Core Workout Routine
It’s been said that “you can’t shoot a cannon from a canoe.” This saying has been the backbone for rationalizing direct core training and developing a core workout routine. To give some meaning to the saying, a client can’t perform high impact movements like plyometrics and front squats without a strong core. I would take that even a step further and say that basic movements like walking and running are actually pretty complex, and having a weak core means that you’re going to struggle to do these tasks well.
To clear matters up, the core is divided into two segments which are defined as “local” and “global” (1). These are just fancy words for the muscles that provide movement and those that are meant for stability. Issues arise for people when the muscles that are built for stability can’t do their job, and other muscles that aren’t qualified to provide stability have no choice but to try to. Hence the popularity of a core workout routine.
But here’s the issue for your exercise routine: core strengthening programs have done very little for human performance, with the exception of helping reduce low back pain (2). What this means is that if your goal is to get in great shape – get strong, get lean, train for an event, etc- that a direct core program isn’t the best choice to go. The finest road to take to getting a strong core while getting in great shape is to train with a barbell. Front squats, chin ups, and full snatches train the core like no other, and this is especially beneficial because the body doesn’t like to be broken up in segments (I.e, abs, arms, etc). Those who aren’t ready for movements like that can benefit from lunges, rows, and presses.
However, some may just want to reduce low back pain, and that’s perfectly fine. If that’s the case, research tells us to focus on core endurance over strength (2). This means holding specific movements for several seconds coupled with rest rather than trying to hold a position till exhaustion. Furthermore, movements like sit-ups and crunches never really occur in everyday life and may cause even more back pain (3). If you can do 100 sit-ups, or 100 of anything for that matter, than there’s no real sense in still doing them because they’re obviously too easy.
With that being said, here’s a simple core workout routine (2,3).:
1.Plank/Bridge- 3 x 8, hold each plank for 5 seconds coupled with 10 seconds rest
(Lay down facing the floor and hold your body in a straight line using your forearms and toes)
2.Glute Bridge, 3 x 10, 3-5-1-10 (take 3 seconds to lower your hips, rest 5 seconds, hold the top for 10 seconds)
(Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Push your hips to the ceiling – you want to feel it in your behind)
3.Side Plank/Bridge- 3 x 5, hold each side plank for 10 seconds with 20 seconds rest
(Lie on your side and support your weight with your forearm and knee while elevating your hips off the floor)
4.Bird Dog – 3 x 8, 3-1-1-1, alternate between legs
(While on all fours, elevate one leg behind you so it’s straight, hold for a second and switch legs)
1. Willardson, J.M. “Core Stability Training: Applications to Sports Conditioning Programs.” (2007)Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 21(3), 979-985
2. Navalta, J.W., Hrncir Jr, S.P. “Core Stabilization Exercises Enhance Lactate Clearance Following High Intensity Exercise.” (2007) Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 21(4), 1305-1309
3. McGill, Stuart. “Core Training: Evidence Translating to Better Performance and Injury Prevention.” (2010) Strength and Conditioning Journal. 32(3), 33-46