Rock Solid: The Best Core Workout for Men

Best Core Workout for MenFinally Get the Strong and Tight Core You Want With the Rock Solid Core Workout for Men

Hey guys, are you tired of feeling like you’ve got the muscle tone of a jelly donut down there? Or maybe you’re tired of endless situps and STILL having a gut. Maybe you’ve hit a wall with your training, maybe your back is bugging you…there are many reasons a man would want to get busy working the core muscles. This article is aimed at guys who are exercising but have neglected the core for far too long, or guys who are just breaking into exercise for the first time or the first time in a long while.

The Rationale for Core Training

Apart from the obvious aesthetic benefits of a tight core, core training is one of the best ways to improve your functional fitness, improve symptoms of many types of back, hip, and knee pain, and prevent injuries from occurring in the first place.

Alongside flexibility, core training is one of the most neglected aspects of fitness among guys. Maybe you’re unclear on what the term “core” really means since it’s thrown around so much these days. The “core” refers to all the muscles that work together to stabilize your spine, pelvis, and hip complex. It’s not just the 6-pack muscle, more properly known as rectus abdominis; it includes your two layers of obliques, the transverse abdominis that underlies all of the abs, the multifidus which is a series of many small muscles all along the spine, the spinal erectors running along the length of the spine, the glutes, and more!

Core Exercises and Fat Loss

Core Exercises and Fat Loss - muscle anatomySo as you can probably deduce, working the entire core effectively entails much more than just a series of situps focused on the rectus abdominis. Another important point right out of the gate: no amount of core exercises in isolation will directly burn fat off the abdomen. I point that out because I know a lot of guys get into core exercises in the hopes of shrinking their gut. Fat loss just doesn’t work like that, guys. No specific exercises exist that actually burn body fat off any one specific body part.

That being said, core exercises go a long way toward defining and tightening the abs as long as you’re also focusing on fat loss if you have extra fat you’d like to lose. Core training also improves posture quickly which can lend a much trimmer appearance to the midsection.

We’ll talk more about how the best core workout for men ties into a fat loss program and go over the basic principles underlying fat loss as well as nutritional tips for supporting your training and cardio guidelines for muscle maintenance, muscle gain, and fat loss. But first, let’s dig into the details of the workout itself, including tips and tricks for getting the most out of each exercise, a detailed description of the execution of each movement, and how to fit core training into the rest of your fitness scheme.

Tips and Guidelines for the Best Core Workout for Men

  • To get the most out of the workout, read the detailed description of each exercise to make sure you are performing each movement effectively and safely
  • Work your core at least three times a week
  • Unlike other muscle groups, the core can be worked nearly every day; in theory, you could do this workout up to 5-6 days per week, soreness permitting
  • Do this workout as a giant circuit, performing each move one right after the other with minimal rest, then repeating from the top at least once more
  • Start with the basic version and make sure you feel solid before trying the advanced variations. Getting hurt is never worth the show off factor
  • Remember that there is more to fitness than just core workouts; make sure you are also focused on training the full body including upper body, lower body, and full body exercises (don’t worry, we have plenty of other articles aimed at those areas)

Overview of the Best Core Workout for Men: Exercises, Reps, and Sets

  • Plank: 60 second static hold

ADVANCED VARIATION: Stability Ball Prone Ab Pull In/Plank Hold

  • Hip Bridge: 15-20 reps, 30 second static hold

ADVANCED VARIATION: Stability Ball Hamstring Pull In/Hold

  • Abdominal March: 20 reps each side

ADVANCED VARIATION: Straight Leg Ab March with Lifted Upper Body

  • Bird Dog: 15-20 reps each side


  • Russian Twist: 15-20 reps each direction

ADVANCED VARIATION: Russian Twist with Weight

  • Side Plank: 20 seconds each side, three times

ADVANCED VARIATION: Side Plank with Rotation

  • *Rest 1-2 Minutes, then Repeat the Circuit at Least Once*                         

Details On The Execution of Each Exercise

1.) Plank

Plank has become a word to cause shudders in fitness circles…they’re not highly enjoyable, but they are highly effective. The point of a plank is to use your core to maintain your body in a straight position under stress. If your butt is poking up into the air, you’re doing it wrong. If your belly and spine are sagging toward the floor, you’re doing it wrong. If your shoulder girdle is collapsing and your chest and neck are sagging downward…well, you get the idea. When you’re planking correctly, you should be able to draw a straight “racing stripe” from your ear all the way down to your ankle.

Flatten your forearms against the floor and draw your abs up and in, pulling your ab muscles toward your spine. Squeeze your glutes together and hug your shoulder muscles close to the bone. The whole body should be active; don’t let anything be loose.

Work up to planking with perfect alignment for 60 seconds without stopping. If that means three 20-second holds, that’s fine. Maybe it’s four 15-second holds, maybe it’s two 30 second holds. Whatever your current level, start there and be consistent and your times will improve as your core gets stronger. Once a straight 60 second plank is no longer a challenge, it’s time to move on to the advanced variation.

