When you think about the perfect core muscles, what do you imagine? Probably the chiseled, shining abs that adorn the covers of men’s magazines, or maybe your favorite actress in that steamy love scene. From the fitness world to the fashion world, from no real reason to bikini season, achieving the perfect core is always at the center of our fitness goals. And yes, pun intended!

I’m here to break down the ins and outs – what to in-jest and how to work-out – for the perfect core.

Let’s peel back the layers and get straight to the skinny of it. There are a couple muscles you may want to familiarize yourself with before we begin. If you already know these muscles or just want to cut to the chase, feel free to skip ahead to the exercises!

Transverse Abdominis
When it comes to sculpting your core, you need to look deeper than just your six pack, literally. Introducing, Transverse Abdominus; It’s a sheet-like muscle that lays deeper than the Abdominis Rectus (aka the six-pack). This muscle runs from your lower ribs.  down into your hip. You can activate it with a large exhale, or by simply drawing your belly-button in toward your spine. Adding these exercises to your workouts will strengthen this muscle, which tightens your waistline, quickly cutting off the inches.

Obliques and Serratus Anterior
Next stop on our tour d’core are the bodacious beach muscles known as Serratus Anterior, as well as the Internal and External Obliques. While the Serratus helps move the shoulder blades and the Obliques act to stabilize the core, I’ve concluded that their real function is to make us look incredible in our birthday suits. Unfortunately these muscles know they’re sexy so they play hard-to-get; you can only see them at a low body-fat percentage. If you’re willing to show them some TLC, totally legendary conditioning, they’ll come around sooner that later.

Abdominis Rectus
Ah, the Six-Pack, formally known as Abdominis Rectus. This muscle has inspired thousands of inventions, quick-fix diets and workout plans, yet remains sought after by, well, just about everybody. Before you can do laundry on those washboard abs though, we’ll first need to clean up a few dirty myths. Primarily, doing hundreds of crunches won’t help you; abs respond better to higher intensity and shorter repetitions. Secondly, exercises aren’t upper or lower ab specific; the abdominals contract all at once, so gaining definition in the lower ab region is all about lowering your body-fat percentage while growing the muscle.

1. Planks – Long spine, belly button in; neutral chin.
2. Leg Scissors – Start with legs up; hands under your gluts if you feel your lower back.
3. Hollow Holds to V-Sits – Slow and steady; full range of motion.
4. T-Twists – From a push-up position circle one palm up to the ceiling.
5. Pullovers to Ceiling Reaches – Lower back firm into the ground; hands above eyebrows.
6. Beast Pose to Bird-Dogs – Quadruped position; knees 1 inch off floor; extend opposing arm and leg
7. Russian Twists – Controlled movement; straight arms for more challenge.
8. Oblique Crunches – Short, slow range of motion
9. Windshield Wipers – Hands and shoulders firm into the floor; gain control with steady reps


Feature Picture: Model Marija Macesic