fit womans absContributed by Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman

We hear a lot about core strength these days. And there’s a good reason for that. If you’re an average person looking for a way to improve your fitness level, your core muscles are responsible for your posture and your body’s ability to burn fat even when you’re resting.

If you’re an athlete or want to play a sport, core strength is key to effective performance on the field whether you play scoccer, do Parcour or are ready to try out for a team sport.

For years, crunches were touted as the best (or only!) way to work out critical core muscles. But they were often painful and usually boring. And in truth, there are better (and safer) ways to work your abs and back muscles. Here are ten effective methods to bring better fitness into your life without getting down on the floor for situps.

10. Using a kettlebell

kettle bell

Kettlebells aren’t new on the fitness scene, but until recently few people had heard of them. But these bowling-ball sized weights with a handle have become popular with the rise of the crossfit movement. Using kettlebells in a workout forces the body to use all muscle groups, including the core, to maintain balance and to move throughout the workout. Translation: Less workout time, but more impact on overall fitness and core strength.

9. Pilates

pilates class

Whether it’s mat pilates or pilates with machines, this exercise method developed by Joseph Pilates focused on one key idea: control. Control of movement, control of the core and control of the extremities. The result was a model of exercise that placed core strength at the center of the process. Today, this low-impact, highly effective method is still popular for its incredible core-building impact.

8. The right home gym

Bowflex home gym

A home gym can be an effective choice for over-all body fitness and improved core strength. Having the equipment at home lets you work out whenever you can squeeze in a few minutes…no time wasted driving to the gym or waiting for a machine. Do look for a trusted brand with equipment especially designed for core strength…some home gyms are only useful for building arm and leg muscles.

7. Yoga

yoga class

People who have never done yoga usually think of it as a cross between stretching and New Age meditation. But yoga can be a powerful way to get those abs in shape and build critical core strength, too. Not only is it low impact, there is almost no equipment needed. A good yoga class or DVD, a yoga mat and some comfortable clothing is all you need to get started on the road to better fitness…and a better core.

6. Chair exercises

chair exercise

Did you know that you can work on your core strength even while you’re sitting in your chair at work? While they cannot replace a full exercise routine, core-strength building chair exercises can help you squeeze in an effective workout supplement on a busy day.

5. Ballet

ballet class

Have you ever seen a ballet dancer with flabby abs and poor posture? Of course not! And the reason is simple: ballet is a wonderful way to create long, lean and toned bodies with incredible strength, too. But you don’t have to join a troupe to benefit. A local ballet class for adults can be the first step to that powerful dancer’s body you crave. Don your ballet slippers, put on some tights and a leotard and get started!

4. Martial arts

Tai chi group

The martial arts offer yet another path to a toned, strong core. The slow, controlled movements of Tai Chi build strength and grace within a classic martial arts form. Look for a tai chi class in your area or join a practice group that meets in a local park.

3. Balance balls

balance balls

Have you ever tried to sit on a ball without falling to one side or having the ball shoot out from under you? It’s harder than it sounds, and the key is core strength. Using a balance ball in exercise classes or a substitute for an office chair is an effective way to improve your core over time without heavy impact or painful situps and crunches.

2. Balance board

woman on balance board

Originally designed for therapeutic and rehab work, balance boards have gained popularity as tools for building core strength. The way it works is simple. The board rests on a ball or cylinder, and the user needs to keep both ends from touching the floor. This engages key core muscles, and helps build (or rebuild) strength in a fun, low-impact way.

1. Go horseback riding

people riding horses

Most people don’t think of horseback riding as a core-building exercise, but it is. Riding builds strength, improves coordination and supports stability and balance. Of course, an occasional ride won’t do the trick, so arrange for regular trail rides or enroll in a riding class if you want to reap the benefits.

There are so many ways to improve your ab and back strength and fitness. So get up off the floor and start having fun with your workouts!