T Nation

Core Training


First off, I want to say thanks to all the people on here. I've never really posted here before, but I've been reading the articles and posts for the past 6 months or so, and I have gotten a shitload bigger and stronger. I can't believe i never knew about face pulls. Anyway...

I squat ass to the grass with about 245 for my 4 sets of 6-8. I dont feel very stable while unracking the bar, i shuffle a lot. Once i get situated, I'm fine. Also I have a lot of lower back pain when I do good mornings and SLDL.

My form is good, my problem is (i think) that I don't really work out abs. My abs got really big when I worked out when I was younger, so I have left them alone. They are really strong, but I have never done any oblique work or anything like that. The articles I read are calling for like 15 sets of core exercises. I do an upper/lower split twice a week with all heavy compund lifts, and by the time I'm done abs are far from my mind.

So my question is if you guys could choose 1 or 2 exercises that i could use to complement my workout what would they be? I have also read that lifting heavy will build your core without extra work. Thanks.


Any standing over head presses will work your "core". Weighted pull-ups and chin-ups will work your "core", more so if you add the weight at your feet.


And snatches and cleans. Those will work your "core" really good.


Wish I had the link, but it's one of the power lifting articels on this site that explains what good form for squats really is. I thought I had good form before until I read it. Basically it explains that pressing your lower part of your gut into the belt will tighten you up the way you should be. I had always looked up and has a nice slight arc inward with no rounding at all, but when I tried that technique it really made my core feel solid when squatting. But if you already do that, then ignore this post.


Planks are a great stabilization exercise, with numerous progressions from just using the body to adding in a stability ball for more difficulty.


Grab a nice heavy dumbell, in one hand at a time, and then walk around with it for a while.


Thanks for the replies. I'll look into what planks are. And yeah, I know my form is good. I had to learn good form and breathing techniques after I had hernia surgery so that I could squat at all.

Bikemike, why do you have core in quotes like that? Is that not the right word for it or something. And unfortunately I work out at a university gym that dont allow lifts like cleans. I've tried it, they made me stop. But i do overhead presses. I need to find a new gym, I'm tired of kicking people out of the squat rack for working forearms.

Thanks a lot for the help.


There are some posts from the past where some people made fun of other people for wanting to build bid core muscles. So it's mostly just for fun.

That's crazy, a university gym that doesn't allow cleans.


Yeah, and carry it overhead. A sandbag is even better. Uneven ground makes it even more challenging. The simplest stuff is the best.



if you want pictures of a plank and some variations, shoot me an email


Sorry, but anyone that puts core in quotes is an idiot. The core is a very important and trainable muscle group. You wouldn't say "How do I isolate my rectus abdominis?", unless you're bodybuilding.

Anyway, heavy high rep (10-12 reps) front squats with cross-armed grip (no belt please) will add mass and improve stability within the core musculature. Also, any type of sandbag/heavy bag exercise is excellent, such as bag waiter's bows (good morning/RDL with the bag held in front).

Please note that the above are fairly intermediate to advanced exercises, and you should have built a good foundation with planks, balance, rotational push-ups, back squats, overhead presses with medium loads, and other basic stability exercises before attempting.

Tell a newbie to do a heavy (relative to him) push press, and watch his spine go CRACK. Core stability is very important, otherwise you will limit your poundages, get injured, and look weak as hell. My opinion is that small waist = weak looking. That does not mean a fat waist, however.


actually, I agree with putting "core" in quotes, because many don't understand what the core is. The core isn't a muscle, it's a whole host of muscles that are involved in spinal stabilization.

It gets thrown around a lot these days when in relation to ab work, but it goes way beyond that.


So carry a dumbell over head, and do front squats. Would it be safe to say that if I threw in some overhead squats I'd be straight?


If you can carry a dumbbell overhead and do front squats AND overhead squat.
The dumbbell wasn't heavy enough. 1 arm overhead carry up a set of stairs is really interesting core work.



Sorry, i meant overhead squats instead of the other exercises. I live in a dorm until summer.


Rotational pushups? A search of the site gives me nothing, what are these?


Do a push-up. Rotate on to you right hand (arm extended). Continue to rotate to a supine position (face up and arms extended). Rotate over onto your left arm. Continue rotating back to a prone position and do another push-up. Then rotate back the other way. The trick is to keep your body straight throughout the rotating phase. Squeeze your feet together.
For more of a challenge, hold a dumbbell in each hand throughout the movement or wear a weight vest.



Try some walkouts, this is just loading a bar with a heavy weight and walking out with it, prepare to squat and then re-rack.

Of course you could always cut your reps and squat heavier.

Good luck


I would SKIP 2 exercises -- the ones that are causing you pain, good mornings and SLDL. There's a very good article on here somewhere that explains why some people should never do good mornings.

Form is tricky, too. You may be arching your lower back MOST of the time during the movement, but for just a short split second it may flex. This faulty motor pattern has been observed in a highly trained powerlifter in a laboratory. The brief flexion would be impossible to notice except by examining a recording. But in that short moment with heavy loading, flexion can damage the disc.

Strong abs do not protect against back injuries per se. Instead, it's endurance of the stabilizers that need to work in proper coordination. A lot of the suggestions on this thread should help, like planks, walking around with dumbells, etc. Do them for a long time to build stabilizer endurance. These are not bodybuilder muscles; they need to work to stabilize the spine every second of the day.

Finally, scrutinize your posture. If you have imbalances that push your head forward, round your shoulders, raise one shoulder or hip relative to the other, tilt your hips forward, etc., you're in trouble. There are lots of articles here to help you analyze your needs (by Cressey and Robertson). I wish such information had been out there when I started training. Good luck.


I agree. I like to add plates on my back (It's still a bodyweight exercise, lol) and hold for one minute intervals. Keeping the plates balanced and not fall off adds to the difficulty.