There are many definitions of what comprises the “core” but at it most basic: it is the “box”: the “axial” skeleton of the body; the trunk without extremities. So your core encompasses much more than your abdominals – it includes vital muscles that support the hips, torso, shoulders and back.

The “core” is the basis behind all movement in the body. When neglected, this significant group of muscles is the reason so many people have painful hip, back and rotator cuff problems. It is therefore rather important that your core be given equal attention in training as more “visible and flashy” parts of the body.

Here are a few exercises that can strengthen your core and can be performed any place with little to no equipment.

Isometric (holding) planks – works deepest abdominal muscles, spine extensors

Come on to your forearms and toes (lift knee caps, push chest up filling the shoulders, do not let the lower back arch, keep the butt muscles high and the stomach drawn in and shoulders over your elbows).

If this kind of a plank is already part of your routine, try lifting one arm or one leg and holding (make sure your hips stay level!). Push your time limit while keeping proper form.

Back extensions – works spinal extensors and gluteus

You can perform this exercise in a multitude of ways. Simply lying face down on the ground with arms and legs extended and lift the extremities with each exhalation. You should think about getting long, rather then lift high; you should not be crunching your lower back . The biceps should be in line with the ears with the stomach drawn in.

Leg Lowers – work ship flexors, lower abdominals

Lie on your back with legs raised straight to sky/ceiling, begin to lower (it is very important to have your back fully supported either by imprinting into the floor or by placing the hands under the lower back). You don’t have go “super low” – the mere fact that you are lowering the legs will activate the right muscles.

Hula hoop – believe it or not, this is an excellent way to strengthen your core muscles!!!!

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart in an athletic position, with the hula hoop around your hips.

Begin with a quick forward and backwards rocking motion at your hips as fast as possible while keeping the hoop swinging around your hips. Keep your movement slight and focused on contracting your core muscles. The lighter the hoop the more you will have to work to keep it at your hips.

15 minutes 3-4 times a week is ideal. As you can see, it does not take much to develop a strong healthy core.

Not only will a strong core support all movement in your body, protecting you from back and other pains, but regular effort can also give you a slim, cut and defined look – what a great side benefit that is!