What is the Hype about the Core

When the word "core" is heard you might consider people working out on a mat doing consecutive crunches and multiple sit-ups, all under the guise of  increasing vigor and will-power, to complete as many as possible. Another exercise to try is to hold yourself up on a stationary device with the elbows, arms flexed, and legs hanging straight down. Thus pulling the legs into a perpendicular position from the floor. This sense of contraction and corresponding fatigue might give the idea that the core is actually being worked out, when what is occurring is only a small fraction of the core is exercised. So far the upper and lower quadrant of the anterior abdominal muscles are worked out, leaving many muscles of the upper and lower back, pelvic, and sides of the body absent of any workout. The core is a large area of the body when it comes to working out. Laying on the floor doing movements that target the anterior abdominal area and the six-pack abs that are given credit for the aesthetics of this area, are only a small part of what is to come for a proper workout of the core.

Where to begin with the Core

As you have began to notice, the core is more than six-pack abs in a mirror. Now you can gain a sense of the core and place it into a physical fitness program. When you begin to move the extremities, such as doing the bicep curl, the muscles that are near the spine stabilize. Shifting your weight to complete a tricep kickback, the muscles surrounding the spine once again stabilize before you move. The idea is that stabilization occurs before you actually move into place to begin a specific movement. Conditioning of these inner muscles can begin on the floor, to the knee and finally to standing. Obtaining a base of core strength and endurance starting from the floor can help you also in completing core workouts in upright positions. Stability and strength come together when specific training protocols are  in effect; such as when you train on one foot. Another training modality is suspension training where emphasis is on the core especially when the feet suspend off the floor. Stabilization of the spine occurs from the legs being held up while you are in a push-up position with the arms. Proper technique in core conditioning programs is as important as in other types of strength programs. Breathing during the movement assists you in staying in contact with the muscular movement, since the diaphragm is also a core muscle. Consider that you are now involving the core to bridge the link between the core and where you finally send the energy from the front, back, and lateral muscles to the extremities.

Where the core is located

Wow! Thier is that many core muscles

The core muscles listed for you to check and place within the fitness regimen:

A) Abdominal Wall Front Portion:

-Rectus Abdominis

-Transverse Abdomins

-Internal Oblique

-External Oblique

B) Deep Muscles of the Back: Erector Spinae





C) Muscles of Inner Thigh


-Adductor Brevis

-Adductor Longus

-Adductor Magnus


D) Muscles of the Front Thigh


-Rectus Femoris

-Psaos Major


E) Muscles in Gluteal Region

-Gluteus Maximus

-Gluteus Medius

-Gluteas Minimus


F) Muscles of the Back Thigh: Hamstrings



-Biceps Femoris

G) Muscles of the Shoulder

-Latissimus dorsi


H) Muscle of Respiration


I) Pelvic Floor Muscles

-Levator Ani







Step One: Develop the core

The Beginning of Your Training

To build overall core conditioning is to make a goal that is success. The central nervous system plays a major role in spine stabilization as the body begins movement, thus enhancing movement as this continues to the extremities. Stabilize the core by this bracing of the muscles in the core area at the lumbar level. Placing core exercises into your workout at specific times can affect the extremities as well. Consider core conditioning as a balance between the core and how and when the extremities move. Waiting at the end of a workout for the core could lead to fatigue and poor performance. The idea might be to space the core exercises at the beginning, middle, and at the end. While exercising the core, the upper quadrant balanced with the lower and back quadrants. Abdominal area muscles are one-third of the total muscles of the core; with pelvic and back muscles making up the other two-thirds. Stabilization of the spine, pelvic, and shoulders from specific muscles of the back and hips give support. Design core conditioning to develop the purpose of strength, endurance, or power. The first step is to begin standing, and in this place extend your head by initiating movement from your forehead. As the forehead moves up, the neck and chest will follow, as well as the upper back. Eventually the thoracic and then the abdominal muscles areas will respond by contracting. Stabilization of the spine is occurring and you are now in the mode that the core muscles prepare for movement. This bracing technique of the abdominal can lead into the rest of the core being stabilized. 

Step Two: Community Muscles Meet Global Muscles

The Inner Muscles Finally are associated with Global Muscles

Being aware of the method of bracing has brought a new and improved structure to your daily workouts. The link is complete as you start the inner muscles of the core and express the energy from here to the extremities: the arms and legs to fulfill movement. While training the core, you can change the positions of movement, to aid the body from plateaus occurring too often to the muscles. Physically you change as you now engage the picture of the core, as well as psychologically, you can benefit from new movements that happen as you exercise your extremities. The training plan begins to come together to accommodate the total core and the extremities. Exercise three to four days per week with core conditioning and line up extremity conditioning at specific intervals. Specifically target upper and lower body to balance the inner muscles to the outer muscles. Strength also needs balance with flexibility for the core muscles: the trunk, back, and pelvis. Beginning at the community muscle level move toward the superior part of the global muscles. As you progress to the next level, introduce movements of your chosen activity that involve the upper and lower extremities. Another level is on the floor with balance type equipment (exercise ball), that rolls and engages the core muscles at different angles that you are now exposed to, stabilizing the spine and its' connecting structures to the pelvis. This area being stabilized, the community muscles are conditioned and the resulting force transfers to the global muscles for use in your chosen activity.

