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By: Katie Verburg

Katie Verburg is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer who is currently studying to become a Holistic Health Coach. She has been in the health and fitness industry for a decade. Here, she reveals why working your abs should go beyond crunches.

Sit-ups, reverse crunches, straight leg lifts, Russian twists and scissor kicks are all examples of the “best” abdominal exercises. Why? The burn we feel during and after these workouts is downright intoxicating. But are these exercises the answer to strengthening our mid-section?

Most abdominal exercises target only one muscle group: the rectus abdominal. Not only that, performing these exercises incorrectly can put a lot of strain on the low back. Our core actually includes all of the muscles in the abdominal area, including the diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles. The core is what is involved as we step up and down stairs, carry groceries, get in and out of the car, and kneel down to tie our shoes. Our core is used daily, which is why it’s so important to keep it strong. 

RELATED: Try Lively's Ab Workout Challenge

Core stabilization exercises help to improve posture, balance, reduces the risk of injuries, and is actually the foundation of the human body. Many people think the legs are the foundation and should be the strongest, when in reality it’s the core. 

ab workouts

Here are a few reasons why core stabilization outweighs those basic crunches: 

  1. By only performing hundreds of crunches and sit-ups, you are excluding other more efficient exercises that better help to build up the abdominal area.
  2. Back discomfort is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s world. Research shows that having a strong core can reduce this discomfort. Weak and unbalanced core muscles cause the back to lose its correct lumbar curve and healthy posture.
  3. The stronger the core muscles, the less slouching that occurs, which as a result puts less wear and tear on your spine and allows you to breathe deeply. The biggest benefit of core training is that it helps develop functional strength. Functional strength is the type of fitness that is essential for regular activities of daily living.

If you’re intrigued, start by doing some core stabilization research of your own from properly educated and knowledgeable resources. Planks, side planks, slow and controlled bicycle kicks, back extensions, stability ball work, as well as yoga and Pilates are all options to incorporate to improve the core muscles.