How to maximize your core workout

By Charley Smook, MS, CSCS


The core is often misconceptualized.  Most people think the core is the abdomen: the rectus abdominis, oblique muscles, and the transverse abdomen.  The general thought on the core is that you can do planks, sit ups, rotations, toe touches, ect. to get a stronger core.  Typically, these are all done at the end of a workout as a finisher to what they have already done.  These are all wrong, to an extent.

Certified strength and conditioning specialist, Charley Smook, via the National Strength and Conditioning Association.However, the core consists of all of the muscles form the shoulders to the knees.  These muscles help maintain posture, balance, and transfer of forces form the lower body to the upper body.  This means core training be done before, in the middle of, and at the end of the training session.  Not just used as a finisher.

Beginning of Session

To start with, core at the beginning of the session is designed as activation.  Get the glutes, the abdominal wall, the mid/upper back muscles all firing so they are ready for a lift.   Complex lifts are core lifts.  They are total body lifts requiring the use of all core muscles.  These lifts are often a clean, squat, deadlift, bench press, etc.  If the core muscles are not firing and bracing the spine, form will wary and injury is likely.

Middle of Session

In the middle of the lift.  Like any other muscles, the abdominal muscles should not be trained in a fatigued state.  Incorporating abdominal lifts within the middle of a workout will allow you to train them harder and heavier.  Bracing is also of importance in the middle of a lift.  When you are doing any other lift the core, anterior and posterior sides, need to be braced.  Maintaining this bracing (deep core muscle activation, lats engaged, glutes firing) should be done at all times while lifting.  Athletes need to consciously think of this to get the most out of their lift.

End of Session

At the end of the lift.  By all means at the end of a lift “core” “abs” can be done.  A good way to do this is do your “core” exercise and superset it with a mobility of some sort.  This will not only allow you to train your “core” but will also help with flexibility and begin the recovery phase.