September 17, 2014

A six-pack may look strong, but looks can be deceiving. If you're focusing only on the muscles you can see in the mirror, like the rectus abdominus and the obliques, you may be setting yourself up for bad posture and lower back pain. For a strong, functional, and attractive core, you also need to include exercises that strengthen deeper muscles, like the transverse abdominis, or back muscles, like the erector spinae group and the latissimus dorsi.

Stop ignoring these crucial parts of your core with a more balanced approach today. To keep your lower back feeling as good as your abs look, add in exercises that focus on stability and mobility.

With the exception of the plank, do 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 22 reps of each exercise.

Bird dog: This exercise serves as a great way to gently get the core engaged for other exercises. Get in all-fours position on a mat. Extend right arm forward, reaching fingertips in front of you as you extend left leg, reaching heel behind you. As you move, draw belly button in like you are trying to pull it into spine (this helps engage the transverse abdominis, the deep muscle band that runs around your midsection). Return to starting position and repeat with left arm and right leg. Continue, alternating.

Stability ball roll-out: Kneel on a mat with a stability ball in front of you as close to you as possible. Place hands in prayer position on the ball, close to body. Roll the ball out in front of you while keeping hips locked into position so body forms a straight line from knee to shoulder. Stop when the ball is under forearms, and then reverse the movement without bending hips. Not only are you working your stabilizing transverse abdominis, but you're also engaging your latissimus dorsi.

Superman: Lie facedown with arms stretched out straight above head. Squeeze glutes (which also play a part in low back health) and low back to lift knees and chest off the mat, like Superman taking off. Return to starting position with control.

Plank: Pick your version based on your fitness level. I like the forearm version personally, holding up to 1 minute.

Windshield wiper: This exercise does work your obliques, but it also helps with mobility and flexibility in your low back. Lie faceup with feet off the floor and knees over hips, bent at a 90-degree angle. Place arms out to side at shoulder height, palms facing the ground. Rotate knees to left side, keeping right shoulder pinned to the ground. (Only go as far as you can without right shoulder coming up.) Return to starting position and repeat on the right sight, keeping our left shoulder down. Continue, alternating sides.

Don't let your midsection be just for show. Have the strength to back it up while staying pain free!

Now, refuel with Pumpkin Spice Protein Balls.

By Pamela Hernandez, certified personal trainer and health coach for