Training progressions for core strength

When freshman athletes arrive at Notre Dame high school we use the same approach to introduce them to using and training their core. Ideally athletes arrive having played a lot as kids, putting their bodies through a variety of challenges. Unfortunately that is less and less the case. Most kids just arrive having done Abercrombie abdominal workouts that are not specific to athletics. Therefore we take a step back and try to start at the beginning.

Below is the approach we use for the first three training cycles to introduce the core into training, slowly increasing the coordination, integration, and intensity. All of the exercises below can be found in our movement library. You can also listen to our podcast this month for more on the topic.

Cycle 1: Learn to move

In the first training cycle we focus on getting athletes to learn and use certain trunk muscles. To do this we use two basic training series. Each one is done once a week with the aim to introduce them to basic movements and muscles. In one training cycle athletes should be able to gain some strength and proficiency in the movements.

V-sit core series Ring series

Some of these exercises are more isolated in nature, such as the v-up. By reducing the complexity, it is an exercise that anyone can do. The ring series is more complicated, but a benefit is that it can be adjusted based on the athlete’s level. Most 14 year olds might not be able to complete each rep with full range of motion, but they can go as far as possible and aim to gain range of motion as their strength increases.

Cycle 2: Adding intensity

The first cycle is simply about moving. In the second training cycle we add some intensity. Again, we will train the core twice a week, with a different core series each day. Both of these core series add more coordinative demands, and also add some speed and explosiveness, which is what the core needs to do in most sports.

Jumping/Split Jack series Medicine ball wall series

Cycle 3: Train the planes

In the third cycle, we start to include core training in every session. As athletes are stronger, they can handle a higher volume of core work. We will create simple four-exercise circuits use one exercise from each category below to ensure we are touching each plane of movement in each session. We will also regularly rotate the exercises to ensure a new stimulus, and a broader bandwidth of core strength.

Transverse plane Sagittal plane Frontal plane Back stabilization