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Core Strength Exercises

This is an excerpt from Fitness on the Ball by Anne Spalding & Linda Kelly.

The core consists of all the muscles in the torso, from the small deep muscles in the pelvis, back, chest, and abdominal area to the more well-known larger ones, including the abdominals, trapezius, pectoralis major, and latissimus dorsi. Core strength is the basis for all movement and is literally the center, or core, of our daily lives. A weak core can result in back and other injuries, while a strong core helps people maintain balance and better perform strength and flexibility activities (which include daily activities, physical activity, and sport activities).

Developing Core Strength for Fitness and Everyday Life

For a long time, weightlifters, trainers, and fitness buffs have lifted weights to make arm muscles, such as biceps and triceps, and leg muscles, such as quadriceps and hamstrings, stronger. For the torso, there were some back and abdominal exercises to strengthen these muscles, but those exercises were performed perfunctorily without much insight into the importance of the body's core. In recent years, there has been an increasing emphasis on developing the strength of the torso, or core, because it truly is the origin of our movement.

Athletes especially need core training to reduce injuries. When the core is weak, the athlete uses other parts of the body, specifically the legs and arms, to produce power and speed. This often results in joint and muscle injuries because the muscles shorten from the constant repetitions, and the range of motion (ROM) of joints is reduced. In effect, sport-specific muscle imbalances occur, with consequent injuries.

A strong core is essential for Olympic athletes as well as weekend warriors. However, athletes aren't the only people who need to consider their core strength. In fact, everybody needs a strong core, from toddlers to seniors. Through exercises with exercise balls, toddlers can improve their motor skills earlier and become more balanced walkers. Seniors can improve their balance and prevent life-threatening falls through core strength training. Core strength training improves the efficient functioning of everyone's musculoskeletal system and maintains the ideal posture that is essential for movement.

Effectively Training Your Core

To effectively train the core, you need a variety of exercises that target the muscles of the torso from many different angles and planes of motion. In addition, the exercises should closely approximate and target functional, everyday movements and be dynamic rather than static.

The exercise ball helps you achieve the necessary functional, dynamic exercise you need in order to strengthen your core. The round, mobile, and unstable surface of the exercise ball forces the core muscles to work harder to maintain balance. The exercise ball requires you to work more muscles at the same time, and the exercises are therefore better and more efficient at improving functioning.

Basic Core Strength Exercises

The following exercises are for everyone who wants a stronger core. They form the basic exercises that are the beginning of core strength for the back and abdominal muscles.


The assessment forms for these exercises appear as full-size forms for easy printing on the bound-in CD-ROM at the back of this book.

Dead Bug




Have everyone complete the following movements:

1. Starting position: Lie on back (supine) on the floor with the ball under the calves of both legs, which will put the thighs perpendicular to the floor (see figure 6.1a).

2. Keeping abdominal muscles contracted, lift arms straight above shoulders. Make scissor motions, alternating arms back and forth for 20 repetitions, touching thighs lightly (head remains on floor; see figure 6.1b).

3. Repeat 20 times, alternately lifting one leg slightly off ball and touching with one hand as the arms scissor (see figure 6.1c).

Novice Rainbow


Have everyone complete the following movements:

1. Starting position: Lie on back on the floor with the ball under the calves of both legs, which will put the thighs perpendicular to the floor.

2. Contract abdominal muscles as you use your legs to roll the ball to the side (see figure 6.2).

3. When you feel your obliques engage, you have rolled the ball far enough. Bring back to original position (center).

4. Repeat on other side.

This is an excerpt from Fitness on the Ball.

More Excerpts From Fitness on the Ball