3 exercises for a strong core

ROMAN KOCH 12. December 2023

Strengthening the back and stomach muscles is part of any athlete's training plan - yet these are often neglected. We'll explain why this is a bad idea and how to efficiently train your core with a few simple exercises. 

The core muscles stabilise the body throughout all of its postures and movements. Well-coordinated, strong arm and leg movements rely on a stable core. The better the body's central muscles work together, the easier it is for the entire body to perform at its peak. And, the longer the training session or competition lasts, the more important it is to have strong core muscles.

Fatigue in these muscles leads to poor posture, less effective movement sequences and thus reduced performance. For example, weaker foot placement when running, less pedal power when cycling and a poorer streamlined position when swimming. No matter the endurance sport, fatigue in the core muscles minimises performance.

You just have to do it

Some of the core muscles support respiratory function and are thus engaged while breathing. This dual task can become problematic if the core isn’t strong enough. As a result, you'll literally find yourself breathless. As soon as the core muscles become overloaded with stabilising, this negatively impacts respiratory function. Those with a strong core can go faster for longer!

The range of core training exercises to choose from is vast and it’s not easy to find the right ones. There isn’t one magic exercise - rather, regular core training as a whole is needed. Core exercises should include all three directions of movement: bending and stretching, lateral bends and rotation.

The core muscles primarily consist of slow-moving muscle fibres, which require strength and endurance training. This involves many repetitions (30 and more) and short breaks (less than 60 seconds) between each set. Ideally, different core exercises should be combined one after the other without stopping, so that the individual muscles have time to rest but the general core area is constantly working.

Normally, most core exercises are performed while lying down; however, core exercises should also be performed while standing, which is why we’re focussing on the following three standing exercises.

Walking on the spot with resistance



Here’s how: Stand hip-width apart next to a door frame and place both palms at shoulder height, one below the other, against the frame. Press both hands into the frame as firmly as possible while keeping your core stable. Now, walk on the spot, lifting each knee to form a 90° angle. Maintain the pressure against the door frame while walking on the spot.

Take note: Choose a pressure for your arms whereby you can maintain the same posture. The upper body should always remain straight.

One-armed weightlifting



Here’s how: Stand hip-width apart with a weight in one hand and bend to the side that is carrying the weight. Lower the weight to the ground as far as it will go, then lift the weight as high as you can. 

Take note: The upper body should only move sideways. Avoid twisting or bending forward. Only 1 weight is required for this exercise. It is important to bend as far as you can go.

Repetitions: 3 sets of 30 repetitions per side.

Standing cat/cow



Here’s how: Stand up straight, feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly and bend your upper body forward. Bend from the hip while keeping your back straight. Place your hands on the side of your head. From this bent position you can now begin bending and stretching the entire back. 

Take note: Remain in the bent position. The more horizontal your upper body, the more difficult the exercise is. The more vertical your upper body, the easier the exercise is. Do not over-stretch. Lower and lift your head as you change the posture but don't overdo it.

Repetitions: 3 sets of 30 repetitions.

Photo: iStock.com/Maridav