ADVANCED VARIATION: Stability Ball Prone Ab Pull In/Plank Hold

Using a stability ball takes your plank from basic to insane. Put your toes on a stability ball and plank with straight arms, either palms flat or knuckles down if that feels better on the wrists. Once you’re able to hold that stable, take it up even another notch by performing pull ins: using your abdominals and not just hips, pull your knees toward your chest, sliding the ball forward along with your feet. Keeping control of the situation, push your feet back out straight to assume a plank. Do 10-15 ab-driven pull ins, then finish with a plank hold to fatigue.

2.) Floor Bridge

A bridge is the opposite of a plank, placing emphasis on all your posterior core musculature while a plank works all the anterior muscles. Therefore, the bridge is the perfect complement to your planks. To bridge, get supine (on your back) and put your feet flat on the floor hip width apart, knees bent. Keep feet, knees and hips all aligned and your shoulders grounded to the floor as you press your hips up toward the ceiling until the bend in your hips is completely straight. Pull your core inward and squeeze your butt muscles together at the top position. Return to the floor and repeat for 15-20 reps, then finish with a 30 second static hold in the top position. Never let your knees fall out to the sides or cave inward.

ADVANCED VARIATION: Stability Ball Hamstring Pull In/Hold

Once the regular floor bridge gets too easy, take it to the next level by doing the stability ball hamstring pull in/hold. Just like the bridge, you’ll be on your back, but this time place a stability ball under your feet. Keeping your toes straight up the entire time, press into your heels, pushing your hips upward until you achieve a straight line running diagonally from ankles down to shoulders. If that feels doable, pull your heels in toward your butt, utilizing your hamstrings, keeping your hips as high as you can. Under control, push the ball back to the start position. Never forget to pull your abdominals in toward the spine as you’re working to help stabilize your back. Push through 15-20 repetitions and finish by holding steady in the straight position until you reach fatigue and can no longer maintain the form.

3.) Abdominal March

This one seems simple, yet will build up on you FAST and make you feel the BURN. Don’t try to show off with this exercise. Recognize that it is a bit subtle and not super fancy but it can do a lot for your core stability. Take it slow. To begin, get supine (or remain supine if you just finished up your bridge). Lift your legs with bent knees so your heels are up off the ground. Smoosh your lower back flat to the floor like you are trying to imprint the shape of your lumbar vertebrae. Keeping your back just that flat, extend one leg at a time to tap your heel to the floor then return to the leg-lifted position. Keep your ab muscles hugged in toward the spine. If your back starts to arch and you can’t keep it flat while tapping your heels to the floor, bend your knees a little more so your heel taps closer in to your butt. Complete 20 reps for each leg (so 40 total if you count one leg at a time).

ADVANCED VARIATION: Ab March with Straight Legs and Upper Body Lift

If you can complete 20 reps of abdominal march on each side (with back flat and core tight) and you still aren’t quite feeling the burn, try an advanced variation of the same highly beneficial move. Instead of keeping your knees bent for the duration, extend your legs fully straight as you bring each heel down to tap the floor. Longer legs equal harder work. Still not enough? Keep your chin tucked in toward the front of your neck and lift your head, shoulders, and even your upper back off the ground. Never lose track of that deep ab engagement; keep your navel pulled in toward your spine at all times.

4.) Bird Dog

This is a challenging and unique exercise that places demand on both the front and back aspects of your core. It gets its name from the fact that you’ll be on all fours pointing ahead like a hunting dog pointing out the prey. You’ll receive the benefits of a crunch and a back extension with one exercise. It’s also challenging for your balance. As you improve, you’ll build greater control. Kneel on all fours in a table top position. Hands go right under your shoulders and knees go right under your hip joints. Lift the opposite hand and opposite knee off the ground and bring the elbow and knee together, looking down and in and crunching your abdominals. Then, extend the arm and the leg completely straight, reaching forward with your fingers and back with your heel. Keep your back flat and don’t let your spine sag toward the floor, as is the tendency in the fully extended position. Repeat the crunch/extend cycle for 15 repetitions, then switch sides.


If the standard bird dog on its own is too easy for 15 reps, try adding a donkey kick either between each rep or at the end of the set without resting. To do a donkey kick, you’ll be in the same position as the fully extended phase of bird dog (hand can be down or remain up for more challenge), then you’ll bend your knee slightly and kick your heel up like you’re trying to stick gum on the ceiling. Complete a set of 15 donkey kicks in addition to bird dog. If you still have some juice left at the end, assume the fully extended position and hold for 10-15 seconds with perfect form.

5.) Russian Twist

Any good core program will involve an element of twisting. Movements in the transverse plane (i.e., twisting) are when most injuries occur. So it’s well worth your time to train twisting movements to improve your functional fitness and avoid injury. Russian Twist is also great for toning and strengthening the oblique abs, if we’re thinking aesthetics. This exercise is performed seated, with knees and hips bent to 90 degrees out in front of you. Lean back as far as you can control while keeping your chest up, open, and your spine straight. Hold your hands in front of you as if you’re holding an imaginary object and engage your shoulder muscles toward the bones. Slowly twist from side to side, leading with your ribcage and maintaining a neutral gaze with neck following along with the rest of your spine as you twist. Complete 15-20 reps in each direction.

