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4 Powerful Exercises to Develop Core Strength and Endurance

A strong and resilient core is essential for athletes across all disciplines. The core, which includes the muscles of the abdomen, lower back, and hips, plays a crucial role in stabilizing the body, transferring power, and maintaining proper posture during athletic movements (Kibler et al., 2006).

Developing core strength and endurance can lead to improved performance, reduced risk of injury, and enhanced overall athleticism. In this article, we will explore four powerful exercises that athletes and bodybuilders can incorporate into their training regimens to target and strengthen the core muscles (supported by scientific research and expert insights.)

Plank Variations: Building a Solid Foundation For Core Strength

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The plank is a fundamental core exercise that engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously, including the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and obliques (Schoenfeld et al., 2014). By holding a static position, the plank helps to develop core stability and endurance, which are essential for maintaining proper form and alignment during athletic movements.

To perform a basic plank, start in a push-up position with your forearms on the ground, and elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels, engaging your core muscles to maintain the position. Hold for 30-60 seconds, gradually increasing the duration as your strength improves.

Incorporating plank variations can help to target different areas of the core and provide a greater challenge. Some effective variations include:

1. Side plank: Targets the obliques and challenges lateral core stability (McGill et al., 2003).
2. Plank with leg lift: Engages the lower abdominals and challenges stability in a dynamic manner.
3. Plank with arm reach: Incorporates upper body movement while maintaining core stability.

Russian Twists: Developing Rotational Strength


Russian twists are an excellent exercise for targeting the obliques and developing rotational core strength, which is crucial for athletes involved in sports that require twisting motions, such as tennis, golf, and baseball (Pedersen et al., 2006). This exercise can be performed with body weight alone or with the addition of resistance, such as a medicine ball or dumbbell, to increase the challenge.

To perform Russian twists, sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Lean back slightly, keeping your spine straight, and lift your feet off the ground. Hold your hands together in front of your chest, and rotate your torso to the left, bringing your hands to the left side of your body. Rotate back to the center, then twist to the right side. Continue alternating sides for the desired number of repetitions.

As you become more comfortable with the movement, you can increase the difficulty by holding a weight or extending your legs out straight, hovering your heels just above the ground.

Hanging Leg Raises: Targeting the Lower Abdominals

Hanging leg raises is a challenging exercise that primarily targets the lower abdominals, hip flexors, and obliques (Sternlicht et al., 2005). This exercise requires a strong grip and proper shoulder stability, making it an excellent choice for athletes looking to develop overall core and upper body strength.

To perform hanging leg raises, hang from a pull-up bar with your arms extended and palms facing away from you. Engage your core muscles and slowly lift your legs straight out in front of you, keeping them together. Raise your legs until they are parallel to the ground or as high as possible without swinging or using momentum.

Slowly lower your legs back down to the starting position, maintaining control throughout the movement.

If hanging leg raises are too challenging, you can modify the exercise by performing hanging knee raises, where you bend your knees and bring them up towards your chest instead of keeping your legs straight.

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Exercise Four: Medicine Ball Slams: Explosive Core Power

Medicine ball slams are a dynamic exercise that helps to develop explosive core power, which is essential for athletes who require quick, powerful movements in their sport, such as sprinters, basketball players, and football players (Earp & Kraemer, 2010). This exercise engages the entire core musculature, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and lower back muscles.

To perform medicine ball slams, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a medicine ball with both hands in front of your chest. Raise the ball above your head, extending your arms fully.

Explosively slam the ball down onto the ground directly in front of you, engaging your core muscles to generate power. As the ball bounces back up, catch it and immediately raise it back overhead to repeat the movement.

When performing medicine ball slams, it is essential to maintain proper form and control throughout the movement. Focus on generating power from your core muscles rather than relying solely on your arms.

What Next?

While the physical aspects of training, such as exercise selection, proper form, and progressive overload, are essential, the importance of mental fortitude and gym community support should not be overlooked.

An individual’s ability to persevere through challenges, maintain focus, and bounce back from setbacks is crucial in building strength and endurance. For instance, mental fortitude is crucial for pushing through difficult workouts, maintaining consistency, and avoiding burnout.

A study by Gucciardi et al. (2015) found that athletes with higher levels of mental toughness displayed greater commitment to their training, better coping skills, and improved performance under pressure. This is a psychological skill necessary to overcome the challenges associated with building core strength and endurance.

Another important piece is having a support system. A supportive gym community can play a significant role in fostering motivation, accountability, and adherence to a core strength and endurance training program. When individuals feel a sense of belonging and connection to others who share similar goals, they are more likely to maintain their commitment to their fitness journey (Teixeira et al., 2012).


Research by Fraser and Spink (2002) found that exercisers who perceived higher levels of social support from their gym community reported greater adherence to their fitness routines.

Furthermore, a study by Annesi (2003) demonstrated that participants in a group-based exercise program experienced greater improvements in mood and self-efficacy compared to those who exercised alone.

Final Take

Developing core strength and endurance is a crucial aspect of athletic training, as it contributes to improved performance, reduced risk of injury, and enhanced overall athleticism. By incorporating these four powerful exercises – plank variations, Russian twists, hanging leg raises, and medicine ball slams – into their training routines, athletes can target and strengthen the various muscles of the core.

Remember, progression is key when training the core. Start with basic exercises and gradually increase the difficulty by adding resistance, increasing the number of repetitions, or progressing to more advanced variations. It is also essential to maintain proper form and technique throughout each exercise to maximize the benefits and minimize the risk of injury.

In addition to these specific exercises, athletes should also focus on maintaining a well-rounded training program that includes strength training, cardiovascular conditioning, and flexibility work. A strong, resilient core is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to optimizing athletic performance and longevity.

By consistently training the core and integrating these powerful exercises into their routines, athletes can develop the strength, stability, and endurance necessary to excel in their chosen sports and maintain a healthy, high-performing body.


Earp, J. E., & Kraemer, W. J. (2010). Medicine ball training implications for rotational power sports. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 32(4), 20-25.

Kibler, W. B., Press, J., & Sciascia, A. (2006). The role of core stability in athletic function. Sports Medicine, 36(3), 189-198.

McGill, S. M., Grenier, S., Kavcic, N., & Cholewicki, J. (2003). Coordination of muscle activity to assure stability of the lumbar spine. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 13(4), 353-359.

Pedersen, M. T., Essendrop, M., Skotte, J. H., Jørgensen, K., & Fallentin, N. (2006). Training can modify back muscle response to sudden trunk loading. European Spine Journal, 15(9), 1432-1440.

Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Tiryaki-Sonmez, G., Willardson, J. M., & Fontana, F. (2014). An electromyographic comparison of a modified version of the plank with a long lever and posterior tilt versus the traditional plank exercise. Sports Biomechanics, 13(3), 296-306.

Sternlicht, E., Rugg, S., Fujii, L. L., Tomomitsu, K. F., & Seki, M. M. (2005). Electromyographic comparison of a stability ball crunch with a traditional crunch. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 19(3), 506-509.

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