(Mass Appeal) – If you’re an avid watcher of Mass Appeal, we speak a lot about the need to build core muscles during our Fitness Friday exercises. However, if you have been relying solely on sit-ups and planks to do it, you may be doing it wrong. In a segment sponsored by BEST REVIEWS, personal trainer and “Serious Fitness” founder Judd NeSmith is showing us the right way to strengthen your core and some products that could help, no matter what your age or budget.

Everything you need to know about developing core strength

Core exercises are an excellent way to improve your balance and overall stability. These exercises are often associated with the tiresome pursuit of six-pack abs. Still, your abs only make up one piece of the puzzle — your core includes muscles in your pelvis, hips, lower back and abdomen. Luckily, numerous products make it fun and easy to improve your core strength.

In this video

BestReviews’ fitness expert, Judd NeSmith, NASM-CPT, PES,  joins Gary Gelfand  to share helpful tips and products for improving your core strength.

Exercise sliders

Sliders are affordable exercise tools with a range of uses, and according to NeSmith, they target deep pelvic floor muscles and abs. Although they have a modest learning curve, they’re generally beginner-friendly.

When using sliders, proper form is necessary. NeSmith recommends beginning in the prone plank position on the forearms and placing toes on the sliders. Once you pull your belly button into the spine and squeeze your glutes, you’ll be able to engage your core during slider exercises. 

Sliders can enhance the intensity of certain workouts such as mountain climbers or planks when you increase the pace. In many cases, sliders add cardio elements to your exercise routine as well.

Many avoid using exercise sliders because they make workouts more challenging — even seasoned fitness trainers feel the burn when using sliders. However, NeSmith indicates that sliders are “lower back-friendly” and preferred over traditional crunches for adults ages 50 and over.

Bosu ball

A Bosu ball resembles the upper half of a stability ball. These balls help develop balance and improve your core strength. When incorporating a Bosu ball into your daily workout routine, it’s best to start with simple exercises, such as the ab reach, which is a modified version of the traditional crunch.  

Depending on the exercise, Bosu balls can target several muscle groups in your chest, arms and abs. By flipping the ball upside-down, you can use it for incline push-ups. Using a Bosu ball while planking makes it harder for you to balance, meaning you have to engage your core muscles.

Like a stability ball, it’s important to properly inflate your Bosu ball before using it — you want the ball to be inflated around 9-10 inches high. Store your ball out of direct sunlight, as the heat may weaken the material.

Stability ball

Stability balls are commonly referred to as yoga balls or Swiss balls. NeSmith explains that many stability ball exercises work not only the abdominal muscles, but also the glutes and hamstrings. You can use this simple piece of equipment for various exercises, including jackknifes, hamstring curls and rollouts. 

When choosing a stability ball, consider size and material. Larger balls are suitable for taller people, but many individuals prefer a smaller one. Quality stability balls are made with thick, durable materials that are less likely to sustain damage from tears or punctures. 

Many people use stability balls as office chairs, as well. According to the National Institutes of Health, the increased level of discomfort will likely outweigh the increased muscle activation when using a yoga ball as a chair for extended periods. Still, stability balls can benefit your core when used correctly as an office chair for short periods.

Resistance bands

Resistance bands are versatile and portable, and many exercisers love their affordability compared to other gym equipment. They can target nearly any muscle group, including your core. Loop-style resistance bands can be used for standing knee tucks, bicycle crunches, side planks, spiderman push-ups and other core exercises.

It’s a good idea to buy a set of bands, since you won’t know which resistance level is right until you’ve tried a few out. Thicker bands tend to provide more resistance, and most sets include a variety ranging from light to extra-heavy resistance.

When using these bands, it’s best to never stretch them past two times their original length. Even those made from durable materials can break if misused. 

Shop this segment

SmarterLife Products Exercise Ball

This ball is available in 10 colors and four sizes. It’s durable and doesn’t have an unpleasant plastic smell like other exercise balls. The included pump and measuring tape make it easy to inflate correctly. Users were impressed with the SmarterLife customer service team.

Sold by Amazon

Sports Research Sweet Sweat Mini Loop Resistance Bands

This set of five resistance bands is affordable and includes numerous resistance levels. Each is a different color, making it easy to identify the resistance level. They’re durable and don’t slide like other resistance bands.

Sold by Amazon and iHerb

Elite Sportz Equipment Core Sliders

These inexpensive sliders come in five colors. They’re durable and easily glide across most floor types. The exercise sliders are compact and easy to pack, making them more travel friendly than most equipment. 

Sold by Amazon

Bosu 26-Inch Pro Balance Trainer Ball

Many were impressed with this ball’s durability and customer service. It’s easy to set up and excellent for improving your balance. It’s available in four colors.

Sold by Amazon, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Kohl’s

Pullout: Strong core muscles make numerous everyday activities easier. You can also do things like swing a golf club more efficiently.

Segment sponsored by: Best Reviews