The best core exercises for men

Who among us hasn’t dreamed of rocking washboard abs, especially when in the midst of a grueling set of sit-ups? Working your core can definitely lead you down the path to an aesthetically pleasing midsection, but it’s so much more important than that.

When we talk about core muscles, we’re not just referring to your abs. Your core–which is made up of your abdominals, obliques, lower back muscles and glutes–supports and stabilizes your spine and can affect your balance. Working out your core, when done properly, can help prevent back injury and prevent pain and discomfort caused by sitting for 8 hours per day.

The Manual has teamed up with Kisar Dhillon, a personal trainer based in Portland, Oregon, and his team at The Art Of Personal Training to bring you the second in a series of videos to help you ease into a strength training routine. You can do these exercises at the gym, at home, or even at work.

In this video, Peter Fuller, a trainer with over 15 years of experience, shows us how to properly do squats and planks. Though simple, these are the best core exercises for men who are just starting out with a fitness routine. Fuller shows proper form, breathing technique and how to mix things up if you’re looking for an added challenge.

Related: The best leg exercises for men

A quick note before you get started

Just as we reminded you with our leg exercises: though these are introductory core exercises, proper technique is important in order to prevent injury and make sure you get the most out of your workout. Dhillon, who has been in the fitness industry for over twenty years, expanded on Fuller’s explanation of proper breathing technique:

  • Inhale on the eccentric and exhale on the concentric. For example, when you are doing a leg squat: when you are squatting down toward the floor (eccentric contraction) you will want to inhale, and when you are rising and going into a straight position (concentric contraction) you will want to exhale.
  • Do not hold your breath. This will cause intra-abdominal pressure, or a Valsalva maneuver. This can result in seeing stars, passing out and even vomiting. In addition, you do not want to reverse your breathing because you will lose integrity in your core and surrounding muscles, which are usually activated when you are breathing correctly while moving a resistance load.
  • If you’re still having trouble, try counting under your breath. When you are completing a repetition, count underneath your breath. This is an involuntary way to move air or exhale. For example, when you are doing a chest press and you are pushing the bar away from your chest, say the number “one” softly and when you are doing your second rep, say “two,” etc.

Ready? Let’s get sweating.

The Workout

This circuit was designed to increase in difficulty as you go on. The farther you get in the circuit, the more you’ll have to engage your core. Make sure to take a brief rest between sets so you can gauge how your body is feeling. If you’re up for an added challenge, do this circuit twice in a row!

Basic squat: 2 sets of 8-10 reps
Goblet squat (with kettlebell): 2 sets of 8-10 reps
Bar squat: 2 sets of 8-10 reps
Side plank, knees bent: 2 sets of 10-15 reps
Side plank, top leg out: 2 sets of 10-15 reps
Side plank, feet out on top of each other: 2 sets of 10-15 reps
Side plank, top foot out, bottom foot lifted off the ground: 2 sets of 10-15 reps

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