One thing we all have in common is the need to have a strong core. No matter how strong and chiseled your abs may or may not look, a deep core strength is a hard thing to come by—and an essential part of our bodies' health. We must strengthen the deepest layer, the transverse abdominals, as well as the more superficial rectus abs and obliques. And here's why: The stronger we can get the deep muscles of our core, the more true our core strength is. It isn’t just a strong outer layer that can easily be seen on a surface level; it is truly a deep powerhouse that will help your pelvis sit in its true natural position, which then allows the spine to lift naturally out of the pelvis and be supported by those strong abdominal muscles. Long story short: Shore up your deep core, and your posture will improve and your strong abdominals will help support the spine and protect against injuries. What's more, a strong deep core will help your muscles actually work harder, leading to better results.
These moves are the gold standard for a deep core-based focus. They'll help you safely and effectively strengthen the deep intricate muscles of the midsection as well as your six-pack muscles (i.e., the rectus abdominals). Unroll your mat or find a soft surface (such as carpet or grass), and let’s get to work on that strong, supportive core.
Set yourself up on your forearms, legs extended back onto the toes, feet hip-distance apart. Deepen your abdominals in and up along spine. Think about dragging shoulders down and back and lifting the heart up toward the ceiling. Hold this positioning, focusing on deeply scooping abs, for 1 minute.
Tip: Let your gaze rest a couple inches in front of your face. This will help keep your head and neck lengthened and in line with your spine.
Start in forearm plank. Dip one hip down toward mat. Lift hip back up to centered forearm plank. Dip the other hip down toward the mat. Come back to center. Do 20 full reps (one rep is a hip dip to the right and a hip dip to the left).
Tip: Scoop the abdominals in deeply throughout exercise—this movement helps tighten and strengthen the transverse abs and obliques, which will cinch your waist and help strengthen and support the entire core.
Start lying on your side with knees slightly bent and feet staggered, one in front of the other. Rest the bottom hand under the shoulder and top arm bent along the legs. Now lift hips up and straighten legs, reaching that top arm up overhead. Lower hips and top arm back down to starting position. That's one rep; do eight, then repeat on the other side.
Tip: Think about cinching the waist in as you lift your hips by tightening the core muscles.
Start lying on your back with knees drawn into the chest. Curl head and chest up and place hands stacked like a pillow behind head. Extend legs up toward ceiling. Now lower legs down together toward 45-degree angle. Lift legs back up toward ceiling. That's one rep; do 15.
Tip: Imagine a zipper under your navel. Lift your legs as if you’re zipping the zipper—that will help keep your abdominals working and not your lower back.
Rolling Like A Ball
Sit at the front of the mat with knees bent and hands holding on to the outside of the ankles. Curl head and chest forward in toward knees. Now scoop abdominals in deeply, then rock back only to the tips of your shoulder blades (not to the head or neck). Rock back up to seated position. That's one rep; do 10.
Tip: Think about scooping abs in so deeply your body moves—use those abs more than momentum!