In this article we review a complete 7 minute abs workout which doesn’t need any equipment.
Work this beast as regularly as possible and you’ll be on your way to a solid core, which is absolutely indispensable if you’re trying to push your climbing.
Why Having a Solid Core is Important
For climbers, a strong core acts as a stabilizer, allowing you to maintain balance on precarious holds and positions.
During climbing, the core muscles are engaged in various ways. As you reach for higher holds or move your body across the wall, the core muscles contract to stabilize the trunk, preventing unnecessary movement and maintaining body control.
A solid core enhances body awareness, enabling you to better understand your positionin, foot placements and make precise adjustments when needed.
Moreover, a strong core improves climbing efficiency and can reduce the risk of injury.
By developing core strength, you can transfer power effectively from the lower body to the upper body, optimizing movement and conserving energy. This efficiency becomes particularly critical during dynamic moves or when tackling overhanging routes.
Anatomy of the Abdominals
The abs are broken down in four different different muscles:
- Rectus Abdominis: The six-pack abs
- Transversus Abdominis: The deep, backend abs
- External Obliques: Visible side-abs
- Internal Obliques: Not-visible side abs
This is what people think of when we think “abs”.
They’re the golden nuggets between your chest and groin, the ones some people want popping out and work so hard to get beach body ready!
They’re placed vertically between the ribs and pubic bone and have the big job of helping move the body between the ribcage and pelvis through flexing forward.
And there’s two of them in parallel: one slightly on the left, the other slightly on the right, working together to do all the things ab-like.
These are the deepest abdominals and are situated at the bottom of the pack.
They’re also a flat muscle, as opposed to the 6 pack abs above which are vertical, and wrap around your waist and provide support to our spine.
Their purpose is also to stabilize the trunk and help maintain internal abdominal pressure.
These are the hardest ones to work and take a lot of discipline to get rock solid. Think minutes of stabilization holds (hollow-body’s, plank, etc) vs crunches or leg lifts.
As the name implies these ones work with the external obliques.
They flank the rectus abs and are located just inside of the hipbones, running diagonally up you sides.
They operate in the opposite way to the external oblique muscles. Twisting the trunk to the left requires the left side internal oblique and the right side external oblique to contract together.
7 Minute Abs Workout
1) Heel Taps
These target the external and internal obliques primarily but also engage the rest of the abdominals as you have to raise your shoulders and keep them lifted whilst you perform the sideways reps.
Start lying on you back with your knees bent and you arms parallel to your torso pointing towards your toes.
Raise your shoulders and slightly crunch upwards until your shoulders are off the floor, pushing your lower backing on to the floor. At the same time pulling your bellybutton down and inwards.
Maintain this position throughout the reps.
Don’t push or tuck your chin into your chest as this will strain your spine. Your head should be lifted off the floor, tilted forwards.
Now reach sideways to your right ankle contracting your obliques. Make sure to be reaching down your side and engage the obliques correctly as opposed to reaching over your trunk.
Then move back to center and repeat the same movement on the other side, touching your left ankle.
That’s one rep. Perform another 19.
These work primarily the 6 pack or rectus abdominis muscles.
Like many of the exercises in this position, your knees and hips are static during the crunch, so don’t activate the lower abs.
Start with the same position as with heel taps, on your back with your knees bent.
To get the most out of this one, correct form is key.
Once your knees are bent and feet flat, you can either cross your arms on your upper chest, or to make them a bit harder place your hands behind your ears and point your elbows to the side.
Engaging your belly button, pull it in towards your spine. Whilst exhaling lift your shoulder-blades and upper back off the floor in a controlled manner and pull your ribs towards your pelvis.
Pause for a second for emphasis and exhale on the way back down. That’s one rep. Repeat for another 19.
After two exercises have a well deserved 30 second rest.
3) Windscreen/Windshield Wipers
Another obliques exercises which also helps with hip mobility.
This one is slightly advanced and requires good stability and core strength to be properly executed. If it’s too challenging we detail a less intense version, which will get you working just as hard.
Start completely flat on you back with your legs completely vertical. Place your arms out stretched, as if you were nailed to a cross.
Squeezing your knees and ankle together lower both legs together towards the left, keeping them in contact.
Both your arms and shoulders should stay in contact with the floor. As you’re lowering your legs towards the left, your right should will try and lift up. Keep both should glued down for good form.
When your legs touch the floor they should be at a 90 degree angle to the body. Then raise them back to their starting position. Pause at vertical and perform the same to the right.
Once back to center that’s one rep.
If these versions are too challenging, start by only lowering the right leg towards the left keeping your left leg on the floor. Then once you bring it back to its starting position, lower it back flat, raise the left leg vertical, then lower it towards the right.
4) Leg lifts.
A gymnast favourite.
These work all the abs including the lower end and hip flexors. If there’s one abs exercise you need it leg raises given their specificity to climbing.
Here we discuss lying left lifts which are great for beginners. Perform them hanging for added difficulty.
