This content is brought to you in partnership with OrthoCarolina, one of the nation's leading orthopedic practices with offices across the Southeast.

It seems like these days, we can't get on social media without scrolling past dozens of photos of athletes with six-packs, accompanied by listicles outlining the core exercises you should do if you want defined abs of your own. 

But according to Chris Dollar (Clinical Specialist, PT, DPT, OMPT, FAAOMPT at OrthoCarolina), most of the exercises those listicles recommend don't actually help you build core strength. 

"Most 'core exercises' you see on the internet--and the ones taught in most exercises classes--are in fact NOT core exercises, but exercises that blow past core muscles and train 'vanity' muscles," Chris told us. 

So, why should your core be a priority when you're working out, and what exercises should you actually do to strengthen your core? We asked Chris to find out.

Why Should Core Strength Be A Priority?

It's almost too simple, but think of your core muscles as just that—a core group of muscles. 

"Much like the foundation of a house, the core muscles form a solid base from which all functional activities are performed," Chris explained. "If the core muscles are weak, then the ability to do one’s daily activities becomes less controlled, less 'solid.' Core muscles form the foundation for movement control of the body."

As opposed to some of the other muscle groups in your body, core muscles can (and often should) be worked every day, rather than every other day or a few times per week.

"Core muscles are functionally endurance muscles, whereas 'vanity muscles' or muscles you can see are functionally power/strength muscles," Chris told us. "Endurance muscles can, and often should, be trained daily. Alternatively, strength muscles could be trained as infrequently as once per week."

5 Exercises Recommended to Build Core Strength  

So, what types of exercises should you focus on if your goal is to actually build core strength, rather than just defining your "vanity muscles" for six-pack abs?

"Exercises that work in diagonal planes can often work core muscles, as can simply putting an emphasis on balance and/or proprioception abilities," Chris said. 

Ready to strengthen those core muscles? Chris recommends starting with these five simple exercises. (He didn't recommend doing them with a beer in your hand, though—that was Work For Your Beer's suggestion.) 

1. Side Bridge

Prop yourself up on your right elbow with your hips straight and knees bent back. Slowly lift your hips straight up as far as possible, then slowly lower your hips to the floor. Completely relax for one second, then repeat. 

Do seven reps on the right side, then switch to do seven reps on the left side. That's one set. (You should do three sets total). 

2. Single Leg Standing Balance

"Just try to stand on one leg with your eyes closed, and see if you can do it without touching the other foot down for two minutes continually," Chris said. "If you can’t, you probably have a weakened core."

Do this for two minutes on one side, then two minutes on the other. That's one set. (You should do three sets ​total). 

3. Bird Dog

Get on your hands and knees. Your palms should be planted shoulder-width apart, and your knees hip-width apart. Your back should be flat.

Raise your right arm and left leg so that they are in line with your torso. Pause here and hold for three seconds. Slowly return to your original position, with your palm planted and knee firmly on the ground. Then do the same with your left arm and right leg. 

Do three reps on each side. That's one set. You should do five sets.

4. Parallel Squat

Plant your feet hip-width apart, with your chest held up and your hands straight out in front of you. 

Sit back and down, almost like you're sitting into a chair. Keep a slight, natural arch in your back (do not round your lower back). Lower until your thighs are as parallel to the floor as possible, pressing your weight into your heels. With control, push through your heels back up into your original standing position. That's one rep. 

​Do five reps per set. You should do three sets total.

5. Hip Pivots

Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly, with control, bend your torso forward at the hips and raise your right leg to be parallel with your body. Your arms should be straightened out in front of your torso, reaching toward the ground. Hold for three seconds, tightening your core muscles to remain stable.

Slowly, with control, return to your original standing position. Do the same with on the other side, with your left leg lifted. 

Do five reps on each side. That's one set. You should do three sets total.

Learn More About Building Strength & Protecting Your Body From the Experts at OrthoCarolina

Whether you've recently experienced an injury, need help with recovery after tough workouts, or are simply experiencing chronic pain and need help  managing it, OrthoCarolina can help. Make an appointment at a location near you to start getting the treatment you need.