back in contact with the floor, then simultaneously raise your arms and legs as high as you can and try to touch your feet to your hands. Lower down and repeat.

For an easier variation, try tucking your knees toward your chest instead to make this exercise slightly easier. Do three rounds.

3. Hanging leg raises.

You'll need a pull-up bar for this exercise, but it's one of the best ways to build strong abs in a short amount of time. Grab onto a pull-up bar with your palms facing away from you. While keeping your legs as straight as possible, raise them as high as you can, aiming to touch your feet to your hands. Lower back down and repeat.

For an easier variation of this, start by tucking your knees up to your chest rather than keeping your legs straight. Once you build up more strength, start raising your legs up to a 90-degree angle, then eventually go as high as you can. Do three rounds of five leg raises.

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4. L-sits.

L-sits are an advanced core exercise that may look intimidating at first but with the right progressions will help your core muscles get incredibly strong. To do this one, grab some parallel bars or mini parallettes, then lift yourself off of the floor with straight arms and your legs directly straight in front of you. Make sure to push through your shoulders, keep your chest out, and point your toes as you hold the position as long as you can.

For an easier version of this, tuck your legs toward your chest instead. Once you build up more strength, try extending one leg at a time before eventually extending both legs at once. Hold the hardest L-sit progression you can for as long as you possibly can!

5. Plank hip dips.

This exercise adds an even greater challenge to the regular plank exercise by activating your obliques as well. Start by getting into a forearm plank with your shoulders directly over your elbows. Hold this position, then swivel your torso to one side, bringing your hip down until it touches the floor. Return to the top plank position then swivel your torso to the opposite side. Make sure to keep your core tight the entire time. Do three rounds of 20 plank hip dips.

All of these exercises can be added to a HIIT workout to increase your workout efficiency. Be consistent and work hard!

If you want more core-toning options, check out this crazy fun ab workout.

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