18 Basic Core Training Exercises

by Developing the Core
Kinetic Select May 2017


Almost all functional movements of the trunk are combinations or variations of four basic movement patterns: trunk flexion, trunk extension, trunk rotation, and trunk lateral flexion. This article lists exercises to address each of these movement patterns.

The following is an exclusive excerpt from the book Developing the Core, published by Human Kinetics. All text and images provided by Human Kinetics.


Core Programming

The first step in designing a training program for the core musculature is to recognize the various movement capabilities of the trunk. Strength and conditioning practitioners and exercisers may focus their efforts on individual muscles and muscle groups, such as the abdominal muscles. However, a more effective approach to program design is to think in terms of movement.

Almost all functional movements of the trunk, in the activities of daily living (ADLs) or sport, are combinations or variations of four basic movement patterns: trunk flexion, trunk extension, trunk rotation, and trunk lateral flexion.

A training program that targets the core musculature should include exercises that require stabilization against or movement through these patterns. This will ensure balanced strength development and provide even the novice practitioner or exerciser the ability to design effective programs.

Programming does not have to be overly complicated or difficult if some basic principles are followed.


The following topics will be discussed in detail to help the practitioner and exerciser when designing training programs for the core musculature: keeping the program simple, incorporating static and dynamic exercises, moving from simple to more complex movements, including open- and closed-chain exercises, periodizing volume and loading schemes, and using a variety of implements.

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Keep It Simple

Start by training the four basic trunk movement patterns with dynamic or static exercises. Beginners would do well to include exercises that train single-plane basic movement patterns. Single-plane exercises are usually easy to coach and easy for the exerciser to learn and master. Exercises such as the crunch (trunk flexion), back extension/hyperextension (trunk extension), Russian twist (trunk rotation), and side bend (lateral flexion) adequately train the core musculature.

Please see Table 5.1 for other single-plane exercises that could be included in a training program.

Table 5.1 Basic Exercises

From the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) comes this resource packed with more than 100 drills to help in the development of agility and quickness training programs. Applicable to almost every sport, Developing Agility and Quickness focuses on improving athletes’ fleetness of foot, change-of-direction speed, and reaction time. The book is available in bookstores everywhere, as well as online in the NSCA Store.  

#NSCAStrong #NSCAStrong

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