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Learn how to train the core

by Taylor Tollison

At the very heart of becoming a great athlete is not only having a strong and powerful core, but one that will reduce injury. Most every strength and conditioning program should have at least two goals: 1) improve performance 2) reduce injury.

Comprehensive is the key word when designing a solid program. No longer is it sufficient to just do crunches or sit ups. Current core training programs focus on training the hip, lumbar and pelvis region.

Why is training the core important?

1. The core is where all movement begins. (1)
2. “A weak core is a fundamental problem inherent to inefficient movement that leads to predictable patterns of injury.”(1)
3. If our arms and legs are strong but our core is weak there will not be enough force created to produce efficient movements. (1)
4. If you have bad core strength, specifically hip instability, the energy will leak out at the hip, then the body must compensate, thus leading to injury.
5. By strengthening the core one becomes more able to better utilize the muscles of the extremity like the legs and arms.

What is the core?

The core is where the body’s center of gravity is. (1) Many people think of the core consisting solely of the muscles of the stomach. In actuality the core consists of the parts in the lumbo region, pelvic region and hip region. Here are some of the muscles that are part of each region.

1. Lumbar Spine Muscles
a. Erector spinae
b. Quadratus lumborum
c. Transversospinalis Group
d. Latissimus Dorsi

2. Key Abdominal Muscles
a. Rectus Abdominus
b. External Oblique
c. Internal Oblique
d. Transverse Abdominus

3. Key Hip Muscles
a. Gluteus Maximus
b. Gluteus Medius
c. Psoas

It is the integrated function of the above muscle groups that stabilize the entire body. (1)

How should we train the core?

Traditional methods of core training methods include crunches, sit ups, v-ups etc. Modern core training has progressed so that you not only train outer core muscles like the rectus abdominus (crunches) but also inner core muscles, and gluteus muscles.  Modern core training will stabilize, strengthen and create power in the core muscles.  So here are some exercises to include in your core training program:

Prone Iso Abs-

-Drawing-in maneuver-This exercises is like pulling your belly button toward your back and holding that.  Don't breath the belly button in.  You must pull it in.  This is great for the transverse abdominus. 

• Quadruped-See this link for an explanation. 
• Walking with bands around the ankle.  If you don't have bands do a side lying leg raises.  This is to activate and work the gluteus medius which is important for injury prevention.

Strength exercises-

• crunch
• side sit-up
• reverse crunch
• reverse crunch with rotation
• Knee up
• knee ups with rotation
• cable chops and rotations and lifts
• Med ball figure 8 pattern

Power exercises-

• Med ball throws from the front and side
• Med ball soccer throw 

Never forget to include the core into your training regimen. One way to hammer home the importance of the core training program is to put it toward the beginning of our training program. If you utilize a progressive program tailored to your athletes, injuries can be reduced and performance can increase.


(1)  Clark MA, Russell A. Optimum Performance Training for the Performance Enhancement Specialist. Course Manual. Calabasas, CA: National Academy of Sports Medicine; 2001.