Primal At-Home Workout: Core

Mark Sisson doing a plank outsideGyms all across the world are closed right now. Many of us are stuck at home, unable or unwilling to even get to parks and hiking trails and beaches. We’re all homebodies now, and yet the need for physical activity hasn’t diminished. If anything, it’s more crucial than ever that we stay active and healthy, fit and strong.

Today, we’re going to start with core workouts.

The core is, well, the core. It’s the foundation of your body. It’s how strength and force is transmitted to the world around you. It keeps you upright. And, although this might seem unimportant (it’s not), it’s a major component of LGN—looking good naked. Form and function depend heavily on the strength of your core.

You can do this entire workout in one block, sprinkle it throughout the day, or do some of it every day in addition to other training.

Primal At-Home Core Workout



This is the most basic core exercise. It’s simple (but not easy).

  1. Get in the pushup position, only put your forearms on the ground instead of your hands. Your elbows should line up directly underneath your shoulders. Toes on the ground.
  2. Squeeze your glutes and tighten your abdominals.
  3. Keep a neutral (straight, plank-like) neck and spine.
  4. Create a straight, strong line from head to toes—a plank, if you will.
  5. Hold that position for as long as you comfortably can. Stop short of failure.
  6. Rest for a minute and repeat twice more.

Make them easier:

  • By doing them on your hands rather than forearms (like at the top of a pushup).
  • By doing them on your knees; rest your knees on the floor or an exercise mat.

Make them harder:

  • Slide your elbows forward, so they no longer line up underneath your shoulders. This will increase the difficulty.
  • Add side planks. Hold a side plank on the left side for 30–60 seconds. Switch to the right side and hold for 30–60 seconds.

Watch the video in this link to give you some visual ideas of what to do.

Toes to Bar

toes to bar core exercise

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Hang from an overhead horizontal bar, and touch your toes to the bar. Lift and lower in a slow and controlled manner for 3–5 reps.
  2. If you can’t do the toes to the bar, try just bringing your knees up to your elbows. Again, slow and controlled for 3–5 reps.
  3. If you can’t do the knees to elbows, try bringing your knees up to your chest. Slow and controlled for 5–10 reps.
  4. Do 3 sets, resting for 30 seconds between sets.

Check out the video here for an example.

Hollow Body Rocks

hollow body rocks core workout

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Lie down on your back with your arms overhead and your legs straight out.
  2. Brace your core and lift your legs and arms slightly off the ground, creating a shallow U with your body.
  3. Start rocking back and forth while maintaining that solid shallow U position with your body.
  4. Rock for 20 seconds. Rest for one minute. Repeat twice.

Hands and Feet

hands and feet core exercise

There’s probably a better/more official name for this one, but it’s what I call it.

  1. Sit upright on the ground.
  2. Lift your feet off the floor.
  3. Touch your right hand to your left foot.
  4. Touch your left hand to your right foot.
  5. Keep going, never putting your feet on the ground.
  6. Do this for 20 seconds at a time. Rest for 40 seconds between sets; repeat four times.

Make it easier: Touch your hands to your knees.

Make it harder: Touch your elbows to your ankles.

There you go, that’s the workout. Once again, you can sprinkle these movements throughout the day or do them all in one fell swoop.

How are you training your core these days?

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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22 thoughts on “Primal At-Home Workout: Core”

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  1. Thank you. I don’t have a bar, but loved the workout. Thank you for your graciousness???

  2. Hey, can you sit down and touch your toes? Cool. Can you do a plank? Great! Now, can you lie on your back and lift both your arms and legs? That’s awesome.

    Now, I want you to hang from a bar and touch it with your feet.

    I mean, one of these things just doesn’t belong.

  3. Thanks Mark! It’s just a great reminder of how to spend a half hour listening to good music and feeling better.

    Be well

  4. Hollow body rocks are more fun to do if you pretend you’re a banana that’s rocking back and forth. We had to to them all the time in crossfit and the only way I could get through them is to say in my head “I”m a rockin’ banana!” That may just be me though. 🙂
    In related mind games, it’s much easier to do a row sprint if you imagine a crocodile chasing you behind your rowboat.

    1. Is the Rockin’ Banana going side-to-side, or r head-to-tailwhile it’s rocking? I can’t quite picture it.

      1. head to tail – good point – I should have mentioned that!

  5. I’m not quite understanding the last one. Maybe I’m just not flexible/strong enough to lift both outstretched legs off the floor at the same time?

    1. ditto! I just got on the ground and tried this. Barely came close.

  6. Another exercise worth mentioning is the sit-up. All you need is two metres of space to lie down in, and a sofa, chest of drawers or other article of furniture to stick your feet under. Lie with you legs straight, place your hands behind your head and pull yourself up. Your legs will bend as you do this but this is quite acceptable. A daily dozen to get your abdominal muscles in tone and keep them that way is very beneficial.

  7. Thanks Mark, good time to get these at-home workout suggestions. I do planks frequently, will have to ponder the rest of them, I find movements similar to what you are showing sometimes hurt my lower back.

  8. Thanks for this! Tried it today with my kids, now heading outside to get some walking in. We couldn’t make our bodies do the last one – any chance someone has a video of exactly how to do that? We couldn’t get both legs up at the same time – probably we are just too weak!

  9. Hi what is the make of the the pull bar you used outside?

  10. This is a weird problem I started having doing ab work, but especially planks and can anyone give me some advice? No good way to put it. Diarrhea. For some reason when I try to hold planks, especially after a workout or a run, I get really really bad diarrhea. I have to stop doing ab work or I risk having an accident in my gym shorts, that’s how bad it is. Mostly with planks, not necessarily crunches. I’ve tried upping my fiber but still get diarrhea on days I do abs. Any tips for a Grok like me?

    1. I’ve got no specific experience with this but exercise is generally known to mobilise the digestive system and walking in particular – I suspect that’s why you find this problem more likely to occur after a run.
      My only suggestion is perhaps trying to do some minimal ab work/planks at home on a daily basis (eg. microworkouts) as it may help your body get used to them.

  11. Mark,
    Hi. Wife and I did your Kito reset diet several months ago and the weight fell off. I dropped almost 20lbs in a month. (280 to 260). Everyone was shocked at how quickly it came off.
    Now I’m a bit stuck, hovering around 255. My goal is to get down to 220-230. I know Im not getting enough arobic workout. Im going to start your core workouts today. We are starting the Kito reset diet again. Is that the right thing to do?

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  15. wow, such a nice article. I have gone to this article. It is really nice workouts to do at home. It really helps people. Thank you for sharing this information.

  16. Planks are not good at all. Science is clear that planks are overrated. Just to the bar with feet and legs vertical. No need to go to high and load them up with some feet weights when to easy and then do just pull-ups and chin-ups with weights and these are the best ones. Third can be with a roller and with weights on the back but to much abs is not nice at all. You get a to big of stomach and when you have a break and get some more fat on it, is horrible. Nicest is a small waste with some nice small abs on it. Also if you are dry and have nice abs…good luck with that in later life bc most do not see the psychical problems when had a nice body and you becoming older. God luck trying holding on. Just relax also more in later life bc that body will go into the ground and then what? A whole life bothering with some dust. Is not life at all people. Move, enjoy and are glad when you are out of that body bc is not then end 🙂