As with all training programs, a core training program should be progressive, and systematic. Also, it should be in line with the goals of the participant, in order to ensure the exercises chosen remain functional. Since we have already shown how an inefficient core can lead to injury, safety has to be of upmost concern when setting up the program, as well as in the execution of it.
Exercises chosen should stress both local and global stabilisation system in varying degrees of speed, stability and endurance. Also, a multisensory approach may be adopted. That is, the use of extra stimulation through incorporating other movements, as well as removing certain senses, in order to place extra stress on the proprioceptive challenge of any exercise.
Designing a Core Training Program
The primary goal of a core training program is neuromuscular efficiency, as opposed to strength or speed. Correctly executed contraction of the stabilising muscles, and being able to maintain those contractions during functional movements, is the crux of this type of training. Because of this, quality of the movements is far more important than the quantity. So, duration of exercises, as well as sets and reps, should be determined by the quality of the execution.
When going through a core training program, as we have already mentioned, progression can only take place once the previous level is mastered. Once local stabilisation is mastered, only then can global stabilisation be progressed to, and, similarly, only once global stabilisation has been mastered, can the participant move on to movement training. The sequencing of the program is crucial. If it is not followed correctly, the program will fail, and very likely lead to injury.
Levels of Core Training
There are three levels of training, for core exercises, which can be progressed through in a core training program. But, these are the levels for the movement system. In other words, the participant must first be able to master the local stabilisation system, and then the global stabilisation system, before beginning with these levels.
In core-stabilising exercises there is minimal movement through the spine and pelvis. Focus is, instead, on maintaining the drawing-in (local stability) and bracing (global stability) while performing small peripheral movements. Some examples of exercises in this level are: Marching (supine), the bridge, and prone cobra.
In core strength training, the focus now shifts to more dynamic stabilisation. In other words, stabilising the LPHC while it moves (spinal movements as well as movement of the lumbo-pelvic interface). These exercises focus on increasing concentric strength, eccentric strength and stability, as well as neural efficiency of the global stabilising muscles, while also improving dynamic stability of the entire kinetic chain. Some of the exercises that fall into this level are: crunches on the ball, back extensions, reverse crunch, and cable rotations.
In core-power training, the focus is now on the rate of force production, within the core muscles. These exercises will typically be more functional, and mimic closely the types of demands on the participants, either in their daily lives, or in athletic situations and are often plyometric in nature. Exercises include: rotation chest past, medicine ball pull-over throw, soccer throw (ball slams), and front medicine ball oblique throw.
Implementing a Core Training Program
When implementing the core training program, systematic progression should always be a focus. The goals of the participant should be the driving reasons for which exercises are chosen. But, progression through the program must be dictated by the ability of the participant to demonstrate perfect execution of the exercises. Core training can easily be integrated into a training program, as long as the demands placed on the participant do not exceed the capabilities, at the time.