The dream of washboard abs is probably the ultimate reason why you suffer through long planks and endless situps. But along the way to that six-pack, you'll see even bigger benefits. Here are eight great reasons to stay motivated on ab day. And once you're sufficiently motivated, do these best abs exercises.
1. OWN YOUR SPORT
Core training makes you a better athlete in just about any strength or speed sport, says Dr Stuart McGill, a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo. That's because a strong core lets you transfer more power to your limbs so you can punch harder, smash a drive farther, and kick a ball with more force.
2. BOOST BALANCE
"A strong core keeps your torso in a more stable position whenever you move, whether you're playing sports or just doing chores," says sports medicine specialist Dr Christopher Mendler. That helps you avoid injury and makes your movements more efficient. Test your balance: Stand on one leg with your arms extended. If you last 60 seconds, you pass.
3. BEAT BACK PAIN
A core-training program can both prevent and control lowerback pain, Canadian research suggests. If you've had back trouble, you'll be better off doing core exercises that keep you still (like side planks) than moves where you fully flex your spine (like situps). Side planks, bird dogs, and curlups are also great alternatives.
4. STAND TALLER
Core training, specifically Pilates, can help you stand up straight. Men who took three hourlong Pilates sessions a week for eight weeks saw significant improvement on a postural stability test, a study in Isokinetics and Exercise Science found.