ADVANCED VARIATION: Russian Twist with Weight

If you can complete a full set of unweighted Russian Twist with perfect form (chest up and shoulders back, spine erect as you lean back from the hips), try adding weight. If you’re feeling traditional, hold a kettlebell by the handles in front of you. Keep your elbows slightly bent and your shoulder muscles hugging in tight to the bones. Complete a set of 15-20 weighted twists. Start with low weight and move up once you know where you stand. Remember, most injuries occur during twisting movements, so it’s worth taking your time and doing it right.

6.) Side Plank Hold

Although it’s only one word off, side plank is quite different from regular plank. Side plank places additional demand on the shoulder, the hip, and especially the oblique abs. This is a fantastic exercise for building core stability as well as toning the core muscles. To perform a side plank, put your forearm flat on the floor and rise up onto the side of one foot, creating a perfectly straight line with your body. Squeeze your glutes together and your abs inward. Reach your free arm straight up to ceiling, stretching out your fingers. Work on maintaining this static hold for anywhere from 5 seconds to 20 seconds. Again, don’t show off and just meet the exercise right where you are at. Complete three sets on each side.


Once you can maintain the side plank static hold for 20 seconds without losing your form, try a more advanced version by adding rotation. From the basic position, sweep your free arm down and tuck it into the space under your ribcage, twisting as you go. Then, open back up to the basic position. Be sure to keep your shoulder complex strong as you twist under; you’ll notice a tendency for the shoulder to want to collapse. Don’t let it! With practice, this move really helps build shoulder stability. Complete 15 repetitions on each side.

Nutrition Tips for Getting a Tight Core

Nutrition Tips for Getting a Tight CoreAs I touched upon earlier, a lot of guys might be reading up on core exercises in hopes of burning belly fat and losing the good old gut. Core exercises go a long way toward firming up the abdominal muscles, trimming the waistline, and improving your posture, all of which will help improve your abdominal situation. However, core exercises in isolation are not the best choice for burning belly fat, a necessary action when you want to reveal all the hard ab work you’ve been doing. In order to burn fat, you need to focus on full body strength training, smart cardio choices, and NUTRITION.

For the purposes of this article, let’s keep the nutrition discussion super simple and make sure you’re not doing anything to sabotage yourself. Remember that fat loss boils down to a numbers game: calories in versus calories out. Especially once you’re past the age of 25 or so, your metabolism will not burn on straight pizza, beer, and French fries and still keep you slim. You need to be consuming fewer calories than you are burning through exercise and daily metabolism.

Cardio Training Tips for Core Strength and Fat Loss

Cardio Training Tips for Core Strength and Fat LossAlongside nutrition, smart cardio choices are essential for losing belly fat to reveal your tight abs and firm core. For body fat loss, you’ll want to hit at least 120 minutes of moderate-vigorous cardio per week. If you want especially aggressive results, carve out 150 minutes.

For fat loss, I recommend spreading your 120-150 minutes into three or four sessions rather than one marathon session. By doing shorter cardio sessions rather than “marathons”, you will be able to go harder. It will also help keep your motivation on point if you are working hard on your cardio throughout the week instead of just one or two days.

When selecting what type of cardio to do, choose types that burn the most calories and provide the least impact on your joints for sustainability. A great choice is interval training on an elliptical, ARC trainer, or adaptive motion trainer. These machines also provide additional benefits of training your core if you focus on core engagement and great posture as you use both your lower and upper body to run the machine.

If you’re just getting started and find the interval training program too exhausting to do for your 30-40 minute sessions, that’s fine! Just start wherever you are at and maintain an effort that feel vigorous yet doable for your desired minutes.

If you’re more of an outside type of guy, hiking hills is a natural form of interval training and is therefore a great way to lose body fat.

The Best Core Workout for Men: The Bottom Line

Do this core workout and you’ll hit all the right zones from all the right angles to earn a strong and tight core. Remember that consistency is the key and you need to keep at it for a decent amount of time before expecting those abs of steel to appear. Keep your focus on functional strength training exercises, proper nutrition, and cardio choices that support fat loss and you will be well on your way to excellent abs. Did we miss any of your favorite core exercises for men? Have any tips you have found helpful? We like it when our readers talk back so let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Author Profile: Mike Behnken

Mike Behnken is a personal trainer who holds multiple NASM certifications and a MS in Exercise Science. Mike loves fitness, travel, and photography among many other interests.

Disclaimer: The views of the author are his or her own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Ask The Trainer.
Did you enjoy reading my article? Please rate it below!

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (4 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

Leave a Comment


©2016 All rights reserved. Terms of Use / Privacy Policy.

askthetrainer logo

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?