Whether you’re completely new to fitness or you’re a seasoned gym-goer, these core workouts for men will work your abs from every angle

The key to developing a strong core and defined set of abs is to work the entire abdominals and lower back from a variety of angles, so you get balanced muscle growth. Endless crunches won’t cut it, but doing a mixture of moves that target your upper, lower and side abs, as well as your deep-lying stabilising muscles, will have a positive effect. 

Which core workout is right for you?

Wondering which of the core workouts for men you should try from the options below? If you’re a complete beginner to fitness, or you’re returning after a break, it makes sense to start with the beginner core workout before advancing to the more difficult circuits. If you’ve been working on your core strength for a few months, try the intermediate core workout to continue your training journey. Or if you’re a practiced pro and have been strength training for years, head to the advanced core workouts for a real challenge.

The first three workouts were created by performance coach Amoila Cesar, and the last advanced core workout – the toughest of the bunch – was designed by fitness coach Luke Goulden.

personal trainer demonstrating cat/cow stretch as part of one of the best core workouts for men
Beachbody trainer Amoila Cesar demonstrates Cat/Cow from the beginner abs workout

Beginner core workout

1. Cat/cow (20 reps / 60 secs rest / 3 sets)

  • Start on all fours with your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees on the ground in a table top position.
  • Inhale, dropping your chest as you push your hips into an anterior tilt and shoulder blades back into ‘cow’ position.
  • Lift your chin and chest, and gaze forward.
  • For ‘cat’, exhale as you draw your belly button to your spine and round your back toward the ceiling.

 2. Low plank (60 secs / 60 secs rest / 3 sets)

3. Deadbug (20 reps / 60 secs rest / 3 sets total)

  • Lie on your back with your arms extended in front of your shoulders.
  • Bend your hips and knees to a 90-degree angle.
  • Tighten your abs and press your lower back into the floor.
  • Take a deep breath in as you exhale, slowly extend your left leg toward the floor and bring your right arm overhead.
  • Keep your abs tight and don’t let your lower back arch.
  • Slowly return your arm and leg to the starting position.
  • Repeat with your opposite arm and leg. Continue alternating.
personal trainer demonstrating plank shoulder tap as part of one of the best core workouts for men
Plank shoulder tap from the intermediate abs workout

Intermediate core workout

1. Plank shoulder tap (20 reps / 60 secs rest / 3 sets)

  • Start on your hands and knees.
  • Your hands and knees should be shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift your knees off the ground and push your feet back, bringing your body to full extension.
  • Begin to tap one hand at a time to the opposite shoulder, keeping your hips level to the ground.
  • The goal is to not rock your hips side to side while tapping your shoulder.

2. Toe touches (20 reps / 60 secs rest / 3 sets)

  • Lie on your back with your legs together, fully extended on the ground.
  • Keep your arms extended outward with palms down.
  • With your knees slightly bent, raise your legs straight up in the air until your feet are parallel with the floor.
  • Reach your arms toward your feet, forming a 45-degree angle. Your head should still be on the floor. This is your starting position.
  • Roll forward as you exhale, lifting your torso off the floor as you try to touch your toes with your fingers.
  • Inhale as you slowly reverse the motion back to the starting position. Repeat for a complete set.

3. Side plank hip tap (20 reps each side / 60 secs rest / 3 sets)

  • Lie on your side with your forearm flat on the floor and bottom elbow lined up directly under your shoulder, with both legs extended out in a long line.
  • Feet can either be staggered for more stability, or stacked for more of a challenge.
  • Engage your core and lift your hips off the floor, forming a straight line from your head to your feet.
  • Slowly lower your hip, tapping the ground, then raise to the start position.
  • Repeat for 20 reps.
personal trainer demonstrating dumbbell drag as part of one of the best core workouts for men
Dumbbell drag from the advanced abs workout

Advanced core workout 1

1. Dumbbell drag (20 reps / 60 secs rest / 3 sets)

  • Assume the plank position.
  • Position your feet wider than hip distance to form a stable base.
  • Place the dumbbell just behind your right hand. Engaging the glutes, lower back and abdominal muscles, reach the left arm across the chest to grab the dumbbell, dragging it on its side by the handle under your body.
  • Pause when the dumbbell is just behind the left hand, stacked below the shoulder.
  • Repeat on the opposite side. 

