CORE basics! Start 2023 with a CORE goal!

Cheers to 2023 and a new year of training and racing! A CORE (pun intended) goal for me is always to improve CORE strength and CORE endurance. So this week, I will post a series of CORE questions and answers to help clarify why this is a critical focus.

What is the core?

The definition of the anatomical core can be simplified as the muscles, bones, cartilage, and ligaments involved in movement of trunk, the area from the shoulders to the hips.

Table 1. Primary Core Muscles

In addition to the muscles, the core includes skeletal components, such as the bones that comprise the pelvic girdle (hip and sacrum), and the vertebral column (cervical, thoracic, and lumbar). Together these components are the central connection between both the upper and lower body including the independent limbs (arms and legs).


That’s a hardcore pun there Doc!! :wink:


I presume these are the areas that the Full Body and the Core Focus strength videos concentrate on.

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Love this! It’s an area I need to focus on, but don’t find very exciting.

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@Heretic You go it! The SYSTM core content flipping rocks! Way to go @Coach.Jeff.H!

Bahahaha @Glen.Coutts I see what you did there! Double down.

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What is functional core training?

Functional core training is a popular phrase in the fitness industry referring to the link between an exercise and physical performance in daily life. Therefore, one goal of functional training is to assist individuals, with varying lifestyles, to perform their regular tasks, at work and home, with efficiency and without pain. For example, functional training will prepare your body to lift heavy objects, climb stairs without pain, and react to environmental conditions. These simple everyday movements are actually complex with respect to how the muscles work together for stability and support.

The complexity is due to the movements occurring in 3 different planes: sagittal, frontal and transverse. The sagittal plane is the most common, and the plane of movement for cyclists. We move in the sagittal plane when traveling forward and backward including flexion and extension of the spine. The frontal plane incorporates movement of the spine from side to side while the transverse plane utilizes rotation about the spine. Ideally, core training involves exercises in all 3 planes.

Core training can also be a reference to integration exercises that elicit activity from multiple primary muscles of the trunk (front, back, and side) in three dimensions. Integration core exercises require activation of the distal trunk muscles (shoulder and hip) as well as activation of the proximal trunk muscles (abdominal, oblique and lumbar) in comparison to isolation core exercises that only require activation of the proximal trunk muscles. Understanding the difference between these two core-training strategies will enable personal trainers, sport coaches, and medical providers to suggest the optimal type of exercises during a strengthening routine.

Based upon muscle activity, integration exercises that require activation of the shoulder as well as hip musculature are potentially ideal in terms of maximizing strength, improving endurance, enhancing stability, reducing injury, and maintaining mobility when completing the core strengthening guidelines. These integration exercises elicit the overall greatest muscles activity while challenging coordination and balance.


Who needs core training?

Everyone (almost)! Your core muscles are active from simple daily living activities such sitting, standing, walking, and reaching. Any movement that involves lifting, twisting, or balancing relies on core activation. A healthy core will also help power athletic activities such as swimming, cycling, running, throwing, hitting, catching, and rowing. However, if you are recovering from an injury or surgery it is always wise to consult a physician before beginning a core training program.

Why is core training important?

The core is involved in every movement we make, either by initiating or transferring force. Core training will help you build strength, improve stability, maintain mobility, breathe deeply and reduce injury. Core strength allows an individual to generate and maintain force. Stability is critical for any weight-bearing activity and will diminish low back pain with a strong posture. Mobility allows you to remain independent by performing daily tasks that require coordination of various body parts. Finally, it will also promote efficient breathing and lung capacity. The core muscles are connected to the diaphragm, which will allow you to inhale and exhale at your maximum capacity to assist in overall task performance.

One of the most compelling reasons to complete a core-strengthening program as an aging adult, recreational athlete, or sports professional is to reduce the chance of injury. Leeton et al (2004) reported that injured athletes had significantly less strength in the core musculature, especially the hip abductors. Similarly, Hewitt and colleagues (Myer, et al, 2006; Myer, et al, 2005) conducted multiple studies with a focus on the connection between neuromuscular trunk training and knee injury. They concluded that non-contact knee injuries were less frequent in the group of participants that completed a core-training program.

When should I complete core training?

At a minimum, core-training exercises should be completed 2 times per week after, at least, a 5-minute warm-up. However, it is feasible to perform a few exercises during or after every workout session. Ideally, begin your core routine with flexibility stretches, progress to strength and stability exercises and add advanced option when appropriate. Balance the exercises between the three dimensions of the core; abdominal, oblique and lumbar.

What are the options and benefits for advanced core training?

The degree of difficulty during a core workout can be enhanced with minimal equipment by adding weights or balance. Individuals ready for additional resistance could hold a plate above the head, at the forehead or on the chest. Or when completing exercises with the trunk off the ground, such as a hover, plank, or bridge, an arm or leg could be lifted to increase core activity. Arokoski et al (2001) compared abdominal and low back activity during exercises with and without a balance component. The participants completed a bridge exercise with both feet on the ground as well as with one leg lifted. The average muscle activity was at least 20% greater in the rectus abdominus and multifidus muscles with one leg lifted and was 200% greater in the external oblique muscles. These are examples of how exercises can be modified to increase the intensity for individuals with varying levels of experience and strength. Thus a personal trainer or rehabilitation specialist could begin the program with simple isolation exercises as the client or patient gains strength and progress to more integrated, complex variations.


I’ve only realised the importance of core training when I added ‘strength’ to the training plans. I’m not sure whether I actually get faster (I ride alone), but the enjoyment improves. On long, hard or difficult rides, it’s now the legs that are the limiting factor. Lower back, shoulders and arms are generally coping well.


Really interesting balance modifications, will definitely be trying those, thank you !

Similar here; the biggest single boost to my outside riding, that I can identify, was doing the 30 day yoga core challenge. Was very surprised at the effect it had

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