Forging bad ass core strength and fine-tuned stability is tough for any man. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been pumping iron for years or are just starting out in the game, we can pretty much guarantee that every single guy who’s achieved their dream six-pack has left a lot of blood, sweat and tears out in the gym to make it happen. One of the greatest challenges is figuring out what core workouts are the best to really give you the results you’re looking for. We can tell you one thing for sure though: sit-ups and crunches aren’t the answer to awesome abs. It takes much more than that to get that washboard abdomen you’ve been dreaming of. At the same time, definition doesn’t necessarily mean strength either, so you really need to take a holistic approach to building core strength. Check out our top favorites for awesome core workouts every guy serious about their abdominals should try.
Here’s a great exercise to add to your warmups or to incorporate into your circuit training routine. Bear crawls force you to fully utilize the power in your abdominals to move and will help build strength in your shoulders and hips as well. Additionally, they’re a fantastic exercise for conditioning and are suitable for finishing a work out or warming up for one. Adding just two sets of 30 seconds to your warm up can help you increase shoulder and core awareness. Meanwhile, adding 3 to 5 sets of bear crawls to your regular routine will do wonders for your conditioning. To get the most of this workout, remember to keep your body low so that your but isn’t in the air and to keep your chest pushed away from the floor. Keep your head raised as well when you move. If you want to add more intensity to the exercise, move in multiple directions and increase the speed of your bear crawls.
We know we’ve given crunches and sit-ups a lot of flak, but believe us when we say that we do it with good reason. Too much crunching and sitting up can result in your developing tight hip flexors, lower back pain and even poor posture. With that being said, incorporating flexion into your routine is still important. The best compromise? Reverse crunches. By adding reverse crunches to your workout program, you can effectively reset your hips, making them great before an intensive lower-body training day. Reverse crunches also effectually train your lower abdominals, which help to take the load off of your hip flexors.
If you’re ready to challenge yourself, few workouts will push your strength and core capacity more than abdominal rollouts. It takes pure strength to keep your form when performing roll outs and just getting to a point where you can even attempt roll outs takes a ton of work, time and patience. This core exercise is, at its core (no pun intended) a more advanced version of hollow-body holds. Additionally, they’re a challenging way to help improve your form and strength for pull ups. Because of how strenuous this exercise is, it’s best to keep your repetitions on the lower end of the spectrum. Try 2 or 3 sets of 5 reps about once or twice a week. Of course, if you’re just starting out, you can lower that number further. When performing rollouts, keep in mind that you should be pushing your chest away from the floor so that your upper back is slightly rounded. Your shoulders should be down, away from your ears and your elbows should have a slight bend to them. It’s also important to note that you should continue to maintain the tension in your abs as you roll forward.
Hanging Knee Raises
Here’s another tough one to get your butt into gear: hanging knee raises. These are incredibly effective as your ability to control your lower body and abdomen when you’re hanging assists in rapidly developing core strength. Need proof? All you have to do test the core strength of a rock climber. When performing hanging knee raises, make sure you’re using an overhand grip and have something like a rolled tower or pad to squeeze between your knees. Exhale when you lift your knees up and inhale when you lower them. Make sure to lower your knees slowly and to use your core fully for this downward movement.
An ab exercise, postural integrity exercise and cardiovascular exercise rolled into one, loaded carriers are a favorite for us and for many fitness buffs around the globe. Not only do they help your spine stay strong and straight, they’re a great way to strengthen your core. It also begs to be said that incorporating loaded carriers is beneficial for us outside of the gym as well (hello, heavy bags of groceries!). Loaded carriers train our abdominals to stay braced, which is essential for high-intensity exercises like burpees and mountain climbers. To get the best effects of this workout, add it to your routine twice a week whether it’s during your main routine or as a finisher to your program. Be sure to pick a load that is heavy enough that you can’t keep it lifted for more than a minute. If you’re not ready for loaded carriers, train your core for it by performing light load carries every day. Light load carriers are also a great way to warm your abs up for loaded carriers.
High Tension Planks
Planks are oldies but goodies particularly because of how effective they are for training your core. By increasing the tension in your abdominals, you enable your entire body’s muscles to contract, thus turning your core exercise into a full body exercise. It’s also great training for exercises like jumps, sprints and weight lifting. Add high tension planks to the end of your warm up or in between a circuit of compound strength movements such as presses, rows, deadlifts or squats. Try 3 to 4 sets of 10-second holds to get you started and increase the length of your hold as your strength builds.