Overload Your Core With 7 Muscle-Building Exercises

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The current approach to strength training is to focus on the core—and with good reason. Research shows that the core fires through nearly all movements. Even the Front Shoulder Raise triggers a core contraction, approximately .08 seconds before the arms begin to move.

If the core is engaged in all movements, why do athletes need to perform exercises that specifically target core muscles? Simple: when you perform heavy resistance training, your core acts as a stabilizer. If you lack core strength, your form may break down, reducing performance improvements and even risking injury.

For example, in a Bench Press, when you decelerate the bar to the chest, the core must stabilize the shoulders and help absorb the weight. And when you press the bar off the chest, the core must be strong enough to keep the back flat on the bench to maintain technique and prevent injury.

Mechanical errors caused by a weak core should be a major concern, since they prevent athletes from performing at their best. The most effective way to prevent them is by developing core strength through a combination of flexion, extension and rotational exercises. Like other parts of the body, the core must be overloaded to make strength gains significant enough to support advanced lifts and heavy loads.

Below are seven exercises that effectively overload the core with a variety of different movements, thus forming a strong and balanced muscle foundation.

Supine Bridge

  • Lie on back with knees bent and feet directly below knees
  • Flex glutes and raise hips toward ceiling, keeping core tight
  • Hold for specified time

Sets/Reps: 5x30 seconds

Russian Twists

  • Assume Sit-Up position with knees bent and torso at a 45-degree angle
  • Grasp hands together with arms straight in front of chest
  • Rotate torso and touch hands to ground at hip
  • Return to start position and immediately repeat on opposite side
  • Continue in alternating fashion for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 2x30


  • Kneel with hands and knees on floor
  • Raise and extend opposite arm and leg
  • Hold for 20 seconds
  • Perform on opposite side

Sets/Reps: 3x each side


  • Lie on back with arms straight overhead
  • Flex core to raise legs and torso until hands and feet touch
  • With control, return to start position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 3x15-20

Side Plank

  • Assume Side Plank position with forearm on ground directly under shoulder
  • Tighten core and hold for specified time
  • Perform on opposite side

Sets/Reps: 3x30 seconds each side

Bosu Crunch

  • Assume Sit-Up position with Bosu centered under glutes and arms behind head
  • Perform crunch, maintaining tight core
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 2x25

Mountain Climbers

  • Assume Push-Up position
  • Bring each knee to elbow in alternating fashion
  • Perform for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 5x30 seconds

Photo:  bodybuilding.com

Bobby Rowland received his bachelor's degree in kinesiology from Midwestern State University [Wichita Falls, Texas] in 2004. He is a former rugby second team all-star. In 2007, he played tight end for the Wichita Falls Razorbacks, a semi-pro football team. He received his CSCS credentials in 2006, and now serves as fitness director and performance specialist for Zach's Powerhouse Gym in Wichita Falls. He is also a volunteer coach for the Greater Wichita Falls Soccer Association. Rowland believes in training the body from scratch and molding it to fit personal training goals.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock