This 4-Week Plan Will Rock Your Core — Without a Single Situp

Sportsman doing farmer's walk exercise during his cross training workout

Getty ImagesJulianna Nazarevska

Yeah, you want a six-pack, but a strong core doesn’t just make you look great.

The true reasons to train your core: Powerful abs reduce back pain, smooth your running stride, and boost your bench press. Fall is an ideal time to focus on this, prepping your body to both work (shoveling all that snow) and play (skiing!).

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This workout blends the ideas of three trainers with different specialties — biomechanics guru Andy Vincent, strength expert David Birtwistle, and pro-athlete trainer Tom Bliss —and it’ll challenge your abs to stabilize your body as you train other muscles too.

Best of all: It’s a situp-free plan!

DIRECTIONS

Do this full-body workout 3 times a week, resting at least 1 day between sessions. If you’re new to the gym, this is all the fitness you’ll need for the entire month. You can also add these moves to your own workouts — just make sure to pay attention to the tips from Men’s Health Fitness Director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., to get the most out of every move.

WARMUP

Do these moves in order for 5 minutes, resting as needed, to fire up your glutes and core.

1. Bird-Dog

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Phillip Haynes

Start on all fours, knees below hips and wrists under shoulders. Tighten your core and keep your hips parallel to the floor as you extend your left arm in front of you and straighten your right leg behind you. Hold, return to the start, and repeat on the other side. That’s 1 rep; do 8.

Eb says: Make sure you’re really squeezing your glutes on every rep, and raise your extended arm as high as possible.

2. Side-Plank Rotation

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Phillip Haynes

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Start in a left-side plank, right arm straight up in the air. Rotate your right arm down and slide it underneath your left armpit, twisting your torso. Return to the start. That’s 1 rep; do 10 per side.

3. Half-Plank Hip Raise

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Phillip Haynes

Start in a right-side plank, right knee on the floor. Tighten your core and use your hip muscles to raise your left leg as high as possible. Hold. Return to the start. That’s 1 rep; do 3 sets of 15 per side.

STRENGTH

Do the exercises in order. Rest 1 minute between each set.

1. Trap-Bar Deadlift

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Phillip Haynes

Hinge your hips, bending your knees as you lower your torso until you can grasp a trap bar loaded with moderate weight. Without letting your back round, brace your abs and stand. Squeeze your glutes, then lower back to the start. That’s 1 rep; do 3 sets of 8.

2. Three-Point Plank Row

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Phillip Haynes

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Set up 2 equal-height boxes so you can place your feet on a box and your forearms on another. Get into forearm-plank position on the boxes with only your left forearm on the front box. Hold a medium-weight dumbbell in your right hand, arm hanging naturally. This is the start. Keeping your hips level, row the dumbbell toward your right hip. Pause, then lower it. That’s 1 rep; do 3 sets of 8 per side.

3. Windmill Plank

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Phillip Haynes

Get in pushup position, your feet on a bench. Grasp a light dumbbell in your right hand. This is the start. Rotate your torso until the dumbbell points toward the ceiling and your right arm is in line with your left. Pause, then return to the start, keeping your arm straight as you lower. That’s 1 rep; do 3 sets of 6 per side.

Eb says: Don’t worry if you can’t fully get the dumbbell pointed directly toward the ceiling. These are tougher than they look.

4. T-Bench Press

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Phillip Haynes

Lie on a bench with only your shoulder blades, neck, and head supported, holding dumbbells over your chest, arms straight. Your feet should be hip-width apart, knees bent at 90 degrees, glutes tight. This is the start. Bend your arms at the elbows and shoulders, lowering the dumbbells to your chest. Return to the start. That’s 1 rep; do 3 sets of 8.

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FINISHER

Wrap up with a total-body move.

Single-Arm Farmer’s Walk

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Phillip Haynes

Set a timer for 6 minutes. Hold a heavy kettlebell (or dumbbell) in your right hand. Tighten your abs and oblique muscles so that the weight does not tilt your torso toward the right side. Walk 10 steps forward, then take 10 steps backward. Switch arms and repeat. Continue until time is up, resting only as needed.

Eb says: Your torso will tip in the direction of the bell. Tighten your core and don’t let that happen.

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