Young man tired after training showing his abdominal muscles

Ab work shouldn’t just be an afterthought to your fitness routine — your core should be central to your full body plan.

A strong midsection is the key to a strong body, and the flashy set of abs you can develop through that hard work isn’t too shabby, either. Austin Lopez, C.S.C.S., a trainer at Diakadi in San Francisco has a go-to regimen that can whip you into shape using just one piece of equipment you’re just about guaranteed to have on hand: a towel.

Warm Up

Do 2 rounds of this plank circuit to get moving. Rest as little as possible between moves.

1. Forearm plank with reach


Start in a forearm plank. While keeping your hips square to the ground, lift your left arm and reach forward, palm turned in. Return to start position and repeat on the other side. That’s 1 rep; do 16.

2. Side plank with leg lift


Lie on your left side. Resting on your left forearm, keep your left shoulder in line with your elbow, legs straight. Exhale as you lift your hips off the floor. This is the start. While engaging your glutes, raise your right leg. Hold, then return to the start. That’s 1 rep. Do 10, then repeat on your right side.

Towel Time

Use a dish or bath towel for this 2-move core circuit. Work through 3 rounds, resting 30 seconds after each round.

1. Plank hold to tuckup


Start in pushup position, with hands directly under shoulders, both feet on the towel. Tighten your core. Doing your best to keep your back flat, slide your feet toward your torso until your knees nearly touch your chest. Pause for a moment, then return to the start. Hold for 2 seconds. That’s 1 rep; do 20.

2. Towel-hold leg raise


Lie face up and actively push your lower back into the ground, holding the towel with arms extended directly over your chest. Pull it tight for the entire set. Tighten your core and lift your legs off the ground, keeping them straight and together. Raise them so they form an “L” with your torso, then lower them. That’s 1 rep; do 15.


Finish up the workout with this Benchmark circuit, featuring these two moves. Time yourself for an extra challenge, and see where you rank on the scorecard below.

Flutter kick


Lie face up, actively pushing your lower back into the ground, arms extended over your chest, pulling the towel. Engage your core, lifting both legs slightly, and flutter them back and forth. One full left-right flutter is 1 rep.

Lateral hop


Place the towel on the ground, stretching it out as far as possible. Stand to the right of the towel, then hop over to the left, jumping with both feet. Land softly with your knees slightly bent and immediately hop back over to where you started. That’s 1 rep.

Do 8 rounds of this circuit, resting only when necessary.

Your score is the amount of time it takes to complete all 8 rounds.


How fast can you demolish this workout?

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