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A sleek six-pack looks great in a two-piece, but the benefits of a strong core extend way beyond your annual beach trip. Your core is composed of some of the most important muscle groups in the body: It’s your center of gravity, your most powerful asset, and it’s involved in almost every movement you make, both in and out of the gym. But you don’t need to spend hours at your local Equinox doing a hundred crunches a day to boast a beautiful midsection. Real results are possible if you commit to incorporating a few strategic moves into your existing routine.

But What Are the Benefits of Core Exercises?

Great question. We reached out to L.A. personal trainer Danny Saltos to shed some light on why working our core is so important. “You can’t have a sturdy building without a strong foundation,” he tells us. “A strong core creates the power needed to hit a tennis ball, swing a baseball bat, throw a football, mop the floor, clean out the garage, pick up a toddler, plus a million other movements.” With more than a decade of experience in the fitness space, Saltos is the secret behind the rock-solid abs of some of your favorite Instagram influencers, like Jen Atkin, Camila Coelho and Aimee Song. But the benefits of a strong core go way beyond selfie envy. “Core exercises can help prevent injury, improve posture, increase balance and improve stability.” Ever had to deal with back pain? A weak core could be to blame. This study showed a significant reduction in lower back pain after just two weeks of core stabilization exercises (whoa). It even found core work to be more effective than physical therapy when it came to treating lower back pain. That’s the power of a plank, people.

Ready to fire up those abs? Pick five of your favorite exercises from the list below and complete two rounds of the recommended number of reps for each move. If you’re not sure where to start, try the five starred exercises our resident trainer Danny loves the most (plank, side plank with rotation, deadbug, bicycle crunch and leg lifts). If you’re a total newbie, get familiar with these new moves by incorporating them into your workout routine at least once a week. At your own pace, increase the frequency until you’re strong enough to take them on three times a week.

RELATED: 12 Free Weight Exercises You Can Do in Your Living Room

best core workouts plank
Digital Art by Sofia Kraushaar

1. Plank

Step 1: Begin on all fours in a push-up position. Place your forearms on the floor with your elbows directly below your shoulders. Clasp your hands together in front of you or keep your palms flat on the floor.

Step 2: Engage your leg muscles to help stabilize your body. Contract your abs to keep your lower back lifted. Keep your butt as low as possible without arching your back. To avoid unnecessary strain on your neck and spine, concentrate your gaze on a spot about a foot beyond your hands.

Step 3: Adjust as needed and get comfortable. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and release.

best core workouts spiderman plank
Digital Art by Sofia Kraushaar

2. Spider-Man Plank

Step 1: Begin on all fours in a push-up position. Place your forearms on the floor with your elbows directly below your shoulders. Clasp your hands together in front of you or keep your palms flat on the floor.

Step 2: Engaging your abs, bring your left knee up to your left elbow, extending it as far forward as possible. Return to the starting position.

Step 3: Bring your right knee up to your right elbow, extending it as far forward as possible. Return to the starting position.

Step 4: Complete 10 reps on each leg. Rest and repeat.

best core workouts plank jacks
Digital Art by Sofia Kraushaar

3. Plank Jacks

Step 1: Begin on all fours in a push-up position. Place your forearms on the floor with your elbows directly below your shoulders. Clasp your hands together in front of you or keep your palms flat on the floor.

Step 2: Engaging your core, jump your legs out wide and then back together as if you were doing a jumping jack. Keep your gaze forward and your pelvis steady.

Step 3: Complete 20 reps. Rest and repeat.

best core workouts plank to downward dog taps
Digital Art by Sofia Kraushaar

4. Plank to Downward Dog Taps

Step 1: Begin on all fours in a push-up position with your feet hip-width apart.

Step 2: Engaging your core, lift your butt up and back, straightening your legs to downward dog. Simultaneously extend your left arm toward your right foot, reaching back as far as you can.

Step 3: Return to a push-up position and again flow through to downward dog. This time, extend your right arm toward your left foot, reaching back as far as you can.

Step 4: Complete 10 reps on each leg (20 total). Rest and repeat.

best core workouts side plank with rotation
Digital Art by Sofia Kraushaar

5. Side Plank with Rotation

Step 1: Begin in a side plank position, with your right shoulder over your right elbow and your legs extended out with your feet stacked on top of each other. Maintain this position and extend your left arm up toward the ceiling.

*This is a workout in and of itself, but to take it up a notch we’re going to add a rotation.

Step 2: Twist your torso forward and thread your arm beneath your body, extending it back behind you. Return to the starting position.

Step 3: Complete 10 reps on each side (20 total). Rest and repeat.

best core workouts bird dogs
Digital Art by Sofia Kraushaar

6. Bird Dog

Step 1: Begin on all fours with your knees hip-width apart and your hands placed directly below your shoulders.

