When most people think about core strength, they picture six-pack abs and millions of sit-ups. But the core is made up of more than just abs, and core strength is about more than having a toned stomach or looking good. The core is exactly that—it’s the core of your body. And building those muscles will benefit you for the rest of your life, no six-pack required.
Your core is made up of more than just the abdominal muscles, the muscles in your stomach referred to as abs. The core also includes your obliques (the muscles in your sides), pelvic floor muscles, glutes and all the muscles in your back.
The muscles that make up the core play a central role in everything you do. Every movement you make stems from your core, since every muscle in your body is connected to the ones in the core. From everyday tasks like tying your shoes and cleaning to heavy lifting and athletic activities, you use the muscles in your core.
A strong core is also vital to balance and stability. Every time you walk on uneven ground or stand in one place, you use your core muscles to keep you there. The stronger those muscles are, the less likely you are to fall over.
Strong core muscles will also help improve your posture. If your core is weak, you’re more likely to slouch over, since it’s harder to keep yourself upright. That good posture is better for your spine, prevents and alleviates lower back pain, and allows you to breathe easier.
And, at the end of the day, a strong core will help you look slimmer, as well. Even if you never get six-pack abs, a strong core will help you stand taller and straighter, making you look instantly slimmer. The inner muscles of the core help tighten your stomach and give you a smaller waistline.
So now that you know why strengthening your core is so important, it’s time to learn how. While sit-ups are a great exercise for building abdominal strength, they don’t effectively work every muscle in your core. The good news about core exercises is that you don’t need fancy equipment, or even a gym, to do them. You can build a strong middle just using your own body weight. Try the exercises below to get started.
This modified sit up works your entire from. Lie face down with your arms and legs outstretched. Keeping your legs and arms straight, lift your body into a v-shape, reaching your fingers as close to your toes as you can.
Sit up with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor in front of you. Lean back at a 45-degree angle, keeping your back straight. Using your muscles, slowly twist to each side as far as you can. For an added challenge, hold a weight in your hands as you twist.
Lie flat on your stomach with your arms and legs outstretched, palms toward the ground and toes pointed. Simultaneously lift your arms, legs and chest off the floor, then slowly return to the ground. Look at a spot on the floor in front of you so you don’t strain your neck.
On the floor, place your hands on the ground under your shoulders as if you’re going to do push ups. Pull your stomach in and engage your muscles, keeping your whole body in a straight line. Hold as long as possible.