Not Just a 6-Pack: How to Train a Strong Core

STACK Expert Chris Costa details the muscles of the core and recommends a weekly exercise plan to train all of them.

Ab Wheel Roll Out

Most people associate core strength with the washboard abs they see in magazines. However, a set of 6-pack abs is just a byproduct of a strong core. Core strength is essential for athletes because it is the body's center of strength.

The abdominal region consists of several muscles: the rectus abdominis, serratus anterior, linea alba, exterior and interior obliques and transverse abdominus. Each muscle has its own primary function, and achieving maximum core strength requires training all of them. Many athletes make the mistake of solely focusing on their rectus abdominis (the 6-pack muscles). But by training the other muscles, you will create even more definition. (For more information, see Core Strength: Not Just the Abdominal Muscles.)

So how should you train these muscles? For a five-day a week program, pick a different muscle to train each day. Pick one to two exercises that train that specific muscle and do three to four sets of 12 to 15 repetitions. No need to do 30-plus reps; if you do the exercise right, trust me, 15 reps will be tiring.

For example, let's say the muscle today is the rectus abdominis. Grab a Swiss ball and complete Controlled Crunches. Focus on the contraction and follow a 1-3-1 rhythm—1 second to crunch, 3 seconds to release the muscle to start position, and 1 second to rest before the next rep.

Each muscle group has specific exercises that work well to strengthen them. To get the most out of your workout, pick your exercises for each day and do them with good form. By doing exercises that work on different muscles, you will improve your overall core strength.

Here are a few core exercises for you to try:

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