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Core Strength Training for Athletes

Written By Jayme Pantekoek | Published Dec 8th 2021


Core strength training is one of the most misunderstood systems in athletics.

Most people would tend to specifically call it a muscle group—abs. They also tend to think of core strength training as isolating that muscle group.

While they are not wrong, they are missing a big objective: how your core relates to movement in sports.

Most Core Strength Training Misses the Mark

While playing a sport, athletes depend on their core and use it as a driving force behind playing strength.

Despite this, athletes (just like the general population) will attack core strength training by doing as many varieties of crunches as they can. While this is technically core strength training, but it’d be a lot like practicing riding a bike in order to learn how to surf. Biking and surfing both have the component of balance in them. Getting good at biking will make you a better athlete and could help you you could pick up surfing easier, but it’s still not the fastest route to learning how to surf.

As athletes (and their trainers), we need to understand how core strength relates to sports and athletics and tailor our core strength training in a way that helps us excel in them.

Integrated Core Training for Dynamic Stability

Integrated Core Training for Dynamic Stability (also known as Co-Contraction Training) puts the athlete into a position that they would see in their sport. Think of a lunge or athletic squat. A typical crunch puts an athlete on their back, isolating their abdominals and moving with hyperflexion of the lower back. More typically though, an athlete would be in a lunge or single leg position in their sport. In this position, counter-movement (like contact with another athlete) would take the athlete out of this position if they lacked a strong, reactive, and reflexive core.

This is the part where the core comes into play—the reactive and reflexive movements have to do with co-contractions. They use counter-movement muscles or the antagonistic muscle (in the core) to stabilize the force of this counter-movement.

Let’s use soccer as an example. Say one of the players has the ball running down the field next to their opponent. Their opponent leans their shoulder and body weight into the ball handler’s shoulder causing them to co-contract from their core. This allows them to absorb the contact and not be knocked off the ball.

For that co-contraction to be effective, the ball handler must have a reactive and reflexive core to supplement the right amount of stabilization. We can train this by putting the athlete in their athletic position and adding counter-movement with a ball, band, weighted implement, or another athlete.

Coaches could also offer cognitive cues to increase nervous system awareness. This would be done by reciting colors shapes or simple math while the movement is being performed.

Why This is a Better Method of Core Strength Training for Athletes

It’s always important for an athlete to train movements and in positions that they would consistently be in while competing in their sport. If athletes are only doing ab workouts for their core strength training, not only are they missing critical muscle groups, but they are also limiting their ability to respond to counter-movement.

Responding to counter-movement is directly related to athletes’ nervous systems. Athletes have to be able to react quickly to external stimuli. This kind of training is also good for the nervous system because it brings more intention to the movement. With this kind of core strength training, athletes have to concentrate on stabilization so they don’t get knocked off the athletic position in-game.



Core strength training involves a heck of a lot more than just doing an ab set at the end of a workout.

Building a strong core is critical for in-game counter-movement. Simply put, it’ll make you a better and more resilient player.

If you’re not putting yourself in a position that directly correlates to something you would do in your sport, you’re not training the nervous system, stabilization, and counter-movement cues that will make you a better athlete.

Make sure you and your trainer/coach consider this when building in core strength training to your training regimen.

If you’d like to build positional and functional training into the training for your sport, consider signing up for one of our programs. And if you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!

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