You exercise to stay healthy and active for yourself and your family. But you also hit the gym because you want to see the results. And for a guy, ab definition is the most obvious physical expression of fitness. But targeting your stomach muscles with a bajillion sit-ups isn’t going to get you chiseled — in fact, it’s an antiquated workout plan that will likely lead to injury before you see any decent results.
What you want to do is focus on strengthening the all-important core, which includes not only your abs but also your lower back, oblique, and glute muscles. Working out these muscle groups as a unit is a far more effective way to tone up than crunches or sit-ups. “Utilizing many core exercises is the key to toning your waist and building core strength,” says Jorge Cruise, celebrity trainer, life coach, and author of The 3 Choices.
Cruise provided us a simple bodyweight-only routine that can help you build a strong, functional core that will help with general stability and strength and also lead to a popping midsection. “Your core is deep within you, and your body can strengthen it with just your weight,” Cruise says. “These simple moves can be done anywhere, anytime, and will help you re-center at the core.”
As opposed to other muscle groups, the core is made of up of endurance muscles that can — and should — be worked out every day. “Variety is the best way to motivate and avoid boredom,” Cruise says. Pick two exercises to do one day, and mix it up the next.
Why: “This is a whole-body workout with cardio training,” Cruise says. “You’ll be burning fat while working your core.”
How to do it: Start in a plank — the top of push-up position. Pull one leg in to bring your knee to your chest, then return your foot to its original position. Switch legs. Repeat. Do 30 on each side.
Common Mistake: Going too quickly. People tend to rush through complex bodyweight exercises, which doesn’t stress the body as it should. “Slow down and feel the burn,” Cruise says.
Why: “This maneuver tones your obliques and pulls your waist in,” Cruise says.
How to do it: Start in a seated position. Lean back so your torso is at a 45-degree angle with the floor, keeping your feet grounded with your legs bent at the knees. Bring your palms together in front of your chest. Rotate your body all the way to the left, then back through the center and to the right. Repeat. Perform 30 on each side.
Common Mistake: Slumping. “Be sure to keep your back straight,” Cruise says. “If you slump down, you could cause injury.”
Side Plank with Leg Raises
Why: “These train your obliques and stabilize your spine,” Cruise says.
How to do it: Start out lying on your side with your feet stacked. Ground your right forearm on the floor and raise up into a side plank position, keeping your body in a straight line. Raise your top leg. Hold this position for a count of thirty, then lower your leg back down. Switch sides and raise the other leg for a count of thirty.
Common mistake: Letting your hips dip down. “Keep your body straight,” Cruise says. “And go slow when raising your legs.”
Why: “This is cardio training, plus it tones several hard-to-reach abdominal muscles,” Cruise says.
How to do it: Start on your back, legs outstretched and feet together. Lift one knee up towards your chest, bringing your thigh to a 90-degree angle with the floor. Switch legs by extending the lifted leg, keeping the foot hovering a few inches off the floor, while simultaneously bringing your other knee up towards your chest. Repeat. Do 30 for each leg.
Common Mistake: Splaying your legs; going too fast. “Keep everything lined up,” Cruise says.