Thoughts on Training the Core


Effective and functional core training is based on two simple principles:

Train Core Strength before Extremity Strength

A strong stable core will allow the extremities to better do their job therefore we should train the core first in a training session and in a training program.

Dynamic Postural Alignment Is the Foundation for Training

Posture and a strong and stable core are integrally related. Posture is a dynamic quality. The larger core muscles known as “anti-gravity muscles” play a major role in maintaining a sound functional athletic posture.

We need to shift our thinking away from posture as a still picture or a posed position. Posture must be assessed relative to the athlete’s event. Each sport has its own specific posture and each individual within the sports have their own posture. The combination of the two allows for much variability. Our goal should not be to fit everyone into certain parameters, rather it should be to understand what each athlete brings to their event and adjust accordingly.

An important assumption is that the body is fundamentally asymmetric. It is unrealistic to think of muscular balance right to left or front to back. We must think of proportionality. The core muscles play a major role in dynamic posture because the large muscles of the core act as “anti-gravity” muscles that give the body structural integrity to allow the limbs to position and reposition according to the demands of the activity.

Balance is a key aspect of movement that is closely related to the core. Balance is a dynamic quality because movement is dynamic. Balance is control of one’s center of gravity, control of body angles and unstable equilibrium. Movement is a state of dynamic equilibrium consisting of a constant interplay of imbalance and balance with the body constantly trying to regain balance to perform efficient movement. There is a continual reaction to gravity and external forces such as the playing surface, opponent’s etc. The muscles of the core play a decisive role in balance because of the location and function of the core muscles; therefore core training and balance training are synonymous.

The Core is an integrated functional unit consisting of the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip Complex, the Thoracic and Cervical Spine. It is a Muscular Corset that lends integrity and support to the body. The Core is the center of the body, the thickest part of the body. The Core is where all movement is modulated. It is more than “six pack abs”. The core works as an integrated functional unit that accelerates, decelerates, and dynamically stabilizes the body during movement. All movement is relayed through the core. The core is a swivel joint between the hips and the shoulders which: 1) Allows the entire body to accelerate the limbs 2) Allows the entire body to decelerate the limbs 3) Allows the entire body to support a limb.


The traditional method of assessment is isolated, is usually in a prone or supine position seeking to isolate strength of individual muscles. The functional assessment is integrated and movement oriented in standing position or a position that simulates the posture of the sport. A simple qualitative analysis consists of simply taking video of the athlete doing their respective sport activity from the front, side and rear if possible and judge quality of movement. Also take video of a typical training activity and judge quality of movement. Look for patterns, similarities and differences. Quantitative assessment has two components:

Assessment Driven from the Top Down

Medicine Ball Chest Pass

Off Two Legs

Off One leg

Medicine Ball Overhead Throw

Off Two Legs

Off One leg

Medicine Ball Rotational Throw

Compare distance right and left

Assessment Driven from the Bottom Up

Balance Tests

Excursion Tests

Lunge, Jump, Hop Tests

In designing a core training program and selecting the exercises carefully consider all of the following:

Demands of the Sport

Demands of the event or position

Physical qualities of the athlete

Dynamic Postural Analysis

Injury History

Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Director at Gambetta Sports Training Systems
Vern is the Director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems. He has been the a conditioning coach for several MLS teams as well as the conditioning consultant to the US Men's World Cup Soccer team. Vern is the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. He has lectured and conducted clinics in Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe and has authored six books and over one hundred articles related to coaching and sport performance in a variety of sports. He has a BA in teaching with a coaching minor and an MA in Education with an emphasis in physical education from Stanford University.
Vern Gambetta


Athletic Development Coach & Consultant. Founder of GAIN Network. Proud dad. Love to read everything.
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