Training the Core

Core stability is a term often credited to Hodges and Richardson in the 1990s. They were studying the timing of trunk muscles in patients with Chronic Low Back Pain and this was work that undoubtedly played a role in popularising what has become quite common practice in gyms around the world.

The term "core" however was first defined by Dr. Richard Dominquez and Bob Gajda (the 1966 Mr. America) in their book, Total Body Training. That's not to say that they invented this type of work; they were at pains in the book to say that, “The ideas and principles outlined in this book are old, but, unfortunately, have almost been forgotten. How unfortunate that the principles and methods outlined here are so old that they seem new.”

They wrote:

“The first essential concept in total body training is that of the 'core', which is our term for the muscles of the center of the body.

These muscles stabilize the body while we are in a correct, antigravity position or are using our arms and legs to throw or kick. They maintain our structure while we do vigorous exercises... These are the muscles that control the head, neck, ribs, spine, and pelvis.

The core of the human body is those muscles that keep the trunk and neck in a tube-like form... When your core is firm and rigid, you can do the activities it's intended to do. If the rigidity is enhanced, then you can maximize your athletic performance”.

Since then, core stability has been described as ‘‘the ability to control the position and motion of the trunk over the pelvis and leg to allow optimum production, transfer and control of force and motion to the terminal segment in integrated athletic activities.’’ (Kibler et al, 2006). 

The term is often used to mean a number of things and Faries and Greenwood (2007) make a clear distinction between aspects of core training and refer to core stability as the ability to stabilize the spine as a result of muscle activity and core strength as the ability of the musculature to then produce force through contractile forces and intra-abdominal pressure. 

This resource page includes a number of scientific papers, chapters, slides, videos and other resources designed to support CPD on this topic. 

Key issues within this area are as follows:

Recommended Chapters

Boyle, M. (2016). New Functional Training for Sports. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. (Ch 7)

Gamble, P. (2013). Strength and conditioning for team sports: sport-specific physical preparation for high performance. Routledge.[google books](Ch 8)

Surdyka, M., & Spinelli, S. (2021). Ch 12: Training the core. In P. Hough & B.J. Schoenfeld (Eds.). (2021). Advanced personal training: Science to practice. Routledge. 

Recommended Journal Articles

Contreras, B., & Schoenfeld, B. (2011). To crunch or not to crunch: An evidence-based examination of spinal flexion exercises, their potential risks, and their applicability to program design. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 33(4), 8-18. [full text]

Martuscello, J. M., Nuzzo, J. L., Ashley, C. D., Campbell, B. I., Orriola, J. J., & Mayer, J. M. (2013). Systematic review of core muscle activity during physical fitness exercises. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27(6), 1684-1698.[full text

Prieske, O., Muehlbauer, T., & Granacher, U. (2016). The role of trunk muscle strength for physical fitness and athletic performance in trained individuals: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 46(3), 401-419. [full text]

Teixeira, C. V. L. S., Evangelista, A. L., Silva, M. S., Bocalini, D. S., Da Silva-Grigoletto, M. E., & Behm, D. G. (2019). Ten Important Facts About Core Training. ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal, 23(1), 16-21. [researchgate]

Wirth, K., Hartmann, H., Mickel, C., Szilvas, E., Keiner, M., & Sander, A. (2017). Core stability in athletes: a critical analysis of current guidelines. Sports Medicine, 47(3), 401-414. 

References and Further Reading

Akuthota V., Nadler S.F.(2004) Core strengthening. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 85(3 Suppl 1):S86-92.[full text]

Akuthota, V., Ferreiro,A., Moore, T. and Fredericson, M. (2008) Core stability exercise principles. Curr. Sports Med.Rep., 7 (1) 39-44 [full text]

Allison, G.T., Morris S.L. (2008) Transversus abdominis and core stability: has the pendulum swung? Br J Sports Med 42: 930-931 [full text]

Barr, K.P., Griggs, M., Cadby, T. (2005) Lumbar stabilization: Core concepts and current literature, part 1. Am. J. Phys. Med. Rehabil. Vol. 84, 473–480 [full text]

Behm, D.G., Drinkwater, E.J., Willardson, J.M.  and Cowley, P.M.  (2010) Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology position stand: The use of instability to train the core in athletic and nonathletic conditioning Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. Vol. 35 [full text]

Behm, D.G., and Anderson, K.G. (2006)The role of instability with resistance training. J. Strength Cond. Res. 20(3):716–722 [full text]

Bergmark, A. (1989). Stability of the lumbar spine: a study in mechanical engineering. Acta Orthopaedica Scandinavica, 60(sup230), 1-54. 

