Looking to spice up your cardio workout? This HIIT abs routine will do just the trick. High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is a quick—but intense—way to amp up your regular workouts and squeeze in some dedicated core work.
Setting aside some time for core exercises is important, since core strength is vital to your daily life. Your body creates tension through your core, which allows you to perform everyday tasks like getting out of the bed in the morning or carrying heavy grocery bags.
“The core is the cornerstone of a strong and functional body,” ACE-certified personal trainer Sivan Fagan, CPT, owner of Strong With Sivan, tells SELF. “Your ability to contract your core muscles creates stability within the spine, which is needed to prevent injuries and lower back pain.” Your core also plays a role in compound lifts during your workout—you need a strong core to deadlift heavy weight from the ground or push dumbbells over your head.
Remember, though, your core doesn’t include only your rectus abdominis, or the muscles you may think of as your abs—those which run vertically along the front of your abdomen. Rather, your core wraps around your entire midsection. Your core also includes your diaphragm, obliques (muscles along the side of your abdomen), transverse abdominis (your deepest core muscles), erector spinae, and more. There are a bunch of internal and external core muscles, and dedicated core routines help you work all those muscles together.
You can work these core muscles through anti-movement (say when you are holding a position that resists bending, like a plank) and more dynamic movements (like a flutter kick, which involves a wide range of motion). Training your core to resist movement is a great way to improve stability, while bringing in movement helps you crank up your heart rate, making these kinds of exercises work well with HIIT programming. That way, you can get in your core work and a dose of cardio, too.
This HIIT abs workout that Fagan created for SELF below checks both boxes: It targets the muscles of your core while giving you a cardio boost as well, thanks to its dynamic nature and shorter rest periods.
“Because of the work-to-rest ratio, it makes it a lot more intense and effective,” says Fagan.
A quick note before you get started: Make sure you’re breathing during this routine, says Fagan.
“When working your core, it’s important not to hold your breath, but to focus on inhaling through the nose, and exhaling through the mouth,” says Fagan. When you exhale, you’re using your transverse abdominis. And this extra abdominal pressure from exhalations stabilizes your body so you’re able to move the joints you intend to move.
There are just four exercises in this quick, 8-minute abs workout that Fagan created, but they are challenging. If you’re a beginner, you may want to try the modifications written below each exercise.
Ready to give this HIIT abs routine a try? Your core—yep, the entirety of it—will thank you.
What you need: Just your bodyweight. You may also want to use an exercise mat for comfort.
- flutter kick
- Single-leg inchworm
- Thread the needle
- Alternating jackknife
- Perform each exercise for 40 seconds, resting for 20 seconds after going on to the next move. Repeat for 2 rounds total—giving you an 8-minute workout.
Demoing the moves below are Heather Boddy (GIF 1), a group fitness instructor and creator of the Geeknasium workout program; Lanoa Curry (GIF 2), a group fitness instructor in NYC who teaches classes at Mile High Run Club and Crunch Gym; Shauna Harrison (GIF 3), a Bay-area based trainer, yogi, public health academic, advocate, and columnist for SELF; and Amanda Wheeler (GIF 4), host of the Cover Ground podcast.