Best exercises for your core

When most of us think about strong core muscles, we imagine washboard abs. Although a six-pack is something of which most people dream, it has little indication of a strong core. Unfortunately, all those crunches you’ve been doing aren’t really helping build your core strength.

Your core is actually made up of more muscles than your rectus abdominis —the muscle that made the six-pack look famous. Some experts believe that the core muscles extend all the way to the thighs. Your core is comprised of several muscles, including:

  • Erector spinae
  • Multifidus
  • External obliques
  • Internal obliques
  • Transverse abdominis
  • Hip flexors
  • Gluteus minimus and medius
  • Gluteus maximus

Maintaining a healthy core will benefit you more than just having a taut tummy for bikini season — or those upcoming holiday family pictures. Strong core muscles are essential to helping prevent or alleviate chronic back pain. A strong core can also be an indicator of healthy living, as weight around the belly is considered to be the most harmful.

Here are some exercises that will help you tone and strengthen your core:

Pilates. This type of exercise, developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, was designed to increase strength and improve flexibility. Pilates focuses on controlled movements and is considered a strength-training exercise. This series of exercises is excellent for building core strength as it encourages participants to actively engage their core muscles throughout.

Yoga. Like Pilates, yoga is an excellent way to help build your core muscles. The exercise dates back more than 5,000 years. Many practice yoga as a form of reflection as well as exercise.  Yoga utilizes several muscle groups at once, which is why it’s a good way to strengthen your core.

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