8 of the best core-building exercises for men
May 21, 2024

8 of the best core-building exercises for men

Trainwell Trainers

Building a strong core is a good idea for every guy, and it could even be the key to achieving the rest of your fitness goals. It’s going to take more than basic cardio, push-ups, and sit-ups, but it’s worth the investment. 

A stronger core delivers impressive benefits, both aesthetic and functional. Stronger, more visible abs, lower body fat, better posture, and even less back pain are all tied to strengthening that core.

So in this blog post, we’ll cover why core strength is so important, what it can do for you, and — most importantly — eight of the best core-building exercises for men at every stage and fitness level.

Why does core strength matter?

Why are we so passionate about core strength at trainwell? Because a strong core is foundational to overall fitness! By approaching core strength holistically rather than just focusing on ab workouts, you’ll increase your endurance, reduce your risk of injuries, and improve your posture.

Better endurance

First, whether you’re a hardcore athlete or just getting in shape, building up your core strength helps improve your agility, balance, and power. This translates to a better performance on the court or field and in everyday life.

Building up your endurance and core strength delivers aesthetic benefits, too. If one of your fitness goals is a more toned and sculpted midsection, then focusing on core strength is an absolute must. Consistent, strong core workouts will get you well on your way to developing those six-pack abs! 

Improved posture and alignment

These days, many of us spend our 9-to-5s sitting in front of a screen, hunched over a keyboard. Countless studies all point to the fact that this constant sitting and bad posture isn’t doing us any favors. 

Developing a strong core helps you maintain proper posture and alignment for longer periods of time, even in adverse conditions (like sitting at a desk that isn’t quite right for your size). 

By developing and then engaging your core, you’ll ease the load on your spine and back muscles, reducing wear and tear and your risk of injury, especially in the lower back.

Injury prevention

Going beyond posture, a strong core grants additional injury protection for guys already working out or otherwise active. No one wants to end up on the sidelines losing muscle because they can’t work out — and the risk of injury goes way, way down for those who maintain a strong core.

Think about how much you use your core every day, even for basic tasks. Core strength is crucial for everyday movements like bending, lifting, and twisting. By building up your core, you’ll make daily tasks easier and safer. ✅

What are core exercises?

Core exercises focus exertion on muscles within the body’s core, like the abdominal muscles (both the rectus abdominis and transversus abdominis). But it also includes muscles that surround and support the spine, such as the glutes, hip girdle, obliques, and other smaller muscles. The core muscles work together to stabilize the spine and support overall load balance across the spine, pelvis, and hips. 

A solid core workout should go beyond just ab exercises, aiming for well-rounded coverage to target all of the muscle groups that make up your core. So the exercises we’re about to show you work best in combination. 

Also worth noting: These core exercises don’t require much, if any, equipment and are primarily bodyweight exercises, not weights-based strength training. If you have access to equipment (either at home or your gym), then other exercises might work better to strengthen your core through progressive overload.

Keep in mind that the best core workouts will always be those personalized to you, addressing your specific needs and goals at your current level of fitness — that’s what trainwell (formerly CoPilot) is all about. A unique combination of a digital app and a real human trainer, trainwell tailors workouts to individual fitness levels and goals.

8 core exercises for men to build workouts from

Let’s get right to it! Below are the eight best core strength bodyweight exercises men can do at home with minimal equipment — meaning you can get started today (or even right now). 

Stick around: We’ll break down each move, how to do it, why it helps your core, and which muscles it targets.

1. Plank

Planking went mega-viral a few years back, but hype or no, the plank is a seriously powerful tool for building core muscles! 💯

Planking works by using your body’s weight against itself, forcing you to engage nearly your entire core to stay in the proper position. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Your starting position is on your hands and knees. Put your hands directly beneath your shoulders and let your forearms touch the ground.
  2. Extend your legs outward behind you and lift your body up so that only your toes and forearms are touching the ground. 
  3. Stay in the plank position, with your upper and lower body in a straight line, head to heel. 