Boyle, K.L., Olinick, J. and Lewis, C. (2010) The Value of Blowing Up a Balloon N Am J Sports Phys Ther. 5(3): 179–188.

Briggs, M. S., Givens, D. L., Best, T. M., & Chaudhari, A. M. (2013). Lumbopelvic Neuromuscular Training and Injury Rehabilitation: A Systematic Review. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 23(3), 160-171. [full text]

Butowicz, C. M., Ebaugh, D. D., Noehren, B., & Silfies, S. P. (2016). Validation of two clinical measures of core stability. International journal of sports physical therapy, 11(1), 15.  

Calatayud, J., Casaña, J., Martín, F., Jakobsen, M. D., Colado, J. C., & Andersen, L. L. (2017). Progression of core stability exercises based on the extent of muscle activity. American journal of physical medicine & rehabilitation, 96(10), 694-699. 

Carter, J. M., Beam, W. C., Mcmahan, S. G., Barr, M. L., & Brown, L. E. (2006). The effects of stability ball training on spinal stability in sedentary individuals. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 20(2), 429-435.[full text]

Cholewicki, J., & Vanvliet Iv, J. J. (2002). Relative contribution of trunk muscles to the stability of the lumbar spine during isometric exertions. Clinical biomechanics, 17(2), 99-105. 

Cissik, J.M. (2002) ‘Programming Abdominal Training, Part One’, Strength & Conditioning Journal 24(1): 9–15.

Cissik, J.M. (2002) ‘Programming Abdominal Training, Part One’, Strength & Conditioning Journal 24(2): 9–12.[full text]

Cissik,J.M. (2011) The Role of Core Training in Athletic Performance, Injury Prevention, and Injury Treatment Strength & Conditioning Journal 33(1); 10-15 [abstract

Clark, D. R., Lambert, M. I., & Hunter, A. M. (2017). Trunk muscle activation in the back and hack squat at the same relative loads. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.

Clark, D. R., Lambert, M. I., & Hunter, A. M. (2018). Contemporary perspectives of core stability training for dynamic athletic performance: a survey of athletes, coaches, sports science and sports medicine practitioners. Sports medicine-open, 4(1), 32. 

Cressey, E.M., West, C.A., Tiberio, D.P., Kraemer, W.J., and Maresh, C.M. (2007) The effects of ten weeks of lower-body unstable surface training on markers of athletic performance. J. Strength Cond. Res. 21(2): 561–567 [full text]

Cugliari, G., & Boccia, G. (2017). Core muscle activation in suspension training exercises. Journal of human kinetics, 56(1), 61-71. 

Edwards, S., Austin, A. P., & Bird, S. P. (2017). The role of the trunk control in athletic performance of a reactive change-of-direction task. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 31(1), 126-139.

Elphinston,J. (2007) Stability, Sport and Performance Movement: Great Technique without injury. Chichester: Lotus Printing [google books]

Faries, M.D. and Greenwood, M., (2007) Core Training: Stabilizing the Confusion. Strength and Conditioning Journal 29(2); 10-25 [full text]

Fredericson, M., Moore, T. (2005) Muscular Balance, Core Stability, and Injury Prevention for Middle- and Long-Distance Runners Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am Vol.16, 669–689 [full text]

Fredericson, M., Moore, T. (2005) Core stabilisation training for middleand long-distance runners New Stud. Athl.Vol.20, No.1, 25-37 [full text]

Gamble, P. (2007) An Integrated Approach to Training Core Stability, Strength & Conditioning Journal 29(1): 58–68. 

Gamble, P. (2012) Training for Sports Speed and Agility. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge

Goldenberg,L. and Twist,P. (2007) Strength Ball Training (2nd Ed). Champaign,IL: Human Kinetics . [google books]

Gottschall, J. S., Mills, J., & Hastings, B. (2013). Integration core exercises elicit greater muscle activation than isolation exercises. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27(3), 590-596. [abstract]

Hibbs, A.E., Thompson, K.G., French, D. Wrigley, A. and Spears, I. (2008) Optimizing Performance by Improving Core Stability and Core Strength Sports Med 38 (12): 995-1008 [full text]

Hamlyn, N., Behm, D. G., & Young, W. B. (2007). Trunk muscle activation during dynamic weight-training exercises and isometric instability activities. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 21(4), 1108-1112.

