Core Means a Whole Lot More Than Just a Tight Stomach

closeup of the defined abs of a woman in workout gear

If you’re into working out, you’ve undoubtedly heard the term “core.” What springs to mind? 

Many people think the body’s core is just the stomach, but this is only part of the whole picture. Certified professional trainer Katie Dunlop explains that your core is “layers of deep muscles that help support your pelvis, spine, butt, back, hips, and stomach.”

There are many exercises that target your core to achieve a tight stomach and support your back. Which ones will yield the best results? Trial and error is going to be your best bet. Bodies are all so different –and that’s a great thing! – so you will have to do some work to learn what specifically works for you.

Before tightening up your abs, it’s a good idea to figure out why you want to trade in your “keg” for a “six pack.”

Are you hoping for that classic yet elusive v-cut? Maybe you just want a flat belly so you look better in (and out of) your clothes. Or perhaps you’ve simply decided it’s time to really focus on you. No matter your reason, the importance of reducing belly fat and strengthening your core goes far beyond improving your physical appearance. 

Not to be overly dramatic, but it can be a matter of a life of relative comfort or extreme pain. If your core is weak, you are much more likely to suffer major injuries to your hips or spine. These types of injuries often require extensive care—including surgery—to repair and even then, you still can suffer from discomfort. 

Strengthening your core muscles is essential for both longevity and in everyday life – especially if you sit at a desk all day. A strong core will help you stay upright when walking, make it easier to lift heavy objects, or even get up from the couch after long hours of sitting. It can even reduce back pain! That’s right: Strengthening exercises are great for targeting the deep abdominal muscles that support your spine.

Whatever your motivation, there are many different ways to achieve your goal. Learn more about what core strength entails and why it is so important before learning a few quick and easy core exercises!

Closeup of the midsections of a very fit couple in bathing suits on the beach

What Is Core Strength?

The center of the body, the core, supports the upper and lower bodily extremities and the spine. As a result, your core is a crucial part of every functional task you perform. A weak core can cause poor posture, back pain, and IT band syndrome in runners, among other issues. 

On the other hand, core strength can help you maintain a firm stance, reduce pain from overuse injuries, and improve your coordination and endurance—all of which are essential to achieving peak performance in any activity.

Core strength exercises target midsection muscles to strengthen the abdomen and prevent injuries. These muscles include the abdominal wall, the rectus abdominis, the back muscles, the glutes, the pelvic floor, and the obliques. 

While focusing on just one muscle group may be tempting, it is essential to remember that the core comprises several smaller muscles, and you need different core exercises in order to effectively target these all of them. 

Why Is Core Strength Essential?

If your goal is to get a flat stomach, you must engage your core muscles. This includes your back muscles, pelvic floor muscles, and diaphragm. Engaging these muscles strengthens your entire core and helps your body stay upright. When you engage your core, you should feel like a solid cylinder in your midsection. Don’t try to squeeze your stomach—this will only lead to poor form and even pain!

The core is a network of muscles in your body that facilitates movement. It houses your central nervous system and inner organs. A strong core is essential for daily tasks and complex activities, but building an athletic center requires more than simple crunches. 

Inactive people have weak core muscles and should consider a core strengthening program to build the muscles needed for core stability. While core strengthening is essential to weight loss exercise, it is only a small part of overall fitness training. Strength training your entire body will help you achieve your goal of having a tight and flat stomach.

fit man doing roman twist abdominal exercise with a medicine ball

What Does It Mean to Have a Tight Stomach?

A tight stomach is a feeling created by your stomach’s muscles, organs, and wall lining. The physical and hormonal factors that cause a tight stomach are diverse. Most people can live with some level of tightness. For some, this feeling is just a nuisance. For others, it can be a warning sign for a more serious underlying condition; it may signify a more severe condition, like an ulcer or cancer.

Tightening your abdominal muscles and getting a tight stomach can help prevent a variety of health problems. For example, a study of over 8,000 people found that individuals who had weak abdominal muscles were twice as likely to prematurely die. 

