The Intense Abs Workout You'll Barely Make It Through

intense ab workout: fitness trainer rebecca kennedy demonstrates how to do a drum v abs exercise
Photo: Peter Ardito

If you want to shake up your core exercise routine, here's your chance: This is the ultimate intense abs workout designed specifically to target each of your core muscles. And it will definitely take your core strength to the next level, since it was concocted by Shaun T, the creator of the Insanity workout program.

FTR, there are no elementary moves here — this intense abs workout (demonstrated here by trainer Rebecca Kennedy) is the real deal.

How it works: Start with 10 reps of each exercise, and see if you can level up to 15 or 20.

01 of 07

The Muscle: Erector Spinae

intense ab workout: fitness trainer rebecca kennedy demonstrates how to do a diamond back abs exercise
Peter Ardito

The erector spinae consists of paired bundles of muscles and tendons that hook into the spine. It runs along the sides of the spinal column and hooks into the back of your pelvis to protect and strengthen your entire back.

The Intense Abs Workout Move: Diamond Back

"People forget that to have amazing abs, you need to have a strong back," says Shaun T. "This move is deceiving: It doesn't look nearly as challenging as it is," he adds.

A. Lie facedown on the floor and squeeze glutes so that legs lift slightly off of the floor. Raise chest and extend arms out in front of body, off of the floor, to start.

B. Keeping chest lifted, draw one elbow toward back.

C. Extend that arm back to its starting position, then repeat on the other side. That's one rep.

02 of 07

The Muscle: Rectus Abdominis

intense ab workout: fitness trainer rebecca kennedy demonstrates how to do a scissor clap abs exercise

When most people say "abs," they're talking about the rectus abdominis. It's a long, paired muscle that, thanks to connective tissue, gives abs their six-pack look. Plus, it works to help your torso bend forward, which is pretty important if you want to get out of bed or bend down to pick up anything. (

The Intense Abs Workout Move: Scissor Clap

"This intense ab workout move provides a great burn, but it's fun to do at the same time. Every time I hear that clap, I know I am staying in it!" says Shaun T.

A. Lie faceup on the floor, shoulder blades raised off the floor and legs extended.

B. Keeping both legs straight, lift right leg so that legs form an "L" shape, lifting torso to clap hands behind right leg.

C. Lean torso back slightly and lower right leg, then immediately lift left leg and sit up to repeat on the other side. That's one rep.

03 of 07

The Muscle: External Obliques

intense ab workout: fitness trainer rebecca kennedy demonstrates how to do a low plank oblique knee lift abs exercise
Peter Ardito

Among the largest and outermost muscles in your core, the external obliques run on each of your sides. They help your body bend from side to side and your spine rotate. (

The Intense Abs Workout Move: Low Plank Oblique Knee Lift

If you thought side planks were hard, get ready.

A. Start in a side plank position, balancing on one forearm with shoulder directly above elbow. Hold other hand at chest height.

B. Raise top knee toward chest until it taps hand, then lower it back down, maintaining side plank throughout. Do all reps on one side, then switch sides; repeat.

04 of 07

The Muscle: Internal Obliques

intense ab workout: fitness trainer rebecca kennedy demonstrates how to do an abs sprint abs exercise
Peter Ardito

The internal obliques run underneath and perpendicular to the external obliques, and work with the external obliques to help you bend and rotate. They also work with the diaphragm to help you exhale during exercise — which is key to helping you work out harder, longer.

The Intense Abs Workout Move: Abs Sprint

Not into actual running? Try this instead. (Then read up on these basics on running for beginners.)

A. Lie faceup on the floor with legs extended. Lift legs just off the floor, sit torso up to a 45-degree angle, and pull one knee in toward chest to start. Allow opposite elbow to swing forward as if running.

B. Switch legs and arms without dropping feet to the floor. That's one rep.

05 of 07

The Muscle: Transverse Abdominis

intense ab workout: fitness trainer rebecca kennedy demonstrates how to do a drum v abs exercise
Peter Ardito

Your innermost abdominal muscle, the transverse abdominis, runs along the front and side of your abdomen and pulls it in like a corset. It's also the powerhouse of your entire core, fueling athletic performance — whether you're running, swimming, lifting, or cycling. (See: Why It's Important to Have Core Strength)

The Intense Abs Workout Move: Drum V

"There's something about pounding your fists against your stomach that's so primal and makes you dig deeper in every sense of the word," says Shaun T.

A. Sit on the floor, legs extended. Lean back slightly to balance on glutes and lift legs up until the entire body forms a "V" shape.

B. Take fists and bang them (not too hard!) against abs while maintaining the "V" shape. Repeat for 30 seconds.

06 of 07

The Muscle: Hip Flexors

intense ab workout: fitness trainer rebecca kennedy demonstrates how to do a pike up abs exercise
Peter Ardito

The hip flexors are a group of muscles in the pelvis and upper thighs, and they're those "lower abs" that everyone has trouble hitting. More important than looks, though, they're critical to core strength and athletic performance. And since they're responsible for driving your knees up to your chest and keeping your pelvis aligned with your thighs, any weaknesses can put you at risk for running injury.

The Intense Abs Workout Move: Pike Up

"I love this move because it's like doing work on the ball, just without the ball," says Shaun T. "It's so good for the lower abs, which I know can be a tough spot," he adds.

A. Start in high plank position. Then, keeping legs together and straight, hop feet in toward chest, piking butt toward the ceiling to form an inverted "V" shape.

B. Pause at the top, then hop feet back out to the plank position.

07 of 07

The Muscle: Multifidus

intense ab workout: fitness trainer rebecca kennedy demonstrates how to do an alternating plank balance abs exercise
Peter Ardito

A thin, long, muscle that runs from the base of your spine up to the middle of your back, the multifidus provides stability and support to the spinal column. It helps each vertebra work its best and stay injury-free.

The Intense Abs Workout Move: Alternating Plank Balance

"This move is so hard and never stops challenging me. My goal is to limit how much I wobble, and then I know I am really working that core," says Shaun T.

A. Start in high plank position. Then, extend left arm in front of body and right leg behind body at the same time.

B. Pause, keeping hips square to the ground.

C. Slowly lower hand and foot toward the floor. Repeat on the other side. That's one rep.

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