Hodges, P.W. (1999) Is there a role for transversus abdominis in lumbo-pelvic stability? Manual Therapy Vol.4, No.2, 74-86 [full text]

Hodges, P. (2008) Transversus abdominis: a different view of the elephant Br J Sports Med Vol. 42, N.o 12, 941-944 [full text]

Hodges, P. W., & Richardson, C. A. (1996). Inefficient muscular stabilization of the lumbar spine associated with low back pain: a motor control evaluation of transversus abdominis. Spine, 21(22), 2640-2650. 

Human Kinetics with Jason Brumitt (2010) Core assessment and training. Champaign,IL: Human Kinetics [amazon]

Kavcic, N., Grenier, S., & McGill, S. M. (2004). Quantifying tissue loads and spine stability while performing commonly prescribed low back stabilization exercises. Spine, 29(20), 2319-2329 [abstract]

Kibler,W.B., Press J. and Sciascia, A. (2006) The Role of Core Stability in Athletic Function. Sports Med 36 (3): 189-198 [full text]

Lederman, E. (2010). The myth of core stability. Journal of bodywork and movement therapies, 14(1), 84-98.

Leetun, D. T., Ireland, L.M., Willson, J. D., Ballantyne, B. T., and Davis, I. M.(2004) . Core Stability Measures as Risk Factors for Lower Extremity Injury in Athletes. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., 36(6) 926-934 [full text]

Liemohn, W.P., T.A. Baumgartner and L.H. Gagnon (2005) ‘Measuring Core Stability’, Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 19(3): 583–586.[full text]

Maeo, S., Takahashi, T., Takai, Y., & Kanehisa, H. (2013). Trunk Muscle Activities during Abdominal Bracing: Comparison among Muscles and Exercises. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 12, 000-000. PMID: 24149153 

Maeo, S., Chou, T., Yamamoto, M., & Kanehisa, H. (2014). Muscular activities during sling-and ground-based push-up exercise. BMC research notes, 7(1), 192. 

Majewski-Schrage, T., Evans, T. A., & Ragan, B. (2013). Development of a core-stability model: a delphi approach. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 23(2), 95-106. 

Manchado, C., García-Ruiz, J., Cortell-Tormo, J. M., & Tortosa-Martínez, J. (2017). Effect of core training on male handball players’ throwing velocity. Journal of human kinetics, 56(1), 177-185. 

Marshall P.W., Murphy B.A.. (2005) Core stability exercises on and off a Swiss ball. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 86:242-9.[full text]

McGill, S.M. (2010) Core Training: Evidence Translating to Better Performance and Injury Prevention. Strength & Conditioning Journal Vol.32, No.3, 33-46 [full text]

McGill, S. M., McDermott, A., & Fenwick, C. M. (2009). Comparison of different strongman events: trunk muscle activation and lumbar spine motion, load, and stiffness. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23(4), 1148-1161. [full text]

McGill,S.M. (no date) Designing back exercise: From rehabilitation to enhacing performance [full text]

McGill, S.M. (2005) On the use of weight belts. A review invited by the NSCA. [full text]

Mclean,C.S. (2006) Core stability: does existing evidence support the concept? [full text]

MacAuley,D., Best,T. (eds) (2007) Evidence-based sports medicine (2nd Ed). Oxford; Blackwell Books [google books] Ch 4.

Martuscello, J. M., Nuzzo, J. L., Ashley, C. D., Campbell, B. I., Orriola, J. J., & Mayer, J. M. (2013). Systematic review of core muscle activity during physical fitness exercises. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27(6), 1684-1698.[researchgate]

Nuzzo, J.L., McCaulley, G.O., Cormie, P., Cavill, M.J. And McBride, J.M. (2008) Trunk muscle activity during stability ball and free weight exercises Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research Vol.22, No.1, 95-102 [full text]

Okada, T., Huxel, K.C., and Nesser, T.W. (2011) Relationship between core stability, functional movement, and performance. J Strength Cond Res 25(1): 252–261 [full text]

Oliva-Lozano, J. M., & Muyor, J. M. (2020). Core muscle activity during physical fitness exercises: A systematic review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(12), 4306. 

Porterfield, J. A. and DeRosa, C. (1998). Mechanical low back pain: perspectives in functional anatomy. WB Saunders company.

Raabe, M. E., & Chaudhari, A. M. (2018). Biomechanical consequences of running with deep core muscle weakness. Journal of Biomechanics, 67, 98-105. 

Reed, C. A., Ford, K. R., & Myer, G. D. (2012). The Effects of Isolated and Integrated ‘Core Stability’Training on Athletic Performance Measures. Sports Medicine, 42(8), 697-706.[abstract

Saeterbakken, A. H., Fimland, M. S., Navarsete, J., Kroken, T., & van den Tillaar, R. (2015). Muscle activity, and the association between core strength, core endurance and core stability. Journal of Novel Physiotherapy and Physical Rehabilitation, 1(1), 028-034. 

