It’s true that it’s never too late to start when it comes to getting on the road to a fitter, healthier you, but unfortunately, the clock is ticking when it comes to getting those washboard abs in time for beach weather. Don’t panic though—if you get started with these tips today, you’ll be set for a (mostly) shirtless summer. But even if you’re not preparing for summer or a beach vacation, six-pack abs are more than a great beach accessory—a strong core is essential for a foundation of overall health. Your back pain will diminish, your lifts will get stronger, and your posture will greatly improve.

The adage that “abs are made in the kitchen” is totally right, but almost as important is making sure you’re using proper form when you’re working toward better definition and strength in your core. These guidelines ensure you’re not wasting your time, or worse, setting yourself up for injury.