I’ve seen an uptick in information about deep core work lately, and anytime a fitness topic starts trending it can be overwhelming to navigate what’s real and what’s click-bait. Breaking down everything you need to know about deep core work below, and why you should in fact be training it (and, surprise surprise, you might already be doing so!).

A visible core, or ‘six-pack,’ isn’t necessarily an indicator of a strong core. Those six-pack ab muscles are your rectus abdominis, the outermost layer of your core muscles and what most people train for physique goals but they’re only one piece of a much larger puzzle that makes up a strong and functional core.

Beyond The Six-Pack

Our core muscles include: transverse abdominis, iliocostalis, multifidus, diaphragm, pelvic floor, and obliques. How many of those muscles have you actually read about when it comes to training core? Probably not more than one if I had to guess – not only because it’s hard to identify deep muscles, but because they’re all apart of our core function: stabilizing and controlling all movements through the trunk. Having strong deep core muscles reduces risk of injury, improves control and strength of limbs, improves pelvic floor health, and keeps your spine mobile through life.

The Importance Of Breath

Deep core work is really just engaging all the core muscles. There is no one movement that will work your deep core, in fact we have the opportunity to engage all the muscles that make up the deep core through every day tasks! If the answer is that simple, then the question becomes: how do you know if you’re engaging your deep core muscles?

The first (and most important) step in training deep core is a connection to breath and our breathing patterns. You can listen to an in-depth conversation about how breathing can change your stress levels, posture, form, and overall wellness in my GOOD // SWEAT Mini Pod with Dr. Jen Fabroni (you might know her as @docjenfit). Learning to breathe deeply into your stomach, and out into your ribs (instead of keeping your breath in your chest) is vital to engaging core muscles.

side plank core work

Exercises To Train Deep Core Muscles

The best place to start with training deep core is moving one or more limbs away from the body, while maintaining stability and control through the body. There are two moves that are great for training core muscles with only bodyweight that you’re likely familiar with: bird dog and dead bug.

Bird Dog

Starting in a tabletop position, with hips over knees and shoulders over wrists, engage your core by energetically pulling your public bone toward your sternum and then practice breathing into the ribs and stomach. Lift opposite limbs while maintaining core stability, then draw your knee and elbow together under your body. Keep each movement slow and controlled, matching your movement to the pace of your breath.

Dead Bug

Start laying on your mat with your feet floating off the ground and your knees at 90 degrees. Try to keep your knees directly over your hips, and your hands over your shoulders. Firmly connect your back to your mat to engage your core, while maintaining deep breathing. Extend opposite limbs, then draw back to neutral. Repeat on the other side.

Strength Training For Deep Core

If you’re interested in incorporating more deep core exercises into your routine, I highly recommend strength training. Learning to breathe well and brace your core will naturally strengthen your core over time.

Other great bodyweight only core exercises:

Additional Resources

Read more about deep core strength in this blog post.

Read more about my strength training guides here.

Welcome! I’m Rachael.

I enjoy sharing my love for food and fitness. I'm a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer, and a New York Times Bestselling author. Here you'll find all kinds of recipes and kitchen hacks, as well as workouts and fitness motivation. Enjoy! — xx Rachael

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  1. Hey, your most recent recommendation regarding front-loading and overloading protein is totally askew and made me very ill. You might have a different body type that is trying to gain mass but some of us already stacked. Your recipes are totally off-base as far as balance. They are too heavy in fat, have little carbohydrates in them, the sweets have way too much sugar, and wayyyyy too much protein is absolutely not the right thing for the majority of the population and will be stored as sugar/fat. Check yourself and get real instead of subscribing to trends. Boo!!!!!!!!!!!