Here’s some of the hottest scoop you’ll read this summer: 6-pack or not, a strong core is essential.  Even though the paparazzi love to catch those unflattering belly shots while celebs frolic on the beach and lounge by the pool,  it’s more important to show ’em what we’ve really got going on: a healthy body.

Having a strong core is essential – not just for your own red carpet moments, but for spine health, balance, and overall physical fitness.  Picking up a small child, lifting bags of groceries, having proper posture at our desk – it all starts with the core.

So what IS your Core?  We checked in with OrthoCarolina to shed some light.  Think of your core as your nucleus, your center, your middle, your tummy, your spine = technically, it’s the area of the body located between the pelvic floor and the diapragm.

Those “six-pack” muscles, or vanity muscles, are the pretty ones we always hope for, but your core also includes small, deep, endurance based muscles that surround the spine, as well as, large powerful back muscles that enable you to move and lift properly to avoid injury.  You can, in fact, have a strong & healthy core with no 6 pack to show for it at all.

(Belly fat, getting it and getting rid of it, is another topic for another day…).

The core includes the muscles of your lower back, your pelvic floor, and your hips as well. There are over 15 of these muscles, and they even include the diaphragm, a core breathing muscle!

OrthoCarolina’s Core Guide explains how they all work together:

  • Rectus abdominis: sheet of muscle tissue running from your breastbone down to your pelvis.
  • External obliques: muscles running back to front from your ribs to your hips.
  • Internal obliques: muscles running front to back from your ribs to your hips
  • Transverses abdominis: deep muscles underneath the obliques

When you put all these muscles together, they form the core of your movement patterns. This is why a movement like the squat to overhead press is the perfect core training exercise. If the core muscles are weak, you can’t breathe as deeply, lift as much weight, or move quickly. You must work all areas of your core to protect and stabilize the spine, THEN you can work on those ABS!

Back pain and injury don’t go well with a cute swim suit, so before doing 1000 sit-ups to head to that pool party, let’s look at some pilates-based exercises from Real Simple that will strengthen the core muscles properly:

1) Knee-fold tuck:

Instructions here.

2) Climbing Rope:

Instructions here.

3) Side Balance Crunch:

Instructions here.

4) Circle Plank:

Instructions here.

5) Sliding Plank:

Instructions here.

6) Oblique Reach:

Instructions here.

There. Work-out is done.  Time to sit back, order an adult beverage, apply some more sunscreen and read this OrthoCarolina Core Guide. And I say, if after we look a little better in our cute bathing-suit, even better.