Special Health Reports

Core Exercises: 5 workouts to tighten your abs, strengthen your back, and improve your balance

The importance of your core

Why strengthen your core?

Major core muscles

Beyond muscles

Before you start: Safety first

When to check with a doctor

12 tips for exercising safely and effectively

Posture, alignment, and angles: Striking the right pose

Posture checks

Stay neutral

Get the angle

Getting started

Which workout should you do?

How does core work fit into your exercise plans?

Finding the time

The right stuff: Choosing equipment

Terminology used in the workouts

Measuring gains

Standing Core Workout

Standing Core Workout

Floor Core Workout

Floor Core Workout

Medicine Ball Workout

Medicine Ball Workout

Stability Ball Workout

Stability Ball Workout

Bosu Workout

Bosu Workout

Finish with stretches


Special Section: Setting goals, motivating yourself, and maintaining gains

Choose a goal


Motivate yourself

Make your commitment

Take it up a notch

Maintain your gains

Improve your game






Dear Reader,

Core exercise has received a lot of publicity — most of the time for helping you flatten your belly or get washboard abs to show off on the beach. But there are many more reasons to pay attention to your core. Want to improve your running, swimming, golf, or tennis performance? Want to improve your posture, so you look younger and actually feel better? Want to build up your balance and stability so that you’re less likely to fall? Want to make everyday acts like bending, turning, and reaching easier so that housework, fix-it projects, and gardening stay on your agenda? A strong, flexible core underpins all of these activities — and it’s the secret to sidestepping a lot of debilitating back pain. In short, core work is for everyone, no matter what age or fitness level.

Core muscles go far beyond the readily recognized “six-pack” abs that swimsuit models sport. Your core includes back, side, pelvic, and buttock muscles as well. It forms a sturdy central link between your upper and lower body. Much like the trunk of a young tree, core muscles need to be strong, yet flexible. A weak or inflexible core impairs how well your arms and legs function, draining power from many of the movements you make.

Many people start working on their core by doing sit-ups or crunches. However, these are not the most effective moves for strengthening and toning your core. They target only one small part of your core — and instead of protecting your back, sit-ups may actually contribute to back or neck injuries. For this reason, this report focuses instead on core workouts that work all of your core muscles. You can also do them on your own with little or no equipment, simply by following the instructions and photos in this report.

Our five core workouts feature exercises that facilitate moves you make during everyday life and sports. We’ve skipped standard crunches in favor of more effective exercises designed to strengthen more than one muscle group at a time. All of the exercises can be made easier or harder, depending on your current level of core fitness. We’ll show you how to set achievable goals. Twenty to 40 minutes a few times a week — or even just five minutes a day — is all the time you need.

So flip through the pages of this report. Learn how core work can help you enjoy sports and daily activities, engage in the tasks you need to do with greater ease, and retain independence.


Lauren E. Elson, M.D.Medical Editor

Michele StantenFitness Consultant

The authors would like to acknowledge Edward M. Phillips, M.D., and master trainers Josie Gardiner and Joy Prouty, who created the original version of this report.

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