The Fitness Zone

What Is Core Conditioning, The Benefits, & More Tips

Jun 26, 2014 | by AIF

A solid core will keep your back healthy, enable you to maintain good posture, and minimise the chance of injury from our repetitive lifestyles and workout patterns. But are we approaching our core workouts as we should, asks Rory Litchfield, Australian Institute of Fitness WA Fitness Coach.

Your core consists of multiple muscle groups that work together to efficiently support and move the kinetic chain. The core is the link between the upper and lower body it transfers forces and power generated by the moving limbs.

If our core is weak your performance in the gym or on the sports field will suffer. Yet, dynamic, movement-specific core training is all too often overlooked. Too often, strong, athletic, conditioned athletes are prone to injury and deliver poor performances due to a weak core.

To understand why, we need to review, which muscles make up the core’. Modern day sport and exercise science experts agree that the core consists of the following important muscle groups:

  • Rectus abdominis
  • Erector spinae
  • Internal and external obliques
  • Diaphragm
  • Pelvic floor
  • Hip flexors
  • Gluteals
  • Multifidus

Are our core workouts conditioning ALL of these muscles? If the answer is yes, are your progressing your client in the correct sequence?

Are we addressing the need for static stabilisation as well as dynamic stabilisation? Are we educating our clients to understand what a neutral spine is and how their bodies are designed to handle load?

Traditional Core Exercises: the Past and the Present

Traditional core exercises are helping clients maintain correct posture, prevent injury, keep the back healthy and reduce unnecessary stress through the Lumbo-Pelvic Hip Complex (LPHC), but too often rotational core exercises are left out by even the most experienced, knowledgeable Personal Trainers.

A well designed, safe, functional core workout should focus on flexion, rotation, lateral flexion and the posterior core to address the need for our bodies to move efficiently in all three planes of motion; transverse, sagittal, and frontal.

Poor rotational strength and conditioning is often seen as the weak link in even elite strength and conditioning programmes.

Notes: always make sure your client has developed basic core strength before progressing them towards more advanced core exercises. Also important is the emphasis on a neutral spine, with the abdominal braced and engaged BEFORE movement occurs.

Integrated Core Training Workouts: the future

Let’s look at how to design an integrated core training programme that integrates the core stabilisation and core movement systems.

A well-designed core training programme follows the following systematic progression:

Phase 1: Stabilisation

Phase 1 involves exercises with little or no motion through the spine and pelvis. Sample exercises include:

A) Supine marching (heel to floor)

B) Floor Bridge

C) Floor Prone Cobra

D) Prone Iso-ab (Plank)/Hover

Phase 2: Strength

Phase 2 exercises involve more dynamic eccentric and concentric movements of the spine throughout a full, natural range of movement. The exercises are designed to improve dynamic stabilisation (in all three planes), which is so important if we are to avoid that weak link’ in our kinetic chain.

Sample exercises include:

A) Fitball crunch

B) Fitball back extensions

C) Reverse crunch with fit ball

D) Cable rotations (fitball, medicine ball, etc.)

After clients have safely negotiated and progressed through stabilisation and strength phases, we move onto phase three.

Phase 3: Power

Exercises are designed to increase the rate of force production (power) of the entire core musculature. The key focus here is to get the client to dynamically stabilise and generate force at a more functional speed (core rotational power).

Sample exercises include:

A) Horizontal rotation chest pass (MB)

B) Fitball/MBpPullover throw

C) Front medicine ball oblique throw

D) Woodchop MB throw

A Sample Core Training Programme Applying the Above Principles

Core SystemsLevelPhase (S)ExerciseNumber of ExercisesSetsRepsTempoRests
StabilisationStabilisation1See Stabilisation exercises1-41-412-20Slow
0-90 Secs
MovementStrength2See Core Strength Exercises0-42-48-12Med
(3/2/1- 1/1/1/)
0-60 Secs
MovementPower3See Core Power Exercises0-22-38-12Fast

As Can Be Controlled
0-90 Secs


The Australian Institute of Fitness
The Australian Institute of Fitness (AIF) is the largest and longest established fitness training organisation in Australia, with dynamic training methods and expert course coaches nationwide - spanning fitness, massage and nutrition. The AIF qualifies more fitness professionals than any other provider in Australia, as well as offering a broad range of continuing education courses (CEC), upskilling resources and partnership programs for existing industry.

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Disclaimer: Where Certificate III in Fitness, Cert III/Cert 3, or Fitness Coach is mentioned, it refers to SIS30321 Certificate III in Fitness. Where Certificate IV in Fitness, Cert IV/Cert 4, or Personal Trainer is mentioned, it refers to SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Master Trainer Program™ is mentioned, it refers to Fitness Essentials and SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Master Trainer Plus+ Program™ is mentioned, it refers to SIS30321 Certificate III in Fitness and SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Certificate IV in Massage or Cert IV/Cert 4 is mentioned, it refers to HLT42021 Certificate IV in Massage Therapy. Where Diploma of Remedial Massage is mentioned, it refers to HLT52021 Diploma of Remedial Massage.