Working out your core muscles may give you killer abs and a flatter stomach, but you’ll enjoy more benefits than just a swimsuit look. Building a stronger core and eliminating extra belly fat can improve your balance and posture as well as cut the risk of heart disease, some cancers, diabetes, stroke, and other health problems, according to Michael Jensen, M.D., a specialty endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic.
Speed up the results of your workout program by targeting multiple core muscles at once. To do this, the Mayo Clinic recommends exercises such as the plank, which builds overall core strength.
To do the plank, lie on your stomach on top of a towel or mat. Place your elbows directly under your shoulders, and lock your hands together to form a triangle with your elbows. Using the strength in your core, pull up your torso and legs and hold your body up between your forearms and toes. Try to stay in a straight line, with your butt down and your abdominals tightened and tucked in. Hold the pose for as long as you can, and work up to increasing the total amount of holding time.
Try a bridge to strengthen your abs and make your back and core stronger. The Mayo Clinic recommends a bridge modification called the pelvic lift.
To do a pelvic lift, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your arms out at your sides with your hands near your waist, palms down. Look straight up at the ceiling. Breathe out, and press on your feet and arms to lift up your torso and thighs. Pull in your ab muscles as you do so, and hold them tight. Try to form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Hold the pose for as long as you can with correct form before coming back to start. Do the move several times for best results. To stretch out your back the other way, lie on the floor in the same starting position and press your back into the floor, trying to flatten it while tilting your pelvis slightly upward.
Use a bicycle crunch as a good all-around exercise to strengthen your obliques, upper abs and lower abs.
To begin, lie on your back with your feet in the air, knees bent at 90 degrees. Bend your elbows and place your hands behind your head near the nape of your neck. As you breathe out, crunch upward to the left, and slowly bring your left knee and right elbow near each other. Try to get them to meet by pulling and tightening your core muscles. Release, and return to start. Repeat the move on the opposite side, crunching your core to the right and slowly moving your right knee and left elbow toward each other. Use your ab muscles, not your hands, to move your upper body. Keep your eyes on the ceiling to avoid straining your neck. Repeat the move as many times as you comfortably can.
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