Let’s talk CORE with Tracy!


Your core is the central most part of your body, the trunk or torso. Think of your core as a strong column that links the upper body and lower body together. Core muscles are responsible for stabilizing the spine and pelvis as well as generating and transferring energy from the center of the body to its limbs.

Having a solid core creates a foundation for all activities. All of our movements are powered by the torso. The abdominals, hips and back work together to support the spine when we sit, stand, bend over, pick things up, twist, chop, throw, any exercise and more. It includes your pelvis, back, hips and abdominals. Core exercises train the muscles in your core to work in harmony. This leads to better balance and steadiness or balance. 

Training the core with classic and functional movements ensure greater mobility of the spine and trunk and ensure proper transfer of force and stabilization from the lower body to the upper body and vice versa. Having a strong, stable core helps us to prevent injuries and allows us to perform at our most efficient level. Although we all love a good “crunch” I find it more beneficial in programming more functional exercises to enhance the strength and stability of the hips, torso and shoulders.

Let’s look at some basic, but key exercises, i use to train this important system of muscles and some helpful tips and tricks!

After a proper warm up such as 3-5 minutes of squats a light jog or as simple as some jumping rope, begin with basic static stability work like planks or split leg squat holds to make sure your muscles are properly stabilizing your spine. This is essential to both protect the spine from excessive loading, as well as ensuring your abdominal muscles are staying fully engaged.

Split Stance Squat

  1. From a neutral, hip width squat or chair pose, step one foot back into a split or staggered stance position with your hands by your side, looking forward and down.
  • Keep torso long as if in a plank position and brace core.
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds.
  • repeat on other side.

Forward plank

  1. Come into an all fours position on your mat.
  2. Place the hands shoulder width apart on the floor and feel each finger tip and palm of the hand ground gently to your mat. 
  3. Press away from the floor to engage your back  and draw your abdominal up and in like strings on a corset as you walk one leg back to plank at a time.
  4. Keep a straight line through the body, preventing the hips from sinking to the floor.
  5. Gently squeeze the glutes as if you are holding a pencil between the cheeks. 
  6. Feel length in not only your spine but as you reach your legs long and press into the floor stronger with hands and feet, you will feel strong and stable!

For athletes and non-athletes alike, the side plank resembles the challenges placed on the torso muscles while performing simple activities of daily living, such as carrying grocery bags or removing a suitcase out from overhead compartment on an airplane. 

Side plank

  1. Start by lying on an exercise mat on your side with your forearm flat and your elbow directly under your shoulder.
  2. Your legs should be long with your feet stacked on top of each other.
  3. Your chin should remain tucked throughout the movement, as if you were holding an egg under your chin.
  4. Rotate your shoulders outward to engage your lats, and pull your forearm down toward your midsection to create tension.
  5. Tuck your pelvis, squeeze your glutes and quads, and engage your core. All repetitions should begin from this position.
  6. While maintaining your alignment, lift your hips off the floor. Your body should remain in a straight line from head to toe.

Let’s now take that activation and stability and apply it to the first initial stages of strength training, which will include a combination of dynamic stability, muscular endurance, and some introductory strength work. With your muscles properly activated and engaged, your endurance will help them stay active all throughout, and you can apply that skill of stability into some more functional movement.Because the core muscles are divided into front (anterior), back (posterior) and sides (lateral), they need to be trained on all planes of motion.

Single Leg Balance with Overhead Hold

  1. Stand tall with feet together with weight of choice by your side.
  2. Draw the collarbones open and engage the core to maintain a strong posture. You can take one arm out to the side slightly for balance if you feel unsteady.
  3. Lift one foot off the ground, bending the knee slightly. Don’t lift the leg too high – instead just let it hover slightly above the ground.
  4. Maintain an upright posture keeping the abdominals drawing up and in as you take the weight overhead.
  5. You can maintain the overhead hold for 30-60 seconds.
  6. For added stability and core strength challenge, begin to lower the weight to shoulder height and press overhead again for 8-12 reps! The movement of the arm will challenge both!

Hip bridge or thrust

  1. While lying on your back, bend your knees to roughly 90 degrees and press your feet firmly into the floor.
  2. Squeeze the glute muscles to lift your hips off the floor, getting your shoulders, hips, and knees into a straight line while you also draw the abs down and in.  Think as if you are zipping up a tight jacket.
  3. As your hips lift and your abdominals pull down you create a reverse tug of war feel between the posterior and anterior muscle groups. This resistance is bracing, and in turn, strengthening the core!

Weighted carries – a great way to practice transferring force through the body.

  1. You can carry a weight in one or both hands and simply walk for a certain distance or time.
  2. The focus is on staying long through the body and not bending or twisting in any direction.
  3. These carries can be done with the weight by your side(s) or pressing the weight overhead and reaching as if you are reaching for the clouds.

Whether you’re hitting a golf ball, chopping wood or mopping the floor, the necessary motions either originate in your core, or move through it. Weak, tight, or unbalanced core muscles can undermine you in any of these realms. Ultimately, developing core strength and stability enables everyday athletes (yep that’s you!) to maximize their power output and enhance everyday performance.

Practice these solid core exercises and more online!