The reasons why this happens are not clear, but it does make sense. When the abdominal muscles are toned, the body produces more energy, which means that your digestive system works more efficiently. In addition, when the muscles are strengthened, they can eliminate the toxins in your stomach and lead to other diseases.

Best Exercises to Get a Tight Stomach

The best abdominal workouts activate the deepest muscle in your abdomen, the rectus abdominis, which essentially “sucks” in everything and gives your stomach its toned appearance. 

While it can be a bit difficult to work out your midsection for hours on end, it’s not impossible to get a flat, firm stomach with a dedicated workout plan. In addition, you can achieve the same results without spending hours at the gym.

These exercises require you to be in an athletic position for at least 10 repetitions. Aim for around 100 total repetitions per day. Within a few weeks of successive repetition, you should see a noticeable difference in your posture—especially if you’re focused on losing body fat.

Adding a resistance band and weights to these core exercises is an excellent way to improve your core strength—but don’t feel pressured to do so until you’re ready. 

Many core exercises—like the first three on the list below—can be effectively done with just your body weight and a mat or carpeted floor. 


Planks are perhaps the number one means of assessing your core strength. While in a plank, you should aim to achieve a straight line from the shoulders to the hips and ankle joint. This exercise is also excellent to prevent or relieve lower back pain.

Planks are an excellent exercise for developing core strength because they target the smaller muscles of the core, and are great to include in any workout or fitness routine. Not only will planks tone your abs, but you will also develop strength and balance throughout your entire body. A strong core means better posture and balance. 

To get started, you need enough space to be able to fully extend your body. Choose whether you want to do the plank on your palms (arms extended or high plank) or forearms (arms bent or low plank). The high plank is a bit easier to maintain than the low plank if you’re just starting planking. 

You should be face down toward the floor on either your palms or forearms with your legs outstretched. Make sure your elbows are directly under your shoulders and you look downward. Keep your torso tight by engaging your abdominal muscles. Do not arch nor sag your back: Keep a straight body line from the top of your head down to the soles of your feet. 

Once you’re in the planking position, all you must do now is hold it. Sounds so simple, but you’ll find that planks activate muscles within mere seconds.

Start by holding your planks for at least ten seconds. Once you find a comfortable position, gradually increase the time. Don’t hold your breath! Planks require good form; make sure you breathe throughout. 

If you don’t do planks correctly, your back may arch and put more weight on your arms instead of your abdominal muscles. Help prevent sagging hips by slightly spreading your feet apart. 

You can advance this exercise by including arm or leg raises while maintaining the perfect plank position. You may even want to try a reverse plank, which targets your posterior muscle chain. 

It’s amazing what we can accomplish with just our body weight!

young man doing plank exercise in his living room while following workout on smartphone

Dead Bugs

To do dead bugs, lie on your back with your knees at a tabletop position and your arms straight up in the air. Tighten your abdominal muscles and slowly lower your right arm and left leg to the floor. Repeat the process on the other side. When performing this exercise, it’s important to breathe out when lowering your legs and in while you bring them back up.

Unlike sit-ups and crunches, the dead bug exercise targets the deepest abdominal muscles, including the rectus abdominis. Dead bugs work the entire abdominal muscle at once and require you to balance your weight on your arms and legs. The dead bug is an excellent exercise to build your core strength and relieve lower back pain.

Leg Raises

Leg raises are one of the best exercises to get a flat stomach. This exercise targets those dreaded lower abs that can be so tough to work. Again, all you need for this exercise is your body and a mat or carpeted floor. 

Lie flat on your back with your arms on the floor by your sides. Your legs should be straight with your feet together. Tighten your abs before lifting your legs. 

Raise your legs until your knees are directly over your hips or until your glutes lift slightly off the ground. Your arms should remain on the ground and your legs should form a 90-degree angle with your upper body.

