If you're tight on time or like super-efficient workouts, strengthening your core is the best place to start. Your core (the muscles around your stomach) is responsible for your posture, mobility, and balance, and connects your upper and lower body to improve your workout performance.
Although you can use weights to work your mid-section, there are plenty of equipment-free core strengthening exercises for when you're traveling, away from the gym, or exercising at home. Rolling out a yoga mat can make things a bit more comfortable, but it's not essential.
This short eight-move workout comes from NASM-certified personal trainer Sydney Cummings Houdyshell, who guides you through the entire routine in the video below. Pay close attention to the trainer's movements, and try to copy her technique for each exercise.
This will help you perfect your form to get the most from your training and avoid injury in the long term. It's easy to accidentally arch your back instead of engaging your core, so focus on building the mind-muscle connection and tense the muscles around your stomach to keep your back flat.
Watch Sydney Cummings Houdyshell's abs workout
Despite the terms often being used interchangeably, there is a difference between abs and core training. Your abdominals, which include the rectus abdominis or six-pack muscles, form just part of your core.
So, while developing your abs will help strengthen your core, a more comprehensive core workout like this one will cover a wider range of muscles, such as your spine-supporting transverse abdominis and the internal and external obliques, which power rotational movements.
For many, developing a visible six-pack is a major motivator for tackling abs workouts. However, it's important to note that you can't spot-reduce fat around your stomach. Or, in other words, working muscles in a certain body part like your stomach won't prioritize fat-burn in this area.
Everyone has six-pack muscles, but to make them visible body fat levels need to be lowered to the point that they are exposed. This can be achieved by increasing your daily activity levels and creating a sustainable calorie deficit through your diet, however these aesthetic effects are outweighed by the health benefits of training your core.
Strong core muscles will support good posture, improve your ability to move well, boost your balance and even reduce your risk of injury by taking strain away from your lower back.
If you want the benefits of a stronger core, but prefer exercising with equipment, investing in one of the best abs rollers is a good place to start. These ab wheels won't break the bank but help engage your muscles for an effective core workout you can do when you have a spare moment.
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Lois Mackenzie is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering strength training workouts with weights, accessible ways to stay active at home, and training routines for runners. She joined the team from Newsquest Media Group, where she was a senior sports, trends, and lifestyle reporter. She is a dedicated runner, having just completed her first marathon, and an advocate for spending time outdoors, whether on a walk, taking a long run, or swimming in the sea.
Lois holds a Master's degree in Digital Journalism, and has written for Good Health, Wellbeing & The Great Outdoors, Metro.co.uk, and Newsquest Media Group, where her reporting was published in over 200 local newspapers.
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