Step Three: Planes Of Movement

Movement Occurs to the Back and Sides

With the  base of support that been gained, the core muscles for the spine stabilize. The community muscles are trained in the three planes. The three planes are:

1) Frontal: Through the head and shoulders and continues down to the feet, perpendicular to the Sagittal plane.

2) Sagittal: Beginning at the head and proceeding down, placing a line to separate right and left sides; midline of the body.

3) Transverse: Reference point at the waist separating upper and lower body, also called the horizontal plane.

Progress in core conditioning within the planes with slow movements to begin with and move to the actual speed of the activity. Endurance in the range of 12 to 15 repetitions; strength in the range of 6 to 8 repetitions, and power is in the range of 4 to 6 repetitions. Completing exercises in all planes prepares the trunk and extremities for the stress that will occur during competition. The planes involved with front to back, side to side, and rotational movements.  The lumbar region of the spine limits in its rotational capacity which during program design needs addressing to decrease injury. Technique is more important than the number of repetitions you can complete which could lead to overtraining. In core conditioning being aware of balance is an important part for the eventual conditioning of the total core. Complete each core exercise to its fullest potential in all three planes to get the most of your workout.

The Core In Practice

An overview of Sample Core Exercises

Having prepared yourself, the next step is to actually do the movements while concentrating on the core. The movements start from the floor in the plank position and progress up to the feet, where weight transfer occurs:

A) Plank: Begin with the elbows and forearms on the mat and prop up to the toes. Hips should line up with the head all the way towards the legs.

B) Alternate Leg/Arm: With hands and knees on the floor, lift one arm straight and extend with an opposing leg. Bracing the core, keep the arms and legs in a straight position for three seconds and return to start.

C) Body Ball Roll: On the toes with knees bent, place abdominal on the ball with arms outstretched in front of you. Bracing the core, move in clockwise position to start, and once fifteen circles are complete,  reverse direction and continue to fifteen circles.

D) Wall Ball Squats: Place the body ball on the wall with the back on the ball. Bracing the core, begin in slight flexion of the knees, and then slowly descend until the knees are at ninety degrees. Holding for five seconds, slowly ascend to slightly flexed knees.

E) Reverse Leg Curls: Laying on your back, lift your legs and place the back part of your ankles on the ball. Stabilize the abdominal and flex the knees until the feet rest on top of the ball. Return slowly to starting position.

F) Lunge: Feet shoulder width apart and the core stabilized, step forward on one foot with the knee of this foot staying inline with the ankle. The trailing leg has the bent knee and is within an inch off the floor. Keeping the trunk over the hips while progressing through this move. Push off the forward foot and return to starting place.

F) Squat: Feet shoulder width apart, and knees slightly bent, as weight is on the shoulders on the back or to the front. Bracing the core, begin moving the hips back toward the floor until the thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold the trunk inline with the hips for three seconds placing the weight on the core. Slowly return to starting place.

G) Deadlift: Approach the barbell with knees bent and trunk held in a stabilizing position with the core being activated. Overhand grip the bar, as you begin the movement at the hips and legs while keeping the weight close to the knee and thigh. At the top position, holding the bar for five seconds and then move the hip back while holding the back stable, return the bar to the floor. 

Hints as you exercise the Core:

A) Begin with body weight and the floor. Stability ball is next and to make it a challenge, try suspension training. Finally standing on the feet, change moves from one foot to the other for weight transfer techniques.

B) Time factored in with proper work to rest ratio ( i.e., 3:1) with the body indicating when fatigue sets in and technique compromised. This is where you take a rest and recover period before moving to the next exercise.

C) Train by observing movements and exercises in a mirror or video to as close as possible to the original activity or sport.

D) Begin with proper positions at 30 seconds and move to a goal of at least 2 minutes or more depending on which muscles of the core that activate.  


Results From Working Out The Core

Now that you have taken steps to make sure that the core is properly trained, here are some positive outcomes:

1) Movement planned and carried out in an efficient way from the beginning.

2) Balance and stabilization from community (inner) muscles to the global (outer) muscles forms a connective framework for the extremities.

3) Control is an output for strength, power, and endurance depending on program design.

4) Injury reduction from the program of community muscles assists the global muscles for training and competitions.

5) Placing core exercises in your daily regimen at the beginning, middle, and end gives an overview of a successful core exercise program.


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