Abs used to be the ultimate fitness goal. If you had a six pack, you’ve made it. Congratulations, you’re officially fit. Maybe you’re reading this thinking that you’ll never have a six pack, maybe you’re thinking that this is post that’s going to tell you to do 1,000 sit ups a day, maybe all you do are ab exercises. Whatever the case may be, do you actually know what your abs do, what purpose they serve? Our core is in charge of many aspects of our movement and posture, but most importantly, it stabilizes us. Start to lose your balance? Your core strength is the reason you recovered. Standing up from a chair or sitting up in bed? Core strength is getting you up there. Lower back pain? Chances are your core isn’t strong enough to properly support it. So having a six pack means your core strength is A+ right? Not so fast.

As you see, there’s more to your core than just a six pack.

* The rectus abdominis is what you’re thinking of, that’s the muscle that superficially defines your core. It is in charge of torso flexion, or bringing your chest down towards your hips. The basic crunch works mainly your rectus abdominis, which is why crunches can help with definition, but not really with stability.

* On the sides, we have both our internal and external obliques, which wrap around your torso and help you out with rotation and bends. Exercises such as the Russian Twist and Side Planks helps to develop strength in your obliques.

* As well, your core is not just your abs, but your glutes as well! I know, always with the glutes, but your glutes actually help keep your hips posteriorly rotated, which is in it’s proper positioning, and strong, which ties into overall stability.

* Last, and most importantly, we have our deep core muscles, or our transverse abdominis. These muscles lie underneath the rectus abdominis and the obliques and really help to stabilize your body and spine against flexion, extension, and rotation. Strengthening your core, especially the transverse abdominis, will not only help to stabilize your body, but can also translate into stronger lifts, as your lower back is now more supported, and can handle heavier weights. Planks and Pallof Presses help to develop the transverse abdominis.

Before we can start to load our core, we need to develop strength in the transverse abdominis. So, in the beginning of our core training, the part we want to focus on developing most is stability, meaning anti movement and rotation. These include stabilizing core exercises, or ones that assist with keeping the body still and contracting the correct muscles, such as planks. Once some core strength has been established, we can focus on more specific movements, such as ones targeting the obliques and more superficial definition. Below, I’ve included three core circuits. The first circuit is perfect for those just beginning to build core strength and stability, with next two circuits being progressively harder. Ensure you have total confidence in the first circuit before moving on to the second, and again with the third. Aim to perform each exercise for 10-12 repetitions (or 30 seconds for a plank) and repeat for 3-4 sets. Go ahead and give them a try!

**I need to mention that doing all the core exercises in the world are not going to give you a six pack if your diet and nutrition aren’t in order! You can not spot reduce (AKA lose fat in a specific area), so to get visible ab definition, you need to have a low enough body fat percentage to see them. This requires an overall calorie deficit and a well rounded strength training program, as well as core exercises.**

Core Training Part One:

Core training Part Two:

Core Training Part Three:

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