On television and in magazines, abdominal muscles are all about image: We see models with “washboard abs,” donned in the hippest workout clothes, with just the right amount of glistening sweat. But the real benefit of strengthening your abdominal muscles isn’t aesthetic — it’s functional. “Having a strong core makes everything easier,” notes Cleveland Clinic fitness specialist Ryan Sidak. “From lifting something (or someone!) to twisting, or even gardening, it all begins from the core.” Build a strong center by doing these exercises two or three times a week: Low plank.
This exercise targets both abdominal muscles and spinal erectors, muscles near the lumbar region of the spine that contribute to core strength. Stretch out on a mat or rug, face down, and rise up onto your toes and forearms. Your elbows should be bent at a 90-degree angle in line with your shoulders. Squeeze your glutes and suck your belly button toward your spine. Maintain a straight line from the crown of your head to your heels. Aim for 20 seconds to start, and increase by 10 seconds at a time to make it more difficult. Superman.
This exercise tones the lumbar region of the spine. On a rug or yoga mat, lay on your stomach with your feet together and your arms reaching out above your head. Simultaneously raise your left arm and right leg, keeping your neck aligned with your spine. Hold for two to three seconds, then relax and switch sides. Alternate sides, completing 8 to 10 reps per side.