Lie flat on your back, legs flat on the floor. Keeping your ankles and knees tight together, legs straight, raise your legs until fully vertical. Slowly lower them both back to the floor.
On the contraction pull your belly-button inwards and contract the hip flexors.
That’s 1 rep. Repeat as required.
Take anther 30s well deserved break. That’s half done!
5) Russian twists
In this version can hold a weight or kettlebell in your hands for added difficulty.
Sit with your knees bent and torso at 90 degrees to your legs. There should be a V between legs and torso.
Keeping you central core engaged and your back in a nice straight line twist your trunk towards the left. As you twist slightly raise your feet so they’re off the ground and you’re balancing on your buttocks! Keep your feet raised during the twists.
Pause when you’re facing 9 o’clock.
If you’re using a weight this should be held out in front of your chest, arms bent. If not you can cross your hands over your chest.
From the left slowly rotate all the way back round to the right so you’re now facing 3 o’clock, feet still raised. Pause and rotate back to center.
6) Toe touches
This time it’s specifically the rectus abdominis muscle group again, with the added benefit of a good hamstring stretch.
Lie flat on your back with legs vertical, like for windscreen wipers. Have your arms out straight in a V behind your head. In a controlled manner and while exhaling, slowly roll and lift your shoulders up off the mat, reaching up towards your toes.
Round your shoulders forward (but keep them down) to create a concave shape with your torso. Your lower back should stay on the ground, but don’t press it into the floor — that’ll flatten the natural curve of your lower back and take you out of the correct position.
That’s one rep.
7) Hollow-body holds
A centrepiece of stabilization routines.
As opposed to the previous exercise these are stabilisers and there is no movement; just a static and burning hold.
Because of the force required to press the lower back into the floor, this focuses on maximum tension through the abdominal muscles, making it excellent for all athletes at any level.
If you are a beginner, modify this move by keeping your arm and legs slightly bent to reduce the leverage and difficulty.
If you think you have a solid core and you’ve never trained these, you’ll be whimpering like a baby for it’s mother before you know it.
How to Perform Them
Start by lying flat on your back and slide a hand into the void between your low back and the ground. The aim is to fill this void during your hollow position, with your lower back pressed firmly into the floor.
Bring your knees over your chest; the void disappears as your hips tilt upwards. This position is known as posterior pelvic tilt.
The aim is to keep your hips in this position and lower back glued to the floor during the hold.
If you can achieve a perfect, straight-line hollow but break down after less than one minute, you need to train easier variations. Shorter bouts of a fully extended hollow offer a great opportunity to reinforce the ultimate position, but apply the same strategy to training hollow as you do to barbell training.
Occasional loading at the peak of your strength provides a necessary stimulus and vital information, but the real gains of the program come from the repeated, high-volume, sub-maximal loading of each training session.
Let a 1-minute perfect hollow hold be your goal for proficiency. After a warm up of easier variations, train 5 sets of 1-minute holds. Select a variation for which you can maintain a perfect torso position for the full minute but requires the peak of your strength to do so.
Once you’ve master the easier variations can progress to the following:
8) Dead bug
A core stabilization exercise including leg and arm movements.
Whilst many of us are more interested in the 6 pack a.k.a “show me” muscles, it’s extremely important to train the deeper core muscles which stabilisation exercises do.
It takes a bit of coordination at first, but you’ll definitely feel the benefit of performing these given their specificity to climbing.
Arguably one of the most famous stabilization exercises, you’ll see these being performed regularly in any type of fitness gym/center or training program.
They really are great and are a must for any at home ab workout routine!
For a starting position place your forearms on the floor with your elbows bent at 90 degrees and your shoulders just above them.
Then extend your legs completely out stretched behind so as to hold yourself on your toes: your body should be resting between your forearms and toes and your back in a flat horizontal line.
Think press-ups but holding yourself on your forearms instead of your hands.
It’s extremely important here to keep your glutes engaged and a nice flat line between your shoulders and pelvis. Don’t let your pelvis drop or arch upwards too much.
Your chest should also be pulled inwards. Think shoulder blades retraced around your sides, as opposed to contracted together.
Your elbows should also be resting on the floor directly below your shoulders.
Hold this for one minute. For added difficulty they can be performed on one leg or with your feet in TRX straps.
Performing 20 reps of each exercises, with a 30 seconds rest between every two sets will provide a complete abs routine that’ll get results in just 7 minutes. With the final 2 stabilization exercises, as these are static holds perform them for 1 min each instead.
To progress the difficulty, you can firstly increase reps and hold duration, followed by using more difficult progressions of each exercise.
What does your abs training ritual look like? What techniques, exercises or small details have you found that make a difference?
✅ Lynders C. The critical role of development of the transversus abdominis in the prevention and treatment of low back pain. HSS J. 2019;15(3):214-220. doi:10.1007/s11420-019-09717-8
✅ Mullane M, Turner A, Bishop C. Exercise technique: the dead bug. Strength & Conditioning Journal. 2019;41(5):114-120. doi:10.1519/SSC.0000000000000455