<div class="wsite-youtube" style="margin-bottom:10px;margin-top:10px;"><div class="wsite-youtube-wrapper wsite-youtube-size-auto wsite-youtube-align-center"> <div class="wsite-youtube-container"> <iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/uJKnEF60R1w?wmode=opaque" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> </div> </div></div> <div class="paragraph" style="text-align:left;"> <font size="4">..."97, 98, 99, 100!"<br><br>How many of you have laid on your living room floors doing crunch after crunch only to end up with low-back pain and no "six-pack?" I think most of us have spent time doing crunches at some point in our lives, hoping they prove true of shedding fat off our our stomachs. <br><br>Fortunately, there's a much less painful, and way more productive way to build a strong core than not only looks good, but functions well and keeps your low back free of pain. <br><br>Although a six-pack is a nice bonus to hard work in the gym, the "core" we should all be after is one that keeps our entire body functioning properly for things like squatting to pick up your kids, playing basketball with friends, gardening, exercising without pain, and lifting furniture in our homes. Without strong core stabilizer muscles, you essentially cannot do a squat without back pain.<br><br>I know this for a fact, because it happened to me. <br><br>After my first child was born I completely neglected doing any strength training; something I had consistently done most of my life. In high school I squatted 240 pounds my junior year; I couldn't squat a 45 pound bar in 2015 without intense back pain. My core was gone--which meant my stabilizer muscles for any squat movements were gone. <br><br>I thought maybe it was poor form causing the back pain during squats (I probably had poor form too, due to the fact that my core couldn't stabilize and keep my lower back in a neutral position), but the main reason I couldn't do a squat without back pain was a weak transverse abdominis--the core stabilizer muscles.  <br><br>For the next 6 months I did "air squats", which is just a squat without weights and focused on movements like planks, cable twists, lunges, bridges, and more, that strengthened my core stabilizer muscles along with my glutes. <br><br>Six months later I do a few warm up squats with a 45 pounds barbell on my back, not knowing what to expect in my low back, and I have no pain. I went up to 85 pounds during that first attempt with zero pain in my low back. What a difference a stronger core had made!<br><br>So, how do you strengthen your core and get that "six pack" look without doing crunches? Here are my top 6 favorite exercises I use for myself and clients to strengthen the core. <br><br>Before I recommend my top 6 core building exercises, I will tell you, short workouts with high intensity are my favorite for fat loss, building muscle, and getting those abs you've always wanted. <br><br><strong>                                                          </strong><u><strong>Top 6 Core Building Exercises </strong></u><br><br><strong><font color="#ae40a5">1. </font><a target="_blank" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvxNkmjdhMM"><font color="#ae40a5">Planks</font></a></strong> (and the many, many variations that come with planks)<br><br>On elbows, extended, one leg up, on your side, on your side with both legs up, alternating between front and side, reverse planks facing up, mountain climbers in the plank position, and the list goes on. <br><br>Planks are hands-down the best exercise for strengthening the core stabilizers while giving you the toned stomach you have always wanted. Of course, diet is also KEY! <br><br><strong><font color="#ae40a5">2.</font> <a target="_blank" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gds63hKgRFw"><font color="#ae40a5">Bridges</font></a><font color="#b748ae"> +</font> <a target="_blank" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkV9gc1vUiw"><font color="#ae40a5">Glute Raises</font></a></strong><br><br>The core is much more than the muscles of the 'six pack.' Your glutes (butt), hip flexors, deep core muscles, erector spinae (low back), and pelvic floor operate synergistically as a power house of strength and stability for the rest of your exercises. <br><br>The bridge and glute raise also comes in many forms (both leg, single leg, alternating legs, with or without weights. The bridge, specifically, works to strengthen your entire core plus pelvic floor and glutes, which is a huge plus. <br><br>Most women have an anterior (forward) tilt to their hips, which can cause low-back pain and poor posture. These two exercises specifically target and strengthen muscles that help pull you into a more neutral position. <br><br><strong><font color="#ae40a5">3. </font><a target="_blank" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7Gpjew2Psw"><font color="#ae40a5">Single leg or arm exercises </font></a></strong><br><br>When you do a bench press, try using dumbbells instead of a barbell and only do one arm at a time. This forces you to use your core. Try single leg squats or deadlifts. Do single-leg jump rope instead of both feet. The options are endless! Just make sure you don't use too much weight and arch your back. <br><br><font color="#ae40a5"><strong>4. </strong></font><strong><a target="_blank" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phTCJVnq6nM"><font color="#ae40a5">Exercises on an unstable surface</font></a></strong> (bosu, stability ball, foam pad, etc)<br><br>Instead of doing chest press on a bench, use a stability ball. Step on a bosu ball as you lunge. Run on a trail instead of the road for its unstable surface that constantly challenges your core. Do pushups with one hand on a medicine ball. You get the idea. <br><br><font color="#ae40a5"><strong>5. </strong></font><strong><a target="_blank" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5N3yn4JUozI"><font color="#ae40a5">Deadlifts</font></a></strong> (posterior core; your lower back basically)<br><br>Deadlifts are single-handedly the best exercise to train your lower back muscles to not round whenever you pick up furniture, etc, or do a deadlift.  Basically, this means you are training your spine to stay in that neutral position instead of compensating by arching. <br><br><font color="#ae40a5"><strong><a target="_blank" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwdeKRZ3E6s"><font color="#ae40a5">6. Anti-Rotation Chop Exercises</font></a></strong></font></font><br><br><font size="4">Most of us move in a frontal (forward) or sagittal (side-to-side) plane when doing 90 percent of our workouts; however, in real life we work a lot in the transverse plane (think twisting). Rotation exercises are going to train the core to stabilize you for those everyday life tasks you perform, plus make you strong for your workouts. </font> </div>