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How Do We Train The Core?

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First of all you need a solid foundation and the knowledge that like anything with the body you need to earn your right to progress to the next stage.

As we have said before, the core is essentially 3D and you need to develop those inner muscles as well as those that people look in the mirror for. The foundation can be developed via:

  • Learning neutral posture
  • Breathing techniques
  • Isometric holds (static postures) held for time i.e. planks, side planks, iso back holds, iso bridge holds, pallof press iso holds.


The goals of these exercises are to: improve core stability, improve strength endurance in these positions, practice breathing techniques, reinforce and learn neutral posture and learn/develop ‘bracing’.

After this you can progress to adding movement to those fixed postures (dynamic stability) i.e. sets and reps of exercises like: Back extensions, glute bridges, pallof presses, Swiss ball roll outs, single arm KB farmer walks.

The goals of these exercises are to continue improving core stability and strength and learning to engage the core dynamically when the body is in motion, reinforcing its stability.

Next is to progress to strength training and more compound based exercises to develop the core (integrated core strength) i.e. squats, deadlifts, push/pull variations, barbell hip thrusts, MB throw variations etc.

How would this fit into your workout?

1. Warm Up
– As you are warming up you can add in the foundation core work we touched on
– breathing, posture and isometric core work to help switch on and develop the core and
reinforce postural awareness and bracing skills.

2. The Workout
– During the main work - compound movements will help to develop the core
and after the main work is done more core specific exercises can be introduced (the reason is we don’t want to pre-fatigue the core for the heavy compound lifts).

3. Post Workout/active recovery/athlete homework
– During the cool down, all of the foundation core work can be re-introduced, this can also be used during active recovery days and as ‘homework’ for the athlete.

Foundation core workouts to add to your programs after your compound work is done may include:

Foundation/beginner work:
Plank Hold, 30 sec – 1 min x 2-4 sets.
Pallof press hold, 30 sec – 1min(per side) x 2-4 sets.
Superman hold, 30 sec-1min x 2-4sets.

Foundation/intermediate work:
RKC Planks, 15-30 second holds x 3-4 sets.
Kneeling pallof press, 10-12 reps per side x 3-4 sets.
Banded Hip Thrust, 10-12 reps x 3-4 sets.

Foundation/Advanced Work:
Ab Roll out, 6-8 reps x 3-4 sets.
TRX/Swiss ball Leg curl to Hip Extension, 10-12 reps x 3-4 sets.
TRX/Swiss ball pike ups, 6-8 reps x 3-4 sets.

Core Work for Combat Sports

Workout 1:
TRX Mountain Climbers, 15-20 reps(per side) x 3-4 sets.
Band resisted back extensions, 10-12 reps x 3-4 sets.
Landmine rotations, 10-12 reps(per side) x 3-4 sets.

Workout 2:
MB Slam to Overhead Throw, 4-8 reps x 3-4 sets.
Renegade Rows(w/push up optional), 6-8 reps(per side) x 3-4 sets.

Workout 3:
MB Rotational Pass, 4-8 per side x 3- 4 sets.
Superman Walkouts, 6-10 reps x 3-4 sets.

Workout 4:
Single arm KB suitcase Carry, 25m per side x 3-4 sets.
KB Swings, 6-10 reps x 3-4 sets.

These are just a handful of sample workouts I have added into some of my clients programs depending on their goals, needs and how advanced they are.

Remember, when adding your own core work into your routine, the core is 3D and it’s the same as anything you do in S&C -  you need to take your time and progress slowly. Also if you smash the basics and keep reinforcing them you will go a long way to building a bulletproof core!

References – Publications
Hardcore - Defranco and smith 2012
Total Body Training - Gajda and Dr.Dominquez - 1982

Andrew Wood, or ‘Woody’ is a strength and conditioning coach to elite athletes around the world. Currently based in Phuket, Thailand at Tiger Muay Thai and MMA, he is the head of Strength and Conditioning. He Works with many semi-pro and pro rugby players, Muay Thai boxers, K-1 and MMA athletes from around the globe. World leading fighters of the UFC, One FC, Bellator and many other top promotions use his combat sports training programs. Instagram: @woody_visvires 

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