Planks target your upper and lower abdominals most intensely, but you’ll feel them in numerous other muscle groups (glutes, quads, and delts). You can do planks in short reps or as an endurance exercise. 

Tip: Slightly engage your glutes while in the plank. The slight engagement will help you maintain a straight plank and avoid slipping into a curved posture. 

2. Flutter kicks

Flutter kicks may not look particularly cool, we admit. But we’re after building core strength, and for that, flutter kicks punch (well, kick) above their weight. Also, it’s one of the staples of the Navy Seals, so it might be cooler than you think.

Flutter kicks work the upper and lower abs, as well as the obliques. Those small inner thigh muscles that seem to get overlooked by most bodyweight exercises are also highly engaged here.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Lie flat on your back (you’ll probably want a mat for this one), and place your hands palm-down alongside your body.
  2. Raise both legs six inches off the ground. Keep them straight.
  3. Gently move your legs up and down separately, alternating sides, almost like you’re tapping a balloon or beach ball suspended above your feet.
  4. Small, fast kicks and straight legs are key here, and make sure you keep your lower back against the mat.

Because of the combination of muscles worked, flutter kicks are a highly beneficial addition to your core routine.

3. Russian twists

Russian twists are one of those unusual exercises that can range from ultra beginner-friendly to fiendishly difficult — it’s all in how you do them. 

This is a seated exercise where you twist your torso side to side, led by your clasped fists.

In basic mode, you keep your feet on the ground and use only the weight of your hands to twist side to side. Hovering your feet off the ground ramps up the intensity, and if you’re especially sadistic (and experienced), you can add a dumbbell, medicine ball, or kettlebell to the motion, holding onto it throughout the twist.

Russian twists target the abdominal muscles most of all. But if you get those feet off the ground, you’ll notice activation throughout your core and from your glutes all the way to your knees.

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Sit on the ground (or a mat) with your knees bent. Lean back a few inches (but keep your back straight).
  2. Optionally, hover your feet off the ground, keeping your bent legs together.
  3. Hold both hands on your chest (or hold the weight there using both hands).
  4. Twist your torso to the right, extending your clasped hands rightward toward the floor.
  5. Then twist your torso and arms/hands back to the left.

Russian twists work well in high-rep sets. Consistent use of the Russian twist will develop your lower and upper abs, your balance, and all those little stabilizing muscles throughout your core. 

But be careful when starting this exercise or ramping up the difficulty by adding weights. It may not be wise or safe to extend the exercise to the very edge of your range of motion due to the risk of lower back or shoulder injury.

4. Single-leg bridge

The single-leg bridge is a variation of the full bridge, so let’s start there. To perform a full bridge, lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your arms along your sides. 

Press through your feet and carefully raise your butt off the ground so that your body forms a diagonal straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Lower yourself back to the starting position, and that’s a rep.

Here’s how to do the single-leg variety:

  1. Assume the bridge position (flat on the floor with knees bent).
  2. Extend one leg upward, keeping it parallel to the one still touching the floor.
  3. Raise your hips and butt off the ground, just like in the full bridge.
  4. Lower yourself back down (but keep that leg extended!), and that’s one rep on one side.

Single-leg bridges work the hip extensors: glutes and hamstrings. Remember to keep your core engaged throughout (feels kind of like flexing those abs), and you’ll get a solid core workout at the same time.

5. Lying leg raise

The single-leg bridge works the back side of your lower core, but it doesn’t do much for the front half. The lying leg raise is a nice counterbalance, as it targets mainly the muscles in the front. It’s also a bit more traditional and familiar.

This one targets the lower abs, front quads, hip flexors, and adductors. Here’s what to do:

  1. Lie flat on your back, legs flat on the floor.
  2. Raise your legs up as high as you can, keeping them together and relatively straight (a little knee bend is ideal to keep your back healthy). The goal is near 90 degrees, but it’s okay if you aren’t all that close yet. 👌
  3. Slowly lower your legs back to near the starting position, but don’t touch the floor or let them rest between reps.

