What are the best core exercises you can do?You no longer have to just do sit ups or crunches to work your abs any more, as experts say overall core strengthening exercises are better – but which ones?

When a fitness expert or your local gym fanatic starts talking about their ‘core,’ it’s more than just the whole ‘six pack abs’ area, though the muscles that make up the six pack – the rectus abdominis muscles – are indeed part of the core. However, there are several other muscles that make up your core – including your obliques,  your hip flexors, and the muscles that connect to your spine and support your back – and working them all will not only make you more fit but increase your stability – all while making you look better as well – so here are a couple of excellent core exercises to try.

NO PAIN, NO GAIN

Sometimes, it turns out that the classic exercises are actually the best ones when it comes to building your core – though this isn’t always the case. While it’s true that old-style sit ups and stomach crunches are poor choices because of how little they actually help in the long run, old tried-and-true favourites like the push up and the squat are fantastic for working several core muscle groups all at once.

However, there are plenty of other exercises that you may not have heard of, or may recognise because they’re alternate forms of exercises you already know. One such exercise called the plank is a highly efficient whole-body core exercise, but it’s also one of the most demanding, as you end up holding your body up for as long as you can in a position similar to the beginning of a push up  – when it comes to ‘feeling the burn,’ the plank will have your whole body feeling the effects after just a few short sessions.

you don’t need the right equipment – but sometimes it helps

The best thing about working your core muscles out – besides the byproduct of a set of great looking ripped abs – is that you don’t need any sort of exercise equipment to get started. However, if you’re serious about maximising your gains, you can look into gym equipment such as kettlebells, medicine balls, or even the old set of dumbbells as ways to improve your workout gains.

That’s not all, either, as there are some workout regimes that are incredibly well-suited to strengthening your core, adding stability and balance and toning your muscles. Taking Pilates or yoga classes are two fine examples of this, as both workout methods incorporate excellent core workouts and will gain you the benefits of working with a qualified instructor who can watch your form and correct you, making sure you’re performing the exercises as efficiently as possible.

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Image: Big Bay Boot Camp 2012 by Port of San  Diego

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