Unlock Your Core Potential: 5 Exercises for a Rock-Solid Torso

Jan 15, 2024

In this month’s blog I am talking about how you can unlock your core potential. To do that we’ll look at the different components that make up core training as well as five exercises to help you build a robust core, giving you the strength, endurance and stability you need

Exercise 1 - Core Endurance – Side Plank

When we want to build the core, we don't just build core strength, we don't just build

core stability we need to build all the different components. So for core endurance we use the side plank because it’s a relatively simple position to hold, yet it gives us the ability to challenge the muscles over a prolonged period of time.

When we’re performing the side plank we want to imagine a straight line all the way down the body. Don’t allow the hips to hike up or sag, try to create a nice straight line going through the two shoulders. As we do this on both sides, we’re able to challenge the right side, the left side and a portion of the middle part of the torso too.

To build endurance we need to get to the point where we can hold for a period of time, for example, 30 seconds, 45 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes. Whatever it is, the longer you can hold, the more endurance you have. But don’t worry about that for now, you can build from wherever you are.  

Need to simplify? Come down into a kneeling side plank and hold there. You’ll find it's not quite as hard, but it can be just as effective, allowing you to come up into that full side plank over time. Or if that’s not working for you, build it up in blocks. I like to use 10 second blocks, i.e. hold for 10 seconds, rest for 5 seconds, hold for 10 rest for 5 and repeat. This means you might be able to get to a 30 second plank but with two 5 second rests in there. Obviously, if we're building endurance, the object will be to build  uptime, so once you’re able to get into the full side plank position, you can work on holding it for longer and longer.

Do you want to build core strength & stability? Click Here to start my How to Build Core Strength & Stability 12-Week Online Program

 Exercise 2 - Core Strength – Pallof Press

Strength is about holding a load. That means we want to work towards increasing the load we’re able to hold, but it doesn't have to be for a long period of time. Now obviously we need some equipment for this. I'm going to be using a cable machine with the handle on it. Watch the tutorial above to make sure you get into the correct position and understand what you’re trying to achieve from this exercise. Essentially you are trying to lift the heaviest weight possible, safely and without worrying about being able to hold it for a longer period of time or doing lots and lots of reps.

You’ll find this works the front part of the Torso, predominantly, as well as on your ability to hold posture and resist rotation. That’s why it's so good for strength. So my advice is to start with reps, and maybe hold for 5-6 seconds, working one side along with the front, then turning around to work the other.

Exercise 3 - Core Stability – Half-kneeling Halo

We’ll perform this exercise using a kettle bell or a weight of some kind, but don’t feel this has to be a heavy weight. We are focusing on stability over strength here. First we’ll come down onto one knee so we’re in a half-kneeling position. Keep a nice gap between the foot that’s on the floor and the opposite knee, so you have a nice stable base to start from. Once we’re here, the object is to pass the weight around our head. This trains core stability thanks to the element of balance and the need for smoothness of movement, muscle coordination and muscle timing.

If you've got good stability you will maintain a proper posture and a smoothness of movement all the way around.  To work out if this is the case for you, observe whether you’re ‘jolty’ or ‘jerky’ or whether you’re managing to keep that torso and spine nice and still. To make it harder, try moving the foot closer to the knee to give yourself a narrower base.

 This isn’t about the weight you’re lifting, though obviously you can increase this with practise. This is simply about keeping good control through the muscles. So don’t be afraid to start light and wide until you get more confident.

Exercise 4 – Core Strength & Stability – Plank with Arm Raise

When we’re covering off both strength and stability, it means not only are we trying to hold a load, we need to make sure it’s on a nice strong foundation so that we can start to add dynamic movement and build stability.

As you come down into a plank and then lift the arm up and forward, you’ll feel the torso compress around the spine and the abdomen, so that’s where the strength aspect comes in.  Then as you concentrate on centring the hips and not allowing them to shift around as you lift the arm, that’s the stability bit.

To get started and make it easier, come down on to the knees to plank, and then do exactly the same thing with your arms. As you begin to get more confident, try coming up on to the feet briefly, perhaps adding stability if you need it by making the elbows come together creating a v shape and placing the knees or feet slightly wider apart for a more stable base.

To up the strength element? Place the elbows further apart to make the hips and torso work harder to hold the position. Notice the tension moving from the centre to the outsides of the core as you reposition the arms.

Exercise 5 - Dynamic Torso – Around the World

Adding dynamism into an exercise is the way to get all the muscles working effectively together. In this exercise we’ll be performing Around the World using a kettle bell. This helps us to start creating a dynamic torso, something a lot of people miss when they want to do core exercises. The reason we make the moves dynamic is so that as the weight moves, the load going through the Torso moves too. So we need to practise knitting everything together during the movement.

To perform Around the World, we stand up in position, holding the kettle bell in front. I recommend one hand at one side and one hand at the other side – this makes it easier when we pass it around the back. As you pass the kettle bell around you'll notice the tension moving across the torso. This requires you to work all the muscles in the core together, making this a more complete core strength, stability and even endurance exercise. And one that better reflects how you move your body in the real world as we lift, move, play sports etc.

If you’re ready to increase the difficulty, one option is to make the weight heavier, but the other is to follow through the swing faster, allowing gravity to have an influence, and meaning you’ll need to work harder to counterbalance the movement and keep stable. Remember to move in both directions to fully train the muscles, perhaps 6 or 8 reps each way.

Do you want to build core strength & stability? Click Here to start my How to Build Core Strength & Stability 12-Week Online Program


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