How Do I Train My Core?

And What Does That Really Mean, Anyway?

I always make it a point to sit down with new clients and talk about their goals. And in the past, the most frequent request of my lovely ladies was, as you can easily imagine, weight loss. They’d look down at their already beautiful bodies and point to this or that stubborn spot and anxiously ask, ”How do I get rid of this?

But the tides, they are a'turning. A shift has been made. The mainstream fitness industry is beginning to push the importance of moving better and getting strong. Now my potential prospects are pointing to the exact same areas and proclaiming, with even more uncertainty, I think I need to work on my core?

Not unlike fat loss, core training is somewhat confusing. There’s tons of available information and all of it seems to be quite conflicting.

The only difference being, we don’t seem to come across a decent definition of what core stability actually is as we scroll through our feeds.

There are however, endless random lists of exercises that appear to challenge our midsections….or something like that?

Core stability... That’s like working on my abs, right?

And that assumption is not untrue. Go ahead, girl. You’re on to something with that statement. It’s just not the complete story. There’s a little bit more to the definition.


What Is Core Stability?

Core stability refers to your ability to tie yourself together, to connect the different segments of your body and maintain your posture through a given position or movement.

It’s your ability to hold that position, to stand your ground against resistance. 

So it involves your abs and your midsection yes, as much of your success is dependent on your ability to breathe through the positions and harness that power. 

But it’s oh so much more than that. 

Mainly because, not unlike fat loss, the reason for the mystery surrounding core stability is that it’s situation specific. Or position specific to be exact. 

Meaning, your ability to maintain core stability in a squat, is quite independent of your ability to maintain core stability in a row, or even say something as similar as a squat on one leg. You might look really poised and pretty on two legs, and then not so much on one.

And everyone has different core strengths and weaknesses. Things we are inherently good at and things we may need a little more confidence with.

There’s plenty of reasons why that could be. Maybe you’ve had more practice with squats, so your posture looks lovely. You’ve had more experience and training to refine the movement.

But maybe you sit at a desk for long hours during the day and now your rowing posture is not quite as pretty. 

Not to worry, my dear! You just have some practicing to do.


Regress to Progress

Just as you attack any other skill, you’ll need to start with the basics. All exercises have regressions and progressions. There are unlimited ways to make them easier or harder. A deadlift can turn into a swing. A split squat can turn into a lunge.

You will, however, need to start at the very beginning of the path to learn the requisite skills you’ll need later. So that as the challenges get more complicated, you can move through the next progressions successfully. You can progress to that lunge without pain or compensation. Which is really a nicer way of saying you’re doing it wrong. Let’s get it right. 

The very first step for most exercises is to bring them to the floor and turn them into isometrics, or static holds, rather than dynamic movements.

And that my friend, is why you think of core work as that ab stuff on the mat. You learn to use your breath to connect to your body and it certainly does feel like a lot of abs. Mostly abs. All of the abs.

We said that core strength is specific to the movement in question. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll say that in the gym, your movements are generally broken up into six or seven different categories. You push and pull. You squat and bend. You rotate. And you stand on a single leg. I say seven because I believe the split stance is it's own thing. Respect the lunge. Anyways...

The Best Basic Core Routine

So, I’m going to give you five different foundational exercises(the single leg consideration is built in) and a breathing exercise, that will serve as your core warm-up for any workout you may have planned. Or they can also be used as the workout if you are just getting back into the gym. 

Breathing From Child's Pose

Finding neutral spine can be difficult when you are stuck in lumbar extension. Stress, sitting at a desk, indigestion, periods, and wearing heels can all cause your back to stiffen up. What we're referring to here is that excessive curvature in your lower back that feels painful and makes ab stuff impossible. Not everyone deals with it, but a lot of us do. In this video, I instruct you to complete one round of five breaths. But you may need more rounds on tough days to experience relief.

Even if your back is perfectly painless, it's a great idea to still start with some breathing first. You're going to need to create large amounts of tension for these exercises while still managing to control your breath. Practice without the tension, first.


Prone Cobra

What we're preparing for: pulling motions - Deadlifts, rows, carries 

***For all exercises, be sure to read the cues and troubleshooting tips below the videos! You'll find them in the description section if you click the little YouTube icon to the bottom right.


Prone Plank

What we're preparing for: pushing motions - Squats, Bench Press, Sleds


Hurdle Hold

What we're preparing for: squatting motions/single leg motions - Squats, Step-Ups


Leg Lock Bridge

What we're preparing for: bending motions, lunging motions - Deadlifts, Split Squats, Step-Ups


Side Plank

What we're preparing for: rotating motions - Get-Ups, RoTational and Anti-Rotational Exercises

The Routine

1. Breathing From Child's Pose 1 - 3 rounds of 5 breaths

2. Prone Cobra x 30sec

3. Prone Plank x 30sec

4. Hurdle Hold x 30sec

5. Leg Lock Bridge x 30sec

6. Side Plank x 30sec

And don't forget about the carry-over! When you advance to more difficult movements or move to the strength portion of your day, look to apply the same principles to the progressions. Breathe through your loaded movements while creating tension and focusing on maintaining stability. 

Stand your ground, girl!