Step 2: Extend your left arm forward while simultaneously extending your right leg back until it’s straight. Keep both your extended arm and leg in line with your torso while your hips stay square to the ground. Engage your core to keep your lower back from arching. Pause, return to the starting position, switch sides and repeat.

Step 3: Complete 10 reps on each leg (20 total). Rest and repeat.

best core workouts deadbugs
Digital Art by Sofia Kraushaar

7. Deadbug

Step 1: Lie on your back with your arms and legs in the air, knees bent to form a 90-degree angle.

Step 2: Maintaining contact between the floor and your lower back (this is key), slowly extend your left arm overhead and your right leg forward until your heel is an inch or two above the surface. Engage your core to refrain from arching your lower back. Pause, return to the starting position, switch sides and repeat.

Step 3: Complete 15 reps on each side (30 total). Rest and repeat.

best core workouts bicycle crunch
Digital Art by Sofia Kraushaar

8. Bicycle Crunch

Step 1: Lie on your back with your legs out straight in front of you. Interlace your fingers behind your head.

Step 2: Bring your left knee in toward your chest and lift your shoulder blades up off the floor. Bring your right elbow toward your left knee, crunching up and twisting slightly. Keep the grip behind your head loose and do not pull on your neck. Switch sides and repeat.

Step 3: Complete 10 reps on each leg (20 total). Rest and repeat.

best core workouts leg lift
Digital Art by Sofia Kraushaar

9. Leg Lifts

Step 1: Lie on your back with your legs out straight in front of you. Place your hands, palms down, directly below your butt or on the floor beside you.

Step 2: Lift both legs up off the floor. Engage your core to keep your lower back firmly on the floor. Pull your navel in as you lift up. Slowly lower to the floor and repeat.

Step 3: Complete 20 reps. Rest and repeat.

best core workouts windshield wipers
Digital Art by Sofia Kraushaar

10. Windshield Wipers

Step 1: Lie on your back with your legs straight up in the air at a 90-degree angle. Spread your arms out to your sides for support.

Step 2: Rotate your legs to the right, stopping a few inches above the floor. Keep your left shoulder anchored to the floor as you use your obliques to pull your legs back up. Rotate to the left side and repeat.

Step 3: Complete 6 reps on each leg (12 total). Rest and repeat.

best core workouts russian twists
Digital Art by Sofia Kraushaar

11. Russian Twists

Step 1: Begin in a seated position with your legs bent. Lean back slightly so your torso and thighs form a V shape, engaging your core to keep your back, shoulders and head lifted. Lift your feet off the ground and cross your ankles.

Step 2: As you balance, use your obliques to twist your torso from side to side. Keep your legs as still as possible.

Step 3: Complete 15 reps on each side (30 total) and repeat.

best core workouts toe taps
Digital Art by Sofia Kraushaar

12. Toe Touches

Step 1: Lie on your back with your legs straight up in the air at a 90-degree angle (add a slight bend in your knees if needed). Extend your arms up above your head.

Step 2: Using your abs, lift your shoulder blades off the floor and crunch up, as if your fingers were trying to touch your toes. Use your abs to return to the starting position (don’t just flop down).

Step 3: Complete 20 reps. Rest and repeat.

best core workouts straight leg sit ups with a twist
Digital Art by Sofia Kraushaar

13. Straight-Leg Sit-Ups with a Twist

Step 1: Lie on your back with your legs hip-width apart straight out in front of you. Extend your arms up overhead until they hit the floor.

Step 2: Use your abs to crunch up, bringing your shoulder blades and lower back up off the floor. Extend your right arm over to your left leg for a small twist. Use your abs to return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

Step 3: Complete 10 reps on each leg (20 total). Rest and repeat.

best core workouts high boat to low boat
Digital Art by Sofia Kraushaar

14. High Boat to Low Boat

Step 1: Begin in a seated position with your legs bent. Lean back slightly so your torso and thighs form a V shape, engaging your core to keep your back, shoulders and head lifted. Lift your feet off the floor and balance on your tailbone. Reach your arms straight out in front of you. This is your high boat.

Step 2: Lower your legs, straightening them while simultaneously lowering your upper body. Your legs and shoulder blades should both hover a few inches off the floor at your most extended point. This is your low boat. Use your abs to return to the starting position. This is 1 rep.

Step 3: Complete 10 reps. Rest and repeat.

best core workouts lateral toe touch crunch
Digital Art by Sofia Kraushaar

15. Heel Taps

Step 1: Lie on your back with your legs bent and your feet firmly planted on the floor a few inches away from your butt.

Step 2: Use your abs to crunch up, bringing your shoulder blades up off the floor. Place your arms on either side of your legs and extend them forward. Use your obliques to rotate from side to side, lightly tapping the outside of each heel with your hands.

Step 3: Complete 15 reps on each side (30 total). Rest and repeat.

RELATED: 12 Arm Workouts for Women That Require Zero Equipment

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