Professional athletes possess amazing physical prowess, whether they use it to smash records in the pool, deftly play a sweep shot, or make a thumping kick from outside 50. And all these champions get their power from the same place: a bulletproof core.


The same goes for you, even if you're not romping around an oval covered in sponsor logos. "The core is the mainframe of the body," says Peter Melanson, a strength and conditioning coach at the US Olympic Training Centre. It supplies power and is crucial for anything that requires strength or balance. "Power is the most important factor in performance," says Jonathan Carlock, a strength and conditioning coach who works with cyclists and track athletes.

For the select few, core strength can mean the difference between a gold medal and obscurity. But anyone can reap the rewards of a mean middle - you just need to know how to work it. Melanson says the biggest mistake people make is thinking the more crunches they do, the faster they'll see a six-pack. The key, he says, is to do fewer reps using greater resistance.

We asked Melanson, Carlock and Bo Sandoval, an Olympic strength and conditioning coordinator, to reveal the moves they use to torture their athletes. So get ready to chisel your middle and rock a traffic-stopping midriff.

Do it
Train your core with these eight moves three non-consecutive days a week. Either do them all together as a stand-alone workout or add three or four of them to the end of your usual strength-training routine. For each move, start with one set. Once you can complete all the reps with perfect form, add another.