Although you may think of your “core” only when you’re doing specific abdominal muscle movements, you’re actually using these muscles all day, every day—which is why core exercises are so important. Whether you’re walking, reaching, balancing, getting up from a chair, or simply standing upright, the muscles in your midsection work to keep you stable and supported in nearly every movement.
“People usually think of the abs when referring to the core, but our core is actually made up of a much more complex network of muscles found in our torso,” certified personal trainer Brian Abarca, CPT, owner of Abarca Fitness in New Jersey, tells SELF.
These include the rectus abdominis (along the front of your abdomen, likely what you think of when you think of “abdominal muscles”), transversus abdominis (around your sides and spine), erector spinae (lower back), pelvic floor muscles, and obliques internal and external (along the sides of your abdomen). Even the rotator cuffs, glutes, traps and pectoral muscles can be involved in the core work, Abarca says.
If you tighten your abdominal muscles while lifting—strengthening your core muscles to keep you more stable and allow you to resist rotation or arching—any The exercise can become an abs workout. In addition, some exercises that involve movements you might not think of as “core exercises” tone those muscles as well, especially those in which you raise the weight above your head, such as overhead presses, holding the weight in front of you, as with cup squats, or Challenge your balance, such as the single-leg deadlift.
But because of how much you use your abs in everyday life And During your workouts, Abarca says, it’s worth showing them a little more love with a few specific core exercises. Not only can this help prevent injuries (including back pain!), but it can also improve your range of motion, boost your strength, and keep you moving.
Below, check out 34 great core moves that top trainers swear by. Sprinkle a few of these on during your next full-body workout, or string a few together for a straightforward core sequence.