Short & Intense Abs and Core Circuit Workout

Short & Intense Abs and Core Circuit Workout

The first rule of fitness is: some is better than none. In our hectic everyday life, there are days when you just don’t have the time to complete a 90-minute gym session. But this doesn’t mean that 25 minutes is a waste of time. When done correctly, you can work your abs and major muscle groups of the posterior kinetic chain, improve biometric abilities such as power and endurance, and burn a surprising load of calories. And this is what you can do with this short, 25-minute, but intense time-saving circuit workout.

Circuit-style workout routines are usually used for metabolic training, and while this circuit is no different, it has greater goals than just leaving you in a puddle of your own sweat. In addition to burning hundreds of calories and forcing your heart rate to go through the roof, it also targets some relatively sophisticated fitness objectives.

physique competition
PKC muscles are main showcase bodyparts for Physique competitors, as well as the most important muscle groups for athletic performance and functional strength.

Posterior kinetic chain

The dumbbell movements in this workout circuit heavily engage the posterior kinetic chain (PKC). There’s a reason for that. The PKC is made up of the muscles that line the backside of your body: the hamstrings, the glutes, the gastroc-soleus complex, rhomboids, traps, lats, lumber erectors, and the deep cervical extensors. The muscles of the PKC allow your body to extend as well as generate power and deceleration in rotational movements. Besides being some of the main showcase bodyparts for Physique and Bikini competitors, these are also the most important muscle groups for athletic performance and functional strength. The posterior kinetic chain has many fast-twitch fibers and for this reason, you’ll see more hypertrophy, which will accelerate the metabolic rate.

Power-endurance complex

The use of different repetition paces is one of the devilish details of this circuit. Intermittently training fast rep schemes with slower ones builds work capacity while also engaging those type-II muscle fibers in the PKC. These fast-twitch muscles have a greater capacity for growth than type-I fibers and thus lead to greater hypertrophic gains more rapidly. Combining the two paces into one circuit not only develops two separate energy systems and abilities, but also has a stimulating effect on the metabolism.

This circuit could be classified as a power-endurance workout. The slow tempos target strength and stabilization, and the sprints and fast-paced movements are, by definition, power movements. This tempering of energy systems increases the amount of calories burnt.

Core strength

All four exercises in the circuit force the core muscles to provide rigidity and stability. The load is relatively light, but the slow paces require significant time under tension. This is sometimes called ‘a gradient core approach.’ Instead of actively engaging all of the core muscles at one time, the way you would with a heavy squat or a deadlift, the circuit gradually but surely engages dormant muscle fibers, one after the other. Slow paces kick on more of the core and the transverse abdominal muscles because it forces the body to respond to the duress. Because the intensity and loads in this circuit are not very high, and as a result of the significant time under tension, the exercises will engage the muscles of the core in a sequential manner: the transverse abdominis, then the internal obliques, the external obliques, the rectus abdominis and so on. By the time you hit those sprints, they will begin turning on the deep muscles in the abdominal wall.



Instructions: Perform the following exercises in circuit way using the same set of dumbbells for all exercises. After complete one exercise move immediately to the next without resting. When you complete the whole circuit, rest for one to two minutes. Do three to four total circuits, depending on your conditioning. Make sure you follow this specific order of exercises, which are listed in order of neurological load. The dumbbell overhead walking lunge requires serious control, so you want to do it while your nervous system is still fresh. Last but not least, pay close attention to the pace of each exercise.

In the chart below, the numbers indicate the amount of seconds it should take to complete the eccentric and concentric part of each rep. The renegade row and dumbbell overhead walking lunge should feel very slow, while the thruster and treadmill sprints are power moves that are meant to be performed quickly and explosively.

1. Dumbbell Overhead Walking Lunge 3 15 3/3
2. Dumbbell Thruster 3 20-30 1/1
3. Renegade Row 3 30 3/3
4. Treadmill Sprint 3 4/30 sec 80%/20% max



Stand with your feet hip-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand. Press both dumbbells overhead so your elbows are fully locked out. Ensure you are not excessively arching your lumber spine to keep the weights in position. Take a deep breath, contract your core and glutes, and then take a large step forward. Bend both knees to 90 degrees and lower into a lunge. Hold the weights directly above your head, your abs braced and your chest high. Push off your front foot and step into the next lunge with your back foot.

Additional challenge: For more glute activation, perform a hip extension at the end of each lunge. When you come back up and reach the top of the movement, raise the rear leg from the hip so it travels behind you. Squeeze the glutes and then step right into the next lunge.



Grab a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet a bit wider than shoulder-width apart. Bring each dumbbell to shoulder height, with your elbows pointing down, and the weight resting on your front delts. Move your hips back and lower into a full squat, keeping your chest up and eyes forward. From the bottom, push your knees out and drive up through your heels. As you near the top, thrust your hips forward and press the dumbbells overhead. The explosive motion of the hips should propel the weight most of the way. After you fully extend your elbows, return the dumbbells to your shoulders before continuing with the next squat.

Renegade Row


Get into a push-up position with your hands gripping dumbbells on the floor. Hex dumbbells are best for this exercise. Tighten the glutes and pull your belly button in as you contract your core and control the pelvis. Perform a single push-up, and as you come to the top, row the dumbbell in your right hand to your side. Fight to keep your chest squared to the ground and your hips in a neutral position—make sure your hips don’t rotate or cave in. Return the weight to the floor, do another push-up and then row the other dumbbell up to your side. The smaller the base of support, the more difficult the movement.

Beginners should put their feet outside the width of their shoulders. Intermediate lifters can go shoulder width or narrower, and an advanced option is to have the feet together or even one foot on the other. Perform the full 30 reps (15 each side) before moving to the next exercise.

treadmill sprint


Set the treadmill to zero grade and to a speed that is 80% of the maximum effort you could keep up for 30 seconds. Once the treadmill has come up to speed, get on by supporting yourself with the handrails and slowly lowering yourself until you can match the pace of the belt. After sprinting for 30 seconds, jog for a recovery interval of 30 seconds at an easy pace, which is around 20% of your max effort. Repeat the process for a total of four 30-second efforts (two fast, two slow). The treadmill is a perfect piece of equipment for this circuit because you can set up next to it and leave it on while you blast through the dumbbell exercises. It allows you to maintain your tempo and intensity.

If an injury prevents you from running, or you don’t have access to a treadmill, you can also use an exercise bike, battling ropes, rower, or outdoor running.

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Written by Thomas Young

Thomas Young just loves bodybuilding and this is why he has found his dream job in a gym working as a personal trainer. On the weekends, he likes to go hiking and mountaineering.


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