Firm your core

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Working the core might sound like something only an elite athlete or someone who wants six-pack abs would do -- but think again. Your core is made up of the muscles that stabilize your torso, including the muscles of your abdominals, back and pelvis. It protects you from injury and back pain, and improves your balance. Here are four exercises to help firm your core.

"All your movements initiate from your core, so it’s important for those muscles to be strong. That’s important in sports, but it’s also important in daily activities," according to NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist Paul Killian.

Start by doing one set of each exercise, and work up to three or four sets three to four times a week.


Start position: Lie on your stomach with your arms extended in front of you and your legs straight behind you.

Movement: Keeping legs and arms straight, lift your arms, chest and legs a few inches off the floor. Pause; lower. Note: As you lift, look at the floor so that you don’t strain your neck.

Perform: Eight to 12 reps

Variation: Lift your right arm and left leg off the floor; hold. Switch arm/leg combination. 


Start position: Lie face down, resting on your forearms.

Movement: Push off the floor, raising onto toes and resting on elbows. Keep your body in a straight line, back flat, abs tight, and don’t allow your rear end to stick up. Lower.

Perform: Hold for 20 to 60 seconds. 

Standing side bends

Start position: Stand with feet hip-distance apart, holding a five-pound dumbbell in your right hand.

Movement: Face forward and smoothly slide weight down your right thigh, feeling a stretch in your opposite side. Return to starting position. Repeat on other side.

Perform: Eight to 12 reps each side

Ball walkout

Start position: Kneel on floor with your torso resting on a stability ball, hands on the floor just in front of the ball.

Movement: Slowly walk your hands forward, until your shins are resting on the ball, and your hands are under your shoulders. Keep back flat, tighten your abs and keep your head an extension of the spine. Hold this position for 10 seconds, then walk the hands back to starting position.

Perform: Eight to 12 reps

Variations: Beginners, walk hands out until your thighs are resting on the ball. For more of a challenge, rest only your toes on the ball.