How to Design the Perfect Core Workout

There is a simple way to create a great core exercise programme and in this article I’m going to show you how.

After years of working full-time as a strength and conditioning coach and personal trainer the most common mistake I see people making with core training is simple – too much of a priority on flexion based exercises like sit ups.

Total Core Workout

Core training exercises can be broken down into three simple movement patterns. These are as follows

  1. Flexion based exercises
  2. Rotational based exercises
  3. Anti-rotation of anti-extension based exercises

I like to think of a flexion based exercise as anything where the goal of the movement is to make your body smaller. Most people do a great job of covering flexion based exercises in their core training and popular home exercise programmes like P90x Ab Ripper X is loaded is flexion based exercises.

A rotation based exercise is anything where the goal of the movement is to rotate across your body. Russian twists are a great example here but other weighted or bodyweight options is also possible here.

Anti-rotation or anti-extension is just a fancy term for exercises that do not require any movement. These exercises should be performed for a set period of time and not for reps. You might find these exercises the hardest of the three core categories. Side planks, planks, fire hydrants and quadruped holds are all examples of anti-rotation or anti-extension based exercises.

Having access to resistance bands will be a huge addition to your possibilities for anti-rotation based exercises.

Best Core Exercises to Build Strength

Contrary to clickbait YouTube videos or online articles there is no single best core exercise. The best core exercise programme will involve one or two exercises from each category above and be performed consecutively.

If you’re unsure of how to categorise your core exercises think

  • Does this exercise require movement? If yes, then it must be a rotational or flexion based exercise. If no- it is an anti-rotation based exercise.
  • Am I actively trying to make my belly button smaller? Weird question but if the answer is yes then it is a flexion based exercise

How to Design an Ab Exercise Programme

Step one: Choose 1-2 exercises for each category

Step two: Decide how many sets, reps and time to perform for each exercise

We recommend two to four rounds of 8 to 15 reps or two to four rounds of 20 to 40 seconds

Step three: Perform!

Here is a sample training program:

Flexion & rotation based exercises

Anti-extension [no movement exercises]

Week 1 3×8 3 sets of 20 seconds
Week 2 3×10 3 sets of 30 seconds
Week 3 4×8 4 sets of 20 seconds
Week 4 4×10 4 sets of 30 seconds

We hope you found this article helpful. You can view over 20 exercise demonstrations of core exercises on our YouTube Channel. The best part about core training is that you can perform a total core workout to build strength from the comfort of your own home.

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