A Brutal 20-Minute Abs Workout

Your abs are no different to any of your other major muscle groups in that they need to be exposed to high volumes of workload to grow bigger, stronger and more defined. And for a genuinely impressive six-pack, you also need to place your abs under as much muscular tension as possible, because exposing your muscles fibres to time under tension breaks them down, which initiates the process whereby they grow back bigger and stronger.

This six-move abs-focused workout – split into two three-move tri-sets – will work your abs hard to move and manage your bodyweight while also placing them under significant tension, through increasingly higher rep ranges, to do as much muscular damage in the shortest possible time.

Do the three moves of the first tri-set in order, sticking to the sets, reps, tempo and rest detailed. Then move on to the second tri-set and do the same. That’s it. Do this workout twice a week for a month on top of your normal training plan and you’ll shock your abs into shape.

How to get the most out of this workout

Maintain tension for every rep: For a truly effective workout, you must apply then keep tension on your abs from the start of move 1A right through to the end of the set of 2C. Forcing your muscles to stay engaged will hurt, but that’s what forces change.

Stick to the right reps: In each tri-set the moves get slightly easier but the number of reps increases. Working your abs through different rep ranges in a workout hits more muscles fibres as others are recruited to help out those that are fatigued.

Don’t rest until the end: Try not to rest between moves A and B and moves B and C in either tri-set – you should rest only after all the reps in the tri-set are done. The more time between moves, the longer the time your abs are not engaged or working.

Power through the pain barrier

When the going gets tough, remember these three tips:

  1. Embrace the pain: During this workout your abs will start to cramp – if they don’t, you’re not sticking to the tempo – but this short-term pain is the price you have to pay for long-term progress. Embrace it.
  2. Catch your breath: When you do cramp and feel like you can’t do one more rep, stop for two deep breaths, still keeping your abs tensed. This short pause will allow you to finish the set.
  3. Focus on form: Once your abs start to fatigue it’s tempting to rush through the remaining reps to get to your rest break. Don’t. Keep reps controlled so your abs don’t switch off.

20-Minute Abs Workout

1A Crunch

Abs Workout

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Sets 4 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 0sec

Lie on your back with knees bent. Raise your torso and engage your abs. Crunch your torso up, hold at the top for a second, then take two seconds to lower back to the start. Don’t pause at the bottom.

RECOMMENDED: Crunch Exercises For Building A Six-Pack

1B Bicycles


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Sets 4 Reps 20 each side Tempo 1111 Rest 0sec

After the last rep of 1A lift your feet up off the floor. Crunch your torso up and rotate at the top while bringing one knee in to meet your opposite elbow. Keep reps smooth and your abs tight.

1C Plank with toe touch

Plank with toe touch

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Sets 4 Reps 25 each side Tempo 2111 Rest 90sec

Form a plank with your feet on a box and abs engaged. Lift one foot out to the side and lower so your toes touch the ground. Return it to the box and repeat with the other foot.

2A Hanging leg raise

Hanging leg raise

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Sets 4 Reps 8-12 Tempo 2011 Rest 0sec

Hang from a pull-up bar with your abs engaged. Keeping your feet together and legs straight, raise your feet to hip height and hold for a second. Take two seconds to lower back to the start. This is a tough move but try to get to eight reps as a minimum.

2B Hanging knee raise

Hanging knee raise

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Sets 4 Reps 20 Tempo 1111 Rest 0sec

Stay hanging from the pull-up bar with your abs engaged. Raise your knees as high as you can, keeping tension on your core, then lower and straighten your legs.

2C Hanging knee twist

Hanging knee twist

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Sets 4 Reps 25 each side Tempo 1111 Rest 90sec

Still hanging from the bar with your abs engaged, raise your knees and rotate them to one side. Lower them back to the start, then repeat, alternating sides with each rep.

Joe Warner
Former editor of Men’s Fitness UK

Joe Warner is a highly experienced journalist and editor who began working in fitness media in 2008. He has featured on the cover of Men’s Fitness UK twice and has co-authored Amazon best-sellers including 12-Week Body Plan. He was the editor of Men’s Fitness UK magazine between 2016 and 2019, when that title shared a website with Coach.