Saeterbakken, A. H., & Fimland, M. S. (2012). Muscle activity of the core during bilateral, unilateral, seated and standing resistance exercise. European journal of applied physiology, 112(5), 1671-1678. 

Sato, K and Mokha, M. (2009) Does core strength training influence running kinetics, lower-extremity stability, and 5000-m performance in runners? J Strength Cond Res 23(1): 133–140 [full text]

Sahrmann, S. (2010). Movement system impairment syndromes of the extremities, cervical and thoracic spines. Elsevier Health Sciences. [google books]

Schoenfeld, B. J., & Contreras, B. M. (2013). The Long-Lever Posterior-Tilt Plank. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 35(3), 98-99. doi: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e31828226d5 

Shinkle, J., Nesser, T. W., Demchak, T. J., & McMannus, D. M. (2012). Effect of Core Strength on the Measure of Power in the Extremities. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(2), 373-380.[full text]

Stanton, R., Reaburn, P. and Humphries, B. (2004) The effect of short-term Swiss ball training on core stability and running economy. J. Strength Cond. Res. Vol.18, No.3, 522–528 [full text]

Stephenson, J. and A.M. Swank (2004) ‘Core Training: Designing a Program for Anyone’, Strength & Conditioning Journal 26(6): 34–37.[abstract]

Sternlicht, E., Rugg, S., Fujii, L.L., Fomomitsu, K.F. and Seki, M.M. (2007) Electromyographic comparison of a stability ball crunch with a traditional crunch. J. Strength Cond. Res. Vol.21, No.2, 506–509 [full text]

Steyck, S.D., S.P. Flanagan and W.C. Whiting (2008) ‘The Missing Link: Integrated Core Training’, NSCA Performance Training Journal 7(6): 13–16.[full text]

Tan, S., Cao, L., Schoenfisch, W., & Wang, J. (2013). Investigation of Core Muscle Function through Electromyography Activities in Healthy Young Men.Journal of Exercise Physiology online [full text]

Tarnanen, S. P., Siekkinen, K. M., Hakkinen, A. H., Malkia, E. A., Kautiainen, Hannu, J., & Ylinen, J. J. (2012). Core muscle activation during dynamic upper limb exercises in women. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(12), 3217–3224.[abstract]

Tse, M.A. (2009) Exploring the impact of core stability on performance Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong [full text]

Tvrdy, D. (2012). The Reverse Side Plank/Bridge: An Alternate Exercise for Core Training. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 34(2), 86-88. doi: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e31824e4eab 

Urquhart, D.M., Hodges, P.W., Allen, T.J., and Story, I.H., (2005) Abdominal muscle recruitment during a range of voluntary exercises Manual Therapy 10, 144–153 [full text]

Wang, X. Q., Zheng, J. J., Yu, Z. W., Bi, X., Lou, S. J., Liu, J., ... & Chen, P. J. (2012). A meta-analysis of core stability exercise versus general exercise for chronic low back pain. PloS one, 7(12), e52082.[full text]

Weston, M., Coleman, N. J., & Spears, I. R. (2013). The Effect of Isolated Core Training on Selected Measures of Golf Swing Performance. Medicine and science in sports and exercise.[full text]

Willardson, J.M. (2007) Core stability training: Applications to sports conditioning programs. J. Strength Cond. Res . 21(3):979-985 [full text]

Willardson,J. [unknown date] Core Stability for Athletes. [full text]

Willardson,J. [unknown date] Unstable Resistance Exercises. [full text]

Wirth, K., Hartmann, H., Mickel, C., Szilvas, E., Keiner, M., & Sander, A. (2017). Core stability in athletes: a critical analysis of current guidelines. Sports Medicine, 47(3), 401-414. 

Further Resources

Beardsley, C. (2016) Does your core cover a full range of motion?

Nick Tumminello's medicine ball rollout

Chronic Low Back Pain - another page on

Audio interview with Dr Stuart McGill & GB Olympics - linked to Dr McGills website

Another interview with Dr McGill on

Interview with Dr Stuart McGill - Feb 2016

Core Strength Training - Not Just About Your Abs - article on

Instability Resistance Training: Fad, fact or fiction? A presentation by David Behm - Resources and links by Comerford, Mottram et al.

Kinetic Control

NSCA Performance Training Journal, Nov 2004, Vol.3, No. 6 Core Training Special Issue [full text]

Recommended Core Exercises