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The Best Workout You Can Do for Your Core

By , SparkPeople Blogger
We're all busy. But we can't let that get in the way of our desire to be fitter and healthier. That's why we need to know the best ways to maximize our efforts in the gym.
Recently someone asked me, "What is the best workout I can do for my core?"
It's a common question! And no wonder it's so confusing. There are so many abs gizmos, belly-fat-burning pills, and ab-centric workouts available, that it's hard to make sense of it all.
So what works best? Here's my answer.

I don't think there is a single core exercise that is the be-all-end-all; variety is key.
That said, I believe in working the core in functional ways. After all, it's designed to do so much more than "crunch."

The Best Core Workout
That said, I believe that Pilates is the absolute best core workout. Why? Because it includes every aspect of core training. It targets every single muscle group in the core (not just the outer layer of abs, which many exercises target). It both strengthens and lengthens (stretches) the core muscles; and it helps develop stability, balance and better posture. Plus, Pilates offers a huge variety of exercises in which to achieve these goals, so if you can attend a class, you'll get something different every time. And trust me, although many people think it's "easy" or gentle (and it certainly can be appropriate for people who prefer those types of workouts), IT IS TOUGH for people (yes, even men!) of all levels, especially when you do it correctly.
Here's a 15-minute Pilates core workout I designed to help you get started, along with two Pilates moves proven to help flatten the belly.

The Best Core Exercise
There have been various studies conducted on the best exercises to target the abs, but as I mentioned above, the abs are just ONE component of the core. If I had to pick a single exercise that is best for core strength, it'd be the plank. It targets every muscle in your core in a functional way and there are a lot of ways you can change it up to continually challenge yourself. Here's how to do it properly.

Align your wrists directly under your shoulders. Extend your legs behind you, legs squeezed together. Consciously pull your belly button up away from the floor while keeping your back flat. Try to maintain a straight line from your shoulder to your hip to your ankle. Hold the position for 30-60 seconds—only as long as you can while maintaining proper form and not allowing the hips to droop or rise. Rest for 30-60 seconds. Repeat 1-2 more times. Gradually work your way up to holding the position longer. Try this every other day throughout the week.
Looking for more on abs and core training? Read The Top 10 Abs Training Mistakes. Do you have a fitness question for me? Ask away in my town hall, where I answer the top three questions every Friday.

Are Pilates or plank exercises part of your core-training routine? Which core exercise do you like best?