Core training or trunk training is utilized by all, from athletic individuals to general populations, but are we creating more work for ourselves when we program it?
Nevertheless, why do we program for the core in the first place?
The core has been outlined as the kinetic link between the upper and lower body, which coincides which the idea of it aiding in sporting performance (1). Performance enhancement is one side of the coin, with injury reduction being the other. Now before we go any further, the idea of ‘Injury Prevention’ is not plausible. As practitioners, we have to accept the fact that our athletes/clients may get injured at some stage. The key is to try to reduce such injuries, so they occur less and less often hence the word ‘injury reduction’. The use of core training has been outlined as a method to address weakness in the trunk region, increasing core stability, thus reducing recurring lower back pain (LBP). So you could argue that the use of such modalities does enhance performance as it allows one to perform at their maximum, reducing the risk of injury.
Number one, I am a firm believer in the isometric based training, which uses exercises such as the front plank and the Pallof press instead of exercises which require repetitive flexion such as the sit-up or crunch. Lots of academic work by Stuart McGill has outlined this, and I would recommend reading into his work on this area (2). The rationale of using such exercises is to promote stability in the area and not mobility (which occurs through repetitive flexion); therefore, it would be deemed wise to use isometric based exercises such as the deadbug or front plank. Mike Boyle, in his fantastic book Functional Training for Sports, outlined that core training is about motion prevention and not motion creation (3)
Now since we have covered which type of exercise to perform, we need to talk about where. Well, the core is from nipple to knee and all around, so it is essential you target all; therefore, you must focus on the front (anterior), side (lateral), and the back (posterior). With this in mind, one must ensure they are programming at least one of each in order to keep the core training balanced. Now let us get on to the programming side of things – the fun bit. In regards to programming, keep it simple stupid (KISS) – meaning start easy and gradually build up. We recommend the following training guidelines:
Exercise 1 – Deadbug (anterior)
Exercise 2 – Side plank (left and right – lateral)
Exercise 3 – Glute bridge (posterior)
Frequency (Twice per week)
Week 1 – 3 sets of 20sec
Week 2 – 3 sets of 30sec
Week 3 – 3 sets of 40sec
Week 4 – 3 sets of 20sec – change/increase exercise difficulty and repeat process.
I hope this was helpful and stay stoic,
Stoic Strength Coach.
- Willardson, J. (2014). Developing the Core: NSCA-National Strength & Conditioning Association.
- Boyle, M. (2016). New functional training for sports. Human Kinetics.