Core workouts, also called ab or belly workouts, are meant to improve strength throughout the stomach, hips, and buttocks. A strong and flexible core can improve overall body strength, increase muscle tone, and reduce the chances of injury or strain. There are many different types of core workouts, which can be a great thing, as many health experts recommend doing a variety of different workouts in order to stave off boredom and work the whole area efficiently.
Certain forms of exercise include core moves as a major part of the workout philosophy. Pilates, for instance, often focuses heavily on core exercise, as core strength helps exercisers perform many different moves better. Pilates core workouts often include both aerobic and anaerobic exercises to strengthen the area. Common Pilates exercises include boat, which is done from the ground, with legs and chest held off the ground at approximately 45 degree angles, making the body into a “V” shape. Pilates also includes different types of crunches, such as bicycle sit-ups or small pulsing sit-ups with the legs held at 90 degrees from the ground.
Similar to Pilates, yoga core workouts feature a mix of aerobic moves and anaerobic stretches and holds to provide a balanced program. Yoga core workouts often include props, such as exercise balls. Great core workouts can be accomplished with a stability ball, as sitting or lying on the ball to perform moves makes the body work harder because of reduced stability. Both Pilates and yoga offer core workouts that work the entire core area, including the lower back, hips, butt, and upper thighs. While these workouts may not provide six-pack abs in 30 days, they can benefit the whole body by improving overall strength and muscle tone.
Some core workouts are grueling sets of abdominal exercises meant to whittle and define the waist and stomach as quickly as possible. Difficult core routines are often popular just before the weather gets warm, when they may be marketed as bikini or swimsuit workouts. These workouts will often focus on performing many different types of crunches or sit-ups in succession, and sometimes require that the exercise be done until muscles fail, rather than a specific number of repetitions. When engaging in hard-core ab workouts, be sure to work in some bicycle crunches or mermaid sit-ups to work the side muscles, as well as the main stomach area.
When training to gain muscle definition, it is important to remember that all the sit-ups in the world will not translate to defined abs if there is fat over the stomach area. In order to achieve definition, fat must be burned as muscles are strengthened, which is why core exercises are usually combined with cardiovascular training and diets. However, a strong and stable core may be more important to overall fitness than a defined abdomen. By reducing the chance of injury and ensuring proper posture during exercise, a strong core can allow exercisers to be consistent and efficient with any workout routine, without interruptions due to injury or muscle strain.