"Core muscles are often misinterpreted as just the abdominal muscles," says The Peninsula Manila trainer Argie Samson. They are definitely more than that. "Core muscles include the pelvic floors mucles, the abdominal muscles, the back muscles, and the diaphragm," he adds.

Athletes, in particular, would benefit from core muscle training as the strength it takes for them to perform their best comes from the center of the body and not from the limbs alone. Working women, however, would find a more practical use for core muscle training. According to Argie, a strong core may reduce back pain--a dilemma all desk-chained employees are familiar with.

It also helps improve postural imbalances. "Ang pinaka function ng core muscles is to stabilize the thorax and pelvis during movement kasi kailangan very stable 'yan when you move the limbs, para mas makagalaw siya, para mas may power 'yung limbs," Argie advises.

Below is the first set of core exercises you can try for yourself.

1. V-SITS


Step 1: Slightly lean backward on both hands while raising your hips to form a V shape.


Step 2: Extend your legs forward but keep them a few inches above the ground. Repeat.

Difficulty rating: 5/5

2. BASIC CRUNCHES


Step 1: Lie down on the mat with knees bent and your feet flat (and a bit apart).  Slightly raise your shoulder blades and extend your arms to try and reach for the knees.


Step 2: Lower your upper body but don't lie back down completely. Repeat.

Difficulty rating: 2/5

3. REVERSE CRUNCHES (works on your lower abs)


Step 1: Lie down on the floor with your arms at the sides. Raise both legs up and keep your knees slightly bent.


Step 2: Maintain your position but try to lift your hips. Repeat.

4. SQUIRM (for the obliques or side muscles)


Step 1: Lie down on the mat with knees bent. Your feet should also be flat and wide apart on the mat. Swing your body to try to reach for your ankles. Alternate between left and right feet.

5. BICYCLE ABS


Step 1: Lie down on the mat with both hands behind your head. Raise your hips up, but keep your knees bent.


Step 2: Twist your upper body to the side. Steer your left elbow downward to meet your raised right knee. Do the same for the other side.

Difficulty level: 2/5

(All watermarked photos courtesy of Mike Dee; flashbox photo by lululemon athletica via Flickr Creative Commons)

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