2. Dumbbell side plank snatch (20 reps each side / 60 secs rest / 3 sets)

  • Assume the side plank position.
  • Grab one dumbbell with the opposite arm.
  • Keeping the dumbbell close to your body, begin lifting the dumbbell vertically across your chest, snatching it to the sky.
  • The dumbbell and your wrist should be directly above your shoulder, creating a half ‘T’.
  • Return to the start and repeat.

3. Slider army crawl (3 forward; 3 back / 60 secs rest / 3 sets)

  • Grab two sliders (or paper plates). Put both feet in the centre of the sliders and go down into a low plank position.
  • Your elbows should be under your shoulders, and bent at 90°.
  • Your forearms should be parallel.
  • Begin crawling forward, only using your elbow and forearms to move. Both legs should be straight and flexed as you drag your body back and forth.

4. Chin-up knee drive (20 reps/ 60 secs rest / 3 sets)*

*Pull-up bar required

  • Grab the pull-up bar with your palms facing your torso.
  • As you have both arms extended in front of you, keep your torso as straight as possible while creating a curvature on your lower back and sticking your chest out.
  • Begin to pull yourself up to raise your chin over the bar, contracting your shoulder blades.
  • As your body rises, raise one knee towards your chest, leaving the opposite leg straight.
  • As you lower from the chin up, also lower your knee back to starting position.  
  • Repeat on the opposite side, continuing to alternate legs.

Advanced core workout 2

“For most people, core training means an endless number sit-ups, crunches, Russian twists and so on,” says Luke Goulden. “But the trouble with these exercises is that they require a load of movement, especially through spinal flexion – which, when done repeatedly, can lead to pain and discomfort.

“Instead, it helps to understand a bit about how the body functions, and how you can maximise your training to improve how it functions and feels. Your core muscles exist to resist excessive motion in the spine – which is why plank variations are so effective. As such, it pays to train them to get better at doing just that – which this workout does.

“Pay attention to your hips: maintain a partial posterior pelvic tilt, or slight tuck of your tailbone, throughout. Imagine wearing a belt and trying to tilt the belt buckle up towards your chin. Focus on your breathing: inhale and exhale down into your abdominals. And maintain a neutral spine position at all times.”

For each exercise:

Reps: 45-60 secs each side
Rest: 30-45 secs
Sets: 3

man performing deadbug iso hold as part of one of the best core workouts for men

1. Deadbug ISO hold

  • Lie down, and fix your lower back to the floor – keep it in contact throughout.
  • Reach to the sky and pull your shoulder blades apart (protraction).
  • Lightly touch your toes on the floor with bent knees, and hold.
  • The deeper and longer the breath, the better.
  • Remember: toes just lightly on the floor and don’t let your shoulders drop.
man performing high plank knee to elbow as part of one of the best core workouts for men

2. High plank knee to elbow

  • Start by stacking your shoulders directly over your hands, keeping your arms straight, and push away from the floor.
  • Bring your right knee up to your right elbow – as close as possible – and hold.
  • Hold for time, then switch sides.
man performing single-leg hollow hold

3. Single-leg hollow hold

  • The key here is resisting extension in the spine – in other words preventing your lower back from arching/extending, while maintaining a braced midsection.
  • Keep a partial posterior tilt, breathe down into your stomach and pull your belly button down into your body.
  • Reach towards your feet if reaching over your head compromises your hip/back position.
  • Fully extend one leg and bend the other into the body.
man performing high side plank with reach

4. High side plank with reach

  • This exercise will bring balance and length to your body.
  • Keep the supporting arm below the shoulder, keep the hip elevated away from the floor, and again that slight tuck of the tailbone.
  • I prefer not to stack my feet on top of each other, but do what works for you.
  • Reach overhead with your arm and hold.
man performing single-arm high plank

5. Single-arm high plank

  • Start in your high plank position – the main difference here is to go wider with your feet to help with a more stable base.
  • Once you feel stable, lift the arm and extend it down the side of your body.
  • With the supporting arm, push away from the floor. Again, keep that tailbone slightly tucked, and remember to breathe.
man performing high side plank knee to elbow

6. High side plank knee to elbow

  • Start with both legs extended on the floor, with your shoulder above your supporting arm.
  • Slowly draw your knee to your elbow and hold.
  • Focus on breathing, and maintain that slight tuck of the hips.

In need of an exercise mat for these core workouts?