The core muscles play a vital role in supporting the spine, maintaining balance (1), enabling functional movements, and reducing the risk of lower back pain (2). Positioned at the center of your trunk, they act as a central control system for your body’s movements. Today, we invite you to try these 12 ab exercises aimed at stabilizing your core and optimizing your physical capabilities.
Contrary to what glossy fitness magazines may suggest, crunches alone are not the most effective way to strengthen your core. It’s crucial to understand that core strength isn’t solely achieved through isolated abdominal exercises. True core strength involves toning the muscles spanning from your sternum to your pubic bone, including those in the stomach, back, buttocks, chest, and upper thighs (3).
Learning to engage your abdominal and back muscles by “hugging” them toward your spine, activating the pelvic floor, and practicing controlled breathing are key elements in core stabilization. The 12 ab exercises you will learn today focus on achieving this stability in four fundamental positions: supine (lying on your back), prone (lying on your stomach), side, and all-fours. As you reduce contact between your body and the ground, your core muscles face a greater challenge in supporting you—this explains why a full plank is more demanding than supine marching.
Once you have developed core strength in relatively static positions, as you will discover below, you can progressively increase the difficulty and intensity of your movements while maintaining stability.
Before we delve into the exercise routine, let’s provide a brief overview of the four primary core muscles. A healthy core depends on the coordinated activation and co-contraction of these muscles: the transversus abdominis, multifidi, pelvic floor, and internal/external obliques. Their harmonious functioning is crucial for a strong and stable core.