Core Training: Much More Than Sit Ups

Core training has become increasingly popular for fitness enthusiasts, and for fitness professionals to implement into their fitness programmes. However, there is still a slightly “old school” mentality that sit ups are still a great core exercise. Also, I see more and more gym “newbies” attempting the 30 day “Plank Challenge” – which is a staged challenge whereby you end up holding a plank for FOUR minutes!

In my opinion, excessive sit ups will lead to lower back problems most notably; a prolapsed disc (something we all want to avoid when it comes to lower back injuries!). Also in regards to holding the Plank for four minutes, this shows that this exercise has now become too easy, and there isn’t enough stimulus for the body to react to in order to become stronger. Plus, I would argue that over four minutes your technique will waver during that time.

What is the core?

Before I move on to the main part of this post, I wanted to briefly cover the function of the “The Core”. The core musculature is not just made up of your big six pack abs (also known as your rectus abdominus). We also have your Obliques, Gluteal muscles, Erector Spinae group, and a deeper lying abdominal muscle groups known as Transverse Abdominus and Multifidus. All these muscles work in tandem to perform the following functions:

  • Protect and stabilise the spine
  • Control position and movement of the trunk
  • Provide optimum production and transfer of force to the arms and legs.

Core Muscles involve much than a Six Pack!

Therefore the approach I like to take with clients who I prescribe “Core” programmes to be one that looks to train the torso to resist a combination of movements which are broken down into:

  • Flexion and Extension (Posterior/Anterior Core Stability)
  • Side Flexion (Lateral Core Stability)
  • Rotation (Rotary Core Stability)

From teaching the core musculature to resist these movement patterns and working on all areas of core musculature, this can then transfer across into improving efficiency of lifts and/or sporting performance by providing a solid base that our limbs can move from – for example, watch any Olympic Sprinter at the start of their 100m sprint, there core will work overtime to resist rotation in order to propel themselves out of the starting blocks.

You can see this sprinter’s core working over time in order to stabilise her torso as she reaches top speed.

So…how do we go about making your core super solid?? Below are just a few moves that will certainly help you on your way to a solid core in 2014


Anti-Flexion and Extension Moves:
Rollouts 3 X 10+ reps
Deadlift 4 X 10 reps

Anti-Side Flexion Moves:
Side Planks 3 X 20-30 sec holds
Offset Walk Lunges 3 X 15 reps

Palov Press 3 x 15+ reps
Supermans 3 x 15+ reps

By introducing a combination of these exercises into your workout, you will slowly begin to find that you become stronger in the gym, on a rugby pitch, or your back won’t be as achey after a long day in the office!

The Take Home Message:
Overall, core stability training is a complex area that doesn’t have a “one size fits all” approach but by challenging all possible avenues, this creates a balance which will only improve your general lower back health and it may even get you those washboard abs you’ve always wanted!