Core conditioning

Core conditioning is a lot more than just doing crunches to expose that six pack. Crunches only train one muscle of the core: the m. rectus abdominis. The core is composed of multiple muscle groups including the abdominal and low back muscles, diaphragm, pelvic floor muscles, latissimus dorsi, hip flexors and the gluteal muscles. All these muscles work in concert to stabilize the spine while moving your limbs.

The core is the link between the lower and upper body. The core transfers forces and power between the lower body and the upper body. For optimal performance the core needs to be solid, to avoid energy leaks within the kinetic chain. A dysfunctional core that ineffectively transfers forces will put more strain on the limb muscles and tendons, resulting in overuse injuries.

Another function of the core is to stabilize the body's center during movements that require a high degree of balance or body control.

A solid core keeps your back healthy, helps you to maintain good posture, improves your balance, enhances performance and prevents injuries. A strong core will help you throw a ball further and can even help you to change direction faster.

To build a strong functional core, you need to train more diverse than just doing crunches. Crunches only work the core in one plane of motion (transverse plane of motion). Focus on flexion, rotation, lateral flexion and the posterior core to address all three planes of motion.

Do not just condition your core lying down. Bridges, planks, knee tucks, rollouts and leg raises will help you to functionally strengthen the core in all three planes of motion. Core exercises performed in the upright position, target balance, stability and core strength. These exercises provide sport-specific core conditioning and have an excellent carry-over to daily activities.

It is also important to understand that many functional exercises strengthen the core muscles without isolating them. Push-ups, inverse rows, the chop and lift exercises, the Olympic lifts, the various single-leg deadlift variations require adequate core strength and stability to perform the exercise with proper form.

  • Knee tuck progression

    The knee tuck progression enhances core stability and strength. The progression ranges in difficulty from beginner level to very challenging. The knee tuck and variations can be performed using a slide-board, TRX or stability ball. The more instability is added, the higher the demand on the core.

  • Plank/straight-arm plank

    The plank is a basic exercise to build core stability and strength. The plank can be performed with a straight arm or bent at the elbow. Through multiple progressions and variations the intensity and difficulty of the exercise can be increased, ranging from beginner level to very challenging.

  • Side/oblique bridge

    The side/oblique bridge consists of exercises to improve core stability and strength. These exercises also strengthen the lateral system. Through various progressions the intensity can be increased. The side bridge is a static exercise, while the oblique bridge is the dynamic version.

  • Rollouts

    The rollouts are core and abdominal strengthening exercises. Through various progressions the intensity and difficulty can be increased. The rollout can be performed using a stability ball, a medicine ball or an ab wheel.

  • Ab crunch

    The ab crunch strengthens the abdominal muscles. When a crunch is combined with a bicycle movement of the legs, the rectus abdominis and obliques are engaged more. A twisting crunch or a crunch on a stability ball, requiring constant stabilization, also gets the obliques firing more.

  • Knee/leg raise

    The knee/leg raise consists of exercises that target the abs, core and hip flexors. These exercises also generates a high muscle activity in the obliques because constant abdominal stabilization is required. The difficulty level ranges from easy to very challenging.

  • Heel/shoulder bridge

    The heel/shoulder bridge consists of exercises to isometrically strengthen the core and posterior chain (hamstrings, gluteus muscles, low back extensor muscles). Through various progressions the intensity and difficulty can be increased.

  • Standing/kneeling core conditioning

    The standing/kneeling core conditioning consists of exercises that target balance, stability and core strength. These exercise provide sport-specific core conditioning and have an excellent carry-over to daily activities.

  • Rotational core conditioning

    Rotational core conditioning consists of exercises that enhance rotational core stability and strength. Torso rotation generates a strong contraction of the core muscles. Rotational core exercises are often a missing link in strength and conditioning programs.

  • Posterior core conditioning

    Posterior core conditioning consists of exercises that strengthen the low back extensor muscles. Muscular endurance and strength of the low back extensors plays an important role in preventing low back pain and injury.