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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?

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Comments

I would like to reprint this article for my blog. How can I reblog this on WordPress? Report
This is something to consider, looks interesting. Report
The Pilates classes here are so expensive, so I wouldn't bother. I do have several Pilates videos that I bought at yard sales for a $1. Report
I rather do planks then pilates. But I'm open to change. I'm trying to find a workout for my core that I really enjoy. I do mostly Spark Videos now for my strength training. Tried several challenging core routines including the pilates. So I won't give up on pilates...yet! lol Thank you for this very important information. I did hear or read that bicycle crunches are the BEST exercise for abs. Report
I work out at our local YMCA and they offer a lot of different classes with the membership. I have been doing Zumba for about two months, and water aerobics for about a month-but I do want to try pilates and tae bo. They do a lot of core work in Zumba and water aerobics; but I don't think you can ever get enough-- or at least I cannot (lol). Report
Hi...it's a Friday evening and i am sitting here trying to improve my points (LOL)...have always been very interested in the pilates and especially anything that improves my core (the worst area for me)...I too realize how expensive it is too be part of the pilates group here and am excited and so appreciative of all the information that Spark makes available to us ....i am going to watch these videos and going to start with the plank tomorrow am and see if I can hold it for at least 5 seconds or more....baby steps! Thanks ...will check out your video! Report
Pilates classes in my area are ridiculously expensive -- I cannot find any that cost less than 20 bucks a class. However, I've been trying out the ten minute solution Pilates dvds (first from the library, and then I just wound up buying some of them) and have really noticed a difference in my core. I had an ugly lower belly bulge because of a c-section 12 years ago that I never could get rid of... but ever since I've been doing Pilates it has been slowly pulling in. You can now barely tell it's there. I'm a pilates convert! Report
This sounds like something I need to get into. My back is sore from carrying around so much extra weight, and I know strengthening my core will help loads! Thank you for this resource! Report
KK1980
Great information! I am interested in tryin out Pilates so I think I will try it out soon because I am looking for an ab work out that targets all my ab muscles. As for the plank, I have tried it and I am not to fond of it because I do not feel the burn in my core. However, I will try the plank again because maybe when I tried it, I was not doing it correctly. Thank you! Report
DANCERINA828
I love pilates ab workouts, they make me feel great in general! I do a good deal of these abs every day, but for some reason my abdominal muscles still seem to hide under a layer of fat I just can't get rid of! Is it true that abs are actually done "in the kitchen"? meaning, no matter how hard you work them out, if you really want that chiselled tummy you just have to lose weight? Are there any specific excersizes I should do? I already to many, but maybe they're not the right ones...! Report
I have been taking pilates classes for 3 months now and can totally feel the difference in my core. I am sitting up straighter and have so much better balance.
Report
I totally agree. I work out at Gold's gym and they offer a class called CX works. It is one of the best core strength classes I have ever taken. I can definitely see the results in my abdominals. They have a track that emphasizes lots of plank work and it kills me, but I can now hold planks for a lot longer and I know my abs are so much stronger. Report
 
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