Core Exercises

TheActiveTimes.com

Everyone wants to wear the fitness badge of honor – a six pack. The good news is that everyone has it; it's just hidden beneath all the fat. The bad news is that toning the muscles and losing the extra inches off your waist is actually hard work and takes a lot of determination.

"I see people approaching it in a way that rarely yields results," Dustin Bogle, a fitness expert at Fit Body Boot Camp, says. "Performing hundreds and even thousands of crunches in an effort to trim your midsection can be a huge waste of time."

Crunches put too much pressure on your neck and lower back. That's even why they are one of the exercises doctors will never do. Back pain can occur from too much flexion in the spine and from the many repetitions.

Best Core Exercises You're Not Doing ... But Should

Side Plank
 

Variations Of Planks

"Planks work the entire abdominal wall," Schultz says. You use your own bodyweight to maintain the stability of your entire core, which is exactly what core muscles are supposed to do, and prevent back pain. They are some of the hardest abs exercises; however, people don't usually do anything but the standard version. More effort is needed for a killer core.

Stability Ball Pulses
 

Stability Ball Pulses

Some trainers recommend stability ball pulses as part of an effective upper body and core workout. They are also called prone plank pulses. Place elbows and forearms under the shoulders in the middle of a stability ball. Squeeze your glutes and tighten the abs. Lift your body off the floor with toes and forearms holding you up. Push hips toward the ceiling. Hold at top of the motion for a moment.

Deadlifts
 

Deadlifts

You can work abs on every exercise by bracing them. "Activate your core while you perform squats, presses or deadlifts and you will have sore abs for a couple days," Bogle says. Deadlift is effective for losing fat because it's intense. Hold bar or dumbbells at hip level; lower bar as you move butt back and keep back straight at all times, then return to original position pushing hips forward to stand.

Boat Pose Knee Extensions
 

Boat Pose Knee Extensions

This is also an isometric ab exercise that includes a dynamic component for the lower-ab muscles. Start in boat pose with your calves parallel to the ground. Gently lower the tips of your feet to the ground by flexing your knees. Tap the ground very lightly and then immediately extend your knees to return to the starting position. Repeat for 15-60 seconds.

Bird Dog
 

Bird Dog

It may not look like much, but this exercise will really work out your core. Get on all fours. Back should always be straight. Reach with one hand and extend the opposite leg. Engage abs to maintain balance. Hold for a few seconds and switch. Repeat each side about 15 times. Try a Bird Dog plank, which is more challenging because you're relying on toes for support as opposed to your knee.

Russian Twists
 

Russian Twists

Russian twists are superior and more intense than crunches. It targets oblique muscles. It's ideal for people who are new at working out and want to target their core. Sit and bend legs at the knees. Assume a V-shape from. Fully extend arms. Twist torso to each side and keep arms parallel to the floor as you hold a medicine ball. Move hands to opposite hip but don't let shoulder blades drop.

Leg Raises
 

Leg Raises

Lower-leg raises are great for the abs. McLean says. They are a great beginner's strength exercise. "I like lowering the opposite leg to the ground because it's low intensity," he adds. Make it a little more challenging by adding weight by holding a dumbbell in between your feet.

U-Ups
 

U-Ups

Begin lying on back with arms extended over your head. Keep core tight and engage ab muscles to lift upper body off the ground, while also lifting legs as high as you can to form an imaginary U shape. Pause for a beat and then slowly return to starting position. Reach fingers toward your toes for a V-shape exercise, which is also very difficult.

Burpees
 

Burpees

This is one of the best exercises. It's difficult but that's no reason to skip it. Begin standing, do 2-4 squats, and then place hands on the ground or on elevated step or box. Walk -- don't jump -- feet back until you're in plank position. Hold for 5 seconds and complete 2-4 push-ups. Hold plank again. Walk or step your feet wider than your hands and hold low squat position (hips down chest up).

Lifting Weights With One Arm
 

Lifting Weights With One Arm

Performing an exercise with the arms doesn't mean the core is not activated. "I like lifting with one arm at a time," McLean says. When you work one hand, arm or a leg at a time, the opposite side has to stabilize so you don't bend, which means your side muscles are hard at work, he adds.

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The abs and obliques are difficult to tone because of the visceral adiposity. "We carry most of our fat first around the organs to protect them," according to Tanner Schultz, personal trainer and owner at Functional Fitness. "This hides our abs."

Rotational ab work is vital, Scultz says. "Just do a variety planks, crunches, and full range of motion work, like full sit-ups or reverse sit-ups," he says. "Most people do not do enough variety when working the mid-section."

For the complete list of Best Core Exercises You're Not Doing ... But Should, go to TheActiveTimes.com.

More From The Active Times:
-- Easiest Daily Workouts To Tone Up Fast
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-- Flat Abs Without A Single Crunch, Plank Or Burpee
-- 16 Ineffective Exercises You Should Never Do