When you think of core exercises, you probably think of situps, crunches, and six-packs. Though we often get caught up focusing on the parts of our midsection that we can show off, our core goes so much deeper than that. Whether you’re planking pro or just getting started with easy ab workouts. Your core plays an important role in your ability to be strong and fit. This collection of muscles supports your spine, allows you to move in all sorts of directions, and protects all of your organs.

Having a strong core can also help you avoid injury and ease back pain. So, while having a really sculpted six-pack is a totally fine goal to have, keeping these muscles in tip-top shape is a must if you want to run, lift, jump, and crush whatever flavour of fitness you love for the long run.

Deadbug – This lying-down move offers your lower back some support as you develop your core strength and fatigues your lower abs quickly as you extend your opposite arm and leg. Start lying back with arms extended over chest, legs raised and bent at 90 degrees (knees above hips and shins parallel to floor). Keep low back pressed to the floor, brace core, then slowly and simultaneously extend and lower right leg and to hover just above mat. Pause, and then return to start and repeat on the opposite side. That’s one rep.

Plank – The plank is pretty much the quintessential core move because it challenges all 360 degrees of your midsection, makes your shoulders burn, and even requires your glutes and quads to fire up, too. Start kneeling at back of mat with toes tucked and butt resting on heels. Walk hands forward to an all-fours position with knees under hips and wrists under shoulders. Lean forward, and then lift knees to form one straight line from heels to head. Keep hips high and abs engaged. Hold for 15, 30, or 45 seconds, and then relax. That’s one rep.

Side Plank – Side planks hit your obliques hard. Lay on side with right forearm flat on the floor, elbow under shoulder, and both legs extended so body forms a straight line from head to feet. Feet can either be staggered for extra stability or stacked for more of a challenge. Engage core and lift hips off the floor. Hold for 15, 30, or 45 seconds, then relax and repeat on the other side. That’s one rep.

Swiss Ball Arm Rollout – This exercise works like popular “abs wheel” devices—but it challenges the abs even further because of the ball’s instability. Kneel on the ground with arms extended, and the back of your hands on a Swiss ball. Roll the ball forward while keeping a straight line from knees to shoulders. Pull the ball back to starting position, and repeat. 2 sets of 10 reps with 30 seconds rest between sets.

Seated Straight-Leg Lift –Lying leg lifts can be tough on your lower back if you’re still improving that core strength, but this seated modification ensures you’ll feel sore in all the right places. Start seated with the legs extended out in front of you. While sitting tall and engaging core, hinge forward slightly. Keep feet flexed while lifting right heel 3 to 5 inches off the ground. Pause and lower, then repeat with left leg. That’s one rep.