Core Training for Beginners

Aug 15, 2022

If you’re new to core training it can be difficult to know where to start. That’s why in this tutorial I chose to concentrate on one simple exercise and break down exactly how to perform it. You’ll then be able to take this and apply it to many other exercises in order to work towards a stronger core and healthier spine.

Let’s focus on the Plank

I always advise that the easiest way to start with a plank is to move into it from a kneeling on all fours position. Focus on keeping your spine straight, or with a natural curve, keep your elbows directly below your shoulders and your forearms parallel to one another. You’re looking for a straight line from your shoulder to your knee. It doesn’t matter if you start with the back arching a little higher as it will allow for you to drop a little as you fatigue and still maintain an effective position rather than bowing.

Extend the legs to plank position…

Once you’ve found the position on all fours, extend one leg so you’re on one foot stretched out and one knee bent. Next, extend onto the other leg so you’re up on the toes of both feet. Keep in mind  all the same teaching points as above.

…then back to the knees…

Move back onto all fours, placing one knee back down at a time. Move smoothly and carefully keeping your spine in line.

…and repeat

I call this the set protocol. And it’s a great way to help you build up from beginner level to planking for 30 seconds, or even more.

As above, start on the knees, raise one leg at a time to plank, hold for 10 seconds then return to the knees for five seconds. Repeat the process - up for 10, down for five seconds, three times in total.

What we’re doing here is building towards the 30 second plank, but in a logical way. You’re effectively holding for 30 seconds, but you’re doing it in three chunks.

Then the next step would be to put the three chunks together to make each planking period longer. Two lots of 15 seconds for example, depending on your goal.

Why is this a good way to get started?

The reason this works so well is that it’s a great way to go into a plank without putting pressure on your spine or getting out of position. You’re not just laying on your front then lifting your whole body from the floor, you’re taking a more gradual approach that allows you to keep your spine inline more easily.

And of course this set protocol offers easy progression. You can build up over time to four, five or even six blocks of 10 seconds. Over a period of weeks you should be able to extend your hold.

What’s the method behind this set protocol?

 The theory behind this idea comes from Designing back exercises from rehabilitation to enhanced performance by Stuart Gill PhD. In it he explains that we should, “ keep the duration of isometric exercises (i.e. any static exercise such as the plank) under 10 seconds and build endurance with repetition not by increasing the duration of the holds. Near infrared spectroscopy of muscles showed us this was a way to build endurance without muscles cramping from oxygen starvation an acid build up.”

Put more simply, when you go into a longer hold you get CO2 build up or acid build - you’re effectively starving your muscles of oxygen. By building in this resting or easier type exercise, in this case going back onto the knees at regular intervals, you’re allowing some of that to release so you can go again. It’s this oxygen starvation and acid buildup that causes the fatigue and this is the perfect way to build up a better tolerance to this whether we’re at beginner, intermediate or advanced level, trying to get that little bit further.

If you’re a beginner to core training and you want to build a strong and healthy spine take a look at my core strength and stability 12-week programme. You can get access and get started today!

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