When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Unless you have a rearview mirror strapped to your forehead, it’s likely you notice your front side and your Adonis-like abs or the lack of a sculpted six-pack. What’s interesting is that you don’t need a rearview mirror to know what’s going on behind you. What you see up front is often a direct reflection of what exists in the back. You can’t have super abdominal strength and core control without having strong, stable muscles in your back. All supine crunches all of the time do not equate to killer abs.

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It’s time to flip over to focus on muscular balance. Challenge your back, your abs and all associated muscles to work your core and a well-balanced fitness beast will soon peer at you through the looking glass. Strengthening your erector spinae, latissimus dorsi and other back muscles and associated synergists will allow you to naturally develop good posture which opens your chest for better breathing so all muscles receive oxygen and can grow and be recruited for work.

What’s more, a strong back will allow you to get into positions to execute challenging abdominal work that triggers more muscle fibers than standard crunches. Mobility, stability and strength in your back will allow you to target all abdominal muscles, beyond the rectus abdominis, like the transverse abdominis and obliques. Focusing on the core as a whole will give you the best chance of having a sculpted, stable mid-section that is capable of functional movement and exerting maximal power when you need it.
If you want more for your core, start with these basic moves:

3 Core Exercises That Don’t Require Crunches

1) Forearm Plank

Lie face down on the ground with your palms next to your head. Your elbows should under your shoulders. Tighten your glutes, abdominal muscles and thighs as you lift your body off of the ground. Keep your palms relaxed on the floor with your fingertips facing front. Hold the position as long as you can!

2) Plank Ups

Once you master the perfect plank, try plank-ups to integrate spinal stability with serious arm and ab work. Get into a forearm plank, then place your right palm under your shoulder, then your left so that you rise into a palm supported plank. Then, place your right forearm on the ground followed by your left. Repeat several times before switching it up and leading with your left arm. There are many plank variations out there to explore that benefit your core. Click here to check out this greatest compilation of 47 different ways to plank.

3) Back Extensions

Lie on your stomach. Place your hands next to you like you did for the plank. Slowly lift your upper body off of the ground while tightening your lower back. Return to start. Try it with your hands next to your temples. If that’s easy, try it with your arms extended in front of you like superwoman. If you master that, find a back extension bench in the weight room and give it a try.

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