Whether you want to nix lower back pain or are dead set on losing belly fat, strengthening your core is a great place to start. As a major muscle group, your core is command central for strength, helps you move your lower and upper body more effectively, and lowers your risk of injury. Many people don’t realize that the core is more than just the abdominal muscles, too. It also includes your lower back and hips.
What are the muscles that make up your core?
“When your core is strong, you can focus on improving range of motion in your hips and the upper part of your back,” says Betina Gozo, Nike master trainer and creator of STRONG with Betina Gozo: Total-Body Fitness In Under 20 Minutes. “When your low back overcompensates for movement, your hips and upper part of your spine lock up and get tight, then you are more prone to injury.”
That’s why we teamed up with Gozo to create this 30-day ab challenge. From your rectus abdominis—the front ab muscles that give you that “flat belly” six-pack look—to the transverse abdominis, which are the deep “corseting” muscles that support your spine, and your obliques, aka your love handles, these core exercises will fire up your middle to help you move better and more safely.
“A lot of these movements require a certain breath, which will help you work your transverse abdominis, the deepest layer of your abs,” Gozo says. “This will help you with your strength training and everyday movements.” Crunches, sit-ups, and planks often come to mind when people think of ab exercises, and while we have plenty of variations of these classic core moves in this 30-day ab challenge, many of the exercises also incorporate functional fitness.