2 Workouts That Will Build an Athletic Core

Don't overlook core training. Strengthen your core for better athletic performance and injury prevention.

Weak abdominal, groin, lower- and middle-back muscles predispose athletes and non-athletes to chronic soreness, muscle tears, strains and hernias, and they can also hinder sports performance.

Inadequate core strength can sideline athletes in various ways—from awkwardly lunging or reaching for a ball; slipping on wet turf, court or ice; turning or twisting quickly when chasing an opponent; or even swinging a baseball bat or tennis racquet.

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If your core training has taken a back seat to Bench Presses, Bicep Curls and Dips, start 2017 on the right track by prioritizing training those all-important core muscles!

Heed the advice from noted sports medical physician Jordan D. Metzl, M.D., of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, and author of The Athlete's Book of Home Remedies on the significance of core training for preventing injuries such as hernias.

"Up your core work," he writes. "A strong core is the best prevention for a hernia. In fact, there's no better reason to stay in shape— they're often caused by weak abs and being overweight. Planks, Crunches and Leg Raises should be workout staples."

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Below are two challenging full-body, core-strengthening workouts that include Plank variations, Med Ball Crunches and Leg Raises, as well as standing and seated exercises.


  • Moderately-heavy medicine ball (60-80% RM)
  • Exercise mat (optional)
  • Bench or chair
  • Water bottle
  • Timer


  • Start with an upper- and lower-body dynamic warm-up (e.g., Lunges/Arm Circles).
  • Finish with cool-down upper- and lower-body static stretches for greater flexibility and range of motion.
  • Sets/Reps: 2x10 or timed sets for certain exercises.
  • Rest: 30 seconds between sets; 60 seconds between exercises.
  • Hydrate before, during and after workouts.
  • Perform workouts on non-consecutive days for adequate recovery.

Workout 1

Side Lunges & Twists

  • Hold the med ball with your arms extended at chest level in an athletic stance.
  • Lunge laterally right while simultaneously rotating your upper body to the right.
  • Return to start position and continue Lunges/Twists nine more times.
  • Immediately do 10 left lateral Lunges/Twists.
  • Rest and repeat.

Med Ball Leg Raises

  • From a supine position with your legs extended, hold the ball with your arms extended above the chest.
  • Slowly raise your right leg until your foot comes as close to the ball as possible (hamstring flexibility helps); pause one second while contracting your abs.
  • Slowly lower your leg to the start position and repeat nine more times.
  • Immediately follow with 10 left Leg Raises.
  • Rest, hydrate, and repeat.

Holding the ball up during the entire movement promotes shoulder, chest and arm strength and muscular endurance, and the Leg Raises especially target the lower abs.

Med Ball Feet-Elevated Push-Ups

  • Assume a push-up position with your feet elevated on a bench or chair and your hands atop the ball.
  • Keep your back straight without letting your lower back sag, and tighten your abs.
  • Slowly lower your chest toward the ball, pause one second, and explosively press up to start position.
  • After 10 reps, rest and repeat.

Feet-elevated Push-Ups with your hands on a ball enhance both core stability and upper body size/strength.

Med Ball Seated Rows & Twists

This combo exercise works your arm, back and oblique muscles.

  • Take a seated position with your feet slightly off the floor and your legs extended.
  • Hold the ball with your arms extended at waist level.
  • Pull the ball to your waist and twist from side to side.
  • Return to start position and continue alternating Rows/Twists for 10 reps.

Workout 2

Single-Leg Squats & Overhead Presses

A lower- and upper-body and balance-building exercise combination that also promotes core stability when performed on one leg.

  • With your left leg slightly bent and your right foot off the floor, hold the ball at shoulder level.
  • Slowly squat with your left leg and rise up and explosively press the ball overhead.
  • Repeat nine more times.
  • Rest and repeat with right leg Squats/Overhead Presses with your left foot off the floor for 10 reps.
  • Rest, hydrate, and repeat.

Woodchoppers & Twists

  • Assume an athletic stance with the ball held overhead.
  • Drive the ball through your legs while squatting down, rise and twist side to side.
  • Return to the start position and repeat nine more reps.
  • Rest and repeat.

Elevated Prone & Side Planks

  • Assume a prone plank position (forearms resting shoulder-width apart on a mat or carpet) with your feet atop the bench or chair.
  • Keeping your back straight and abs tight, hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Immediately follow by rotating your body to the right with your feet still elevated.
  • Rest on your right forearm and raise your left arm  overhead.
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds, then rotate to the left—left forearm on the mat and right arm raised overhead for 30-60 seconds.
  • Rest/repeat.

Seated Reverse Crunches

  • Seated with your legs slightly bent, hold the med ball close to your chest.
  • Slowly lower your back halfway toward the mat.
  • Pause five seconds and slowly return to the start position.
  • Repeat nine more times.
  • Rest, hydrate, and repeat.

RELATED: 15 Core Strengthening Exercises for Athletes


Metzl, Jordan D., M.D. The Athlete's Book of Home Remedies. (Rodale Books, 2012). p. 117.

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