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Target Your Core The RIGHT Way With These Top Exercises

As a Coach who prioritizes strength training with all of my clients, core training is a fundamental part of that approach.


It's definitely not because core training will get you 6-pack abs or give you a longer, more "toned" midsection.

It's because prioritizing core stability and strength in your training can have a significant impact on:

  • Your training performance

  • Your overall strength levels

  • Your ability to live (and train) pain-free

  • Improving coordination and balance

Core Stability Vs. Core Strength

Before we dive further into those benefits it's important to distinguish the difference between "Core Stability" and "Core Strength". In fact, core stability is maybe even a term you haven't heard much before, but in my opinion, it's one of the most essential training outcomes to focus on if you're just starting an exercise routine OR have never focused much on core exercises in your training.

Core muscles are responsible for stabilizing the spine and pelvis as well as generating and transferring energy from the center of the body to our arms and legs.

The primary function of our core musculature is to resist unwanted motion and therefore responsible for creating stability (and strength) throughout our entire body!

Core stability exercises include planks, side planks, pallof press holds, and bird dogs, just to name a few. As you can see all of these exercises focus on training your body to resist getting pulled into different directions.

So what about strength? We are only as strong as we are stable. Your core strength (strength is the ability to exert force) will be severely limited, and can also lead to injury if you don't have the stability and coordination required to transfer that force effectively.

Core stability exercises teach us how to maintain proper alignment and control movement at the pelvis and the spine. When we lack proper control, we tend to use other muscle groups and compensate at the pelvis and the spine. If you've ever had low back pain during a core exercise, this is likely the culprit.

To prevent excessive stress of the lumbar spine and hip flexors, it's important to focus on stability, so that you can maintain the proper positioning when you advance to core strengthening exercises such as crunches, situps, and leg raises.

Common Core Training Mistakes

1. Too many crunches!

When you walk the gym floor or scroll Instagram, I have no doubt you'll see plenty of people "crunching" their way to 6-pack abs. I've gone down that path as well, thinking that if I didn't feel that painful, yet glorious, burn in my core I wasn't doing it right.

That's not untrue, but again. If that's all it took to train your core, we'd all be walking around with 6-packs by now! So stop doing endless situps and crunches and let's get back to the basics.

2. Doing crunches and sit-ups with improper form and control.

Even when you perform a crunch or a sit-up, to do it properly, you still need to stabilize and limit unwanted motion. It's really hard to do this when you haven't trained your core musculature as a whole while learning proper bracing and activation techniques.

3. Not learning proper movement and bracing techniques.

Learning how to properly brace is a fundamental part of core stability training and developing this skill is key to your training performance, overall strength levels, as well as preventing injuries.

I could probably write an entire article about proper bracing, but to explain proper bracing as simple as possible use this cue:

"Brace as is someone was about to punch you in the stomach."

BUT, don't do this at the expense of good posture! For example, bearing down and flexing your upper back, rounding your shoulders forward, or bringing your shoulders to your ears. Try to as tall as possible while you practice your bracing technique.

"Ok cool, I'll stop doing crunches but now what?"

I'm so happy you asked!

In the beginning of this article, I stated the importance of focusing your training on core stability before core strength. I also mentioned that proper core training can have a significant impact on:

  • Your training performance

  • Your overall strength levels

  • Your ability to live (and train) pain-free

  • Improving coordination and balance

To help you avoid the common mistakes I've listed and help you benefit from your core training, I've put together a free Strong Core Workout Guide that takes you through 10 total workouts that will allow you to progress your core training safely and effectively.