There’s some question on what to do with your arms during this one. Keeping them by your side is one option. Some people put their hands under their glutes to add some support, while others clasp their hands above their chest to provide a counterbalance.

Got a pull-up bar? Many men prefer the hanging leg raise to the lying version. If you have a place to do them safely, give the hanging variety a try!

6. Trunk rotation

The trunk rotation is an exceptional exercise to get a stronger core, thanks to its intense focus on the obliques, but this one does take some equipment. 

The standard version, the cable trunk rotation, requires a cable machine. But it’s definitely possible to recreate the exercise using inexpensive resistance bands. (Check out more tips for building out your home gym on a budget.)

Here’s how to do a cable trunk rotation:

  1. Stand in front of the cable machine with your body perpendicular to it (so you’re not facing the machine — it’s at your side).
  2. Set the cable to chest height, and configure yourself so you’re a mid-distance from the machine.
  3. Grasp the cable handle in both hands. With your arms outstretched, rotate your torso away from the machine. Keep your abs in gear and your back straight as you do so.
  4. Rotate back toward your starting position carefully, retaining control of the cable.
  5. After your chosen number of reps, turn around 180 degrees and repeat on your other side.

If you don’t have access to a cable machine, here’s how you can perform this exercise without one:

  1. Stand with your back straight and shoulders down. 
  2. Clasp your hands in front of you at shoulder height and slowly rotate your trunk to the right, leading with your arms and keeping your hips facing forward and your core muscles engaged. 
  3. Slowly rotate back to the starting position. (To up the ante, hold a dumbbell or use a resistance band anchored securely at shoulder height if you have one.)

This exercise helps to build both upper body and lower body stability. It boosts your upper and lower abs but definitely focuses most of the intensity on your obliques. That makes it a beneficial add, as many other exercises flip that intensity (heavy abs, light obliques).

7. Superman hold

The Superman hold is sort of like the anti-plank. To do this exercise, lie flat on the floor on your stomach with your arms extended in front of you. Then raise most of yourself off the ground — your arms, head, upper torso, and thighs on down, all the way to your feet.

This exercise focuses on all the muscle groups that a front plank overlooks (hence anti-plank): lower back, glutes, lats, and delts. Because it picks up several muscle groups that other exercises struggle to reach, the Superman hold is a perfect addition to your routine. 

8. Side plank leg abduction

The side plank leg abduction is another stellar targeted exercise that blasts the hips, thighs, and obliques.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Assume the side plank position (like a regular plank, but rotated 90 degrees, leaving just one forearm and one foot touching the floor).
  2. Lift your top leg as high as you can comfortably, keeping the leg straight and the hips steady.
  3. Hold for a few seconds, then lower your leg steadily. Repeat this for the desired number of reps, then switch sides.
  4. Optional: Try holding your right arm straight up when working your right leg, and the same with the left arm once you switch sides.

The muscles targeted here often get overlooked in conventional weight training, but they are undeniably a part of the core.

How trainwell can help you enhance your core workouts

Trainwell has an extensive library of exercises, including hundreds of core exercises to build workouts from. But make no mistake, trainwell is much more than a database of exercises. It’s groundbreaking technology that adapts workouts to your progress and feedback. 

Trainwell pairs you with a real human trainer who will consider your fitness objectives, level, and limitations, and then build the best, most complete workout for you. 🎯

Our professional, certified trainers have helped thousands of trainwell users achieve their fitness goals, and they’re ready to work with you, too. 

Max out your core strength with trainwell starting today

Core strength is the foundation for healthy living, increased athletic performance, and better daily functionality with fewer injuries, so it’s worth working on!

But developing a strong core requires consistency and a tailored approach — and trainwell is your tool for both. 

Using a unique combination of AI technology and human trainers, trainwell builds truly personalized workouts tailored to your individual needs, goals, and fitness level. Your trainer will use the exercises listed above, plus the 1,400 other exercises available in our library, to build a customized fitness plan that will help you see real results.

It’s time to give trainwell a try. Get started free with a 14-day trial!

Written by trainwell trainers

Explore more trainwell articles