Slowly lower your legs back down until your heels are hovering just an inch or two above the ground. Repeat the lifts: Three sets of 10-15 leg lift repetitions is ideal per workout. 

woman in workout gear doing leg raises in gym

Ab Wheel Rollouts

If you have access to an ab wheel, this simple piece of equipment can be a fun addition to your core routine. 

When doing ab wheel rollouts, make sure to perform the exercises with proper form. You will essentially be in a straight arm plank position, but your hands will hold the handles of the wheel. Start in a crouched position, then straighten your arms to your maximum ability. Hold the position, then bend your elbows to pull the wheel back toward you. 

Keep your breathing steady during the exercise: Inhale while rolling out and exhale while rolling back in. This way, you will be less likely to strain your back.

Once you’ve mastered the stance, you can try rolling out your arms while keeping your knees tucked. 

This exercise will help you develop equal strength on both sides of your core. 

Hanging Leg Lifts

Hanging leg raises are an exercise that will target both the upper and lower abs; however, the abs in the lower portion of the torso are the most targeted part of this exercise. Maintain good posture by keeping your shoulders away from your ears, and your core activated. 

You will need some sort of overhead bar for this exercise. Assume a pull-up position: Find a comfortable grip on the bar—this may be wider or narrower, depending upon your current level of fitness—and let your feet dangle off the floor. 

You can bend your knees and pull them up toward your chest, or keep your legs straight with your feet and ankles together and lift your legs until they are parallel with the ground. Repeat this exercise for 15-20 reps. 

Hanging leg raises have other benefits, as well. ACSM-certified personal trainer and fitness director David Chesworth claims “[Hanging leg raises] are a perfect choice to improve on grip strength, as free hanging maintains suspension of the body off the ground—held up by nothing more than your hand, wrist, and forearm strength.” 

Fit man performing a hanging left raise on outdoor equipment

Knee Tucks With Sliders

There are two types of knee tucks with sliders. Single slider knee tucks and double slider knee tucks are similar in movement and require the same level of strength from the abdominal muscles and the upper body. Both involve engaging and driving the hip flexors and a tight stomach. 

If you don’t have slider discs on hand, you can do this exercise with paper plates on carpet or with a rolled up towel on a hard surfaced floor. 

Start in a high plank position with your feet on your sliders. You can either simultaneously (single tuck) bring your knees toward your chest or alternate legs (double tuck). Push your knees back to the starting position for one rep. Aim for 15-20 reps together or 10-12 per side. 

Vector drawing of a woman performing a knee tuck with sliders

Final Thoughts on a Tight Core

A tight core can help you manage pain, look good, and be fit.

Working on your core will improve your posture. A strong core helps you stand straight, making you feel more confident. A tight core also helps with balance. With a strong body, standing up straight and keeping your spine in alignment is more accessible. This helps reduce pressure on your lower back muscles and vertebrae. A strong core also helps maintain stability, preventing falls and injuries.

When you’ve got a strong core, your body simply looks better. A flat stomach, head held high, and shoulders strong and proud just has more aesthetic appeal. It shows you care about your body and take pride in your appearance AND your health. 

A healthy core and tight stomach help stabilize the lower back, hips, and pelvis, reducing the risk of injury in these areas. A tight core also helps prevent injuries by supporting the back muscles during strenuous activities like running or lifting heavy objects. Mobility and flexibility will both be noticably stronger. 

Strong abs and a tight stomach help protect against back pain. All of the core muscles work together to support the spine and prevent it from bending too far forward or backward. A whopping 80% of people report suffering from back pain during their lives, but core workouts help decrease the likelihood that you will be part of this terrifying statistic. 

By strengthening the core, you can greatly reduce your risk of injury. Strong abdominal muscles help stabilize your body and keep it centered during physical activities like running or jumping. A solid, tight core helps prevent injuries like strains, sprains, and broken bones in your knees and ankles.

A tight core will change your game during your next workout, run, walk, or hike. Perhaps even better than that is the daily changes you will begin to see within a short time period after regularly doing core strengthening training. Don’t wait to get started on the exercises in this article, so your core is in the best possible shape that it can be!

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