Home Blog How to Fit Core Stability Exercises into Strength and Conditioning Programs: Part 1

How to Fit Core Stability Exercises into Strength and Conditioning Programs: Part 1

Written on November 22, 2011 at 7:37 am, by Eric Cressey

A while back, Mike Reinold and I presented our Functional Stability Training of the Core seminar to an audience of about 60 rehabilitation and strength and conditioning specialists at Cressey Sports Performance.  In today's post, I wanted to touch on a topic we covered collaboratively: how to categorize various core stability exercises and incorporate them into your strength and conditioning programs.

Both Mike and I are in agreement that your four general categories are anterior core stability, posterior core stability, lateral core stability, and rotary core stability.

Anterior core stability exercises  teach the body to resist excessive lumbar spine extension, and encompass a variety of drills, starting with dead bug, curl-up, and prone bridging activities.  In prepared individuals, they progress all the way up through more advanced exercises like stability ball rollouts, and TRX flutters and fallouts.

Posterior core stability exercises are designed to train the body to resist excessive lumbar spine flexion.  Your drills may include everything from the birddog all the way up through more conventional strength training exercises like  deadlift variations.

Lateral core stability exercises teach you how to resist lateral flexion; in other words, your goal is to avoid tipping over.  These drills may start with basic side bridging drills and progress all the way up through more advanced TRX drills and 1-arm carrying variations.

Rotary core stability exercises educate folks on how to resist excessive rotation through the lumbar spine.  Examples include drills like landmines, lifts, and chops.

To be candid, this classification of core stability exercises isn't anything new to those of you who have been paying attention over the past few years.  However, introducing these categories really wasn't my intention in this blog; rather, I had three key points I wanted to highlight:

1. It's not just what you do; it's how you do it.

You may be able to hold a prone bridge for 25 minutes, but if you're doing so in terrible positioning and just relying on your hip flexors and lumbar erectors to do the work, you're doing more harm than good.  You'd be amazed at how many high level athletes can't do a simple prone or side bridge correctly.

2. A core stability exercise rarely fits into one category, especially when you add progressions to it beyond the initial stages.

Take a kettlebell crosswalk, for instance.

In this exercise, you have different loads in each hand, which makes it a lateral core stability exercise.  With each step, the athlete goes into single-leg stance, which makes it a rotary core stability exercise.  With the load in the bottom hand, there is a tendency to be pulled into flexion, so you have a posterior core stability exercise.  Finally, with the arm overhead, one must prevent the rib cage from flying up and allowing the arm to fall backward, so you have an anterior core stability exercise as well.  This example demonstrates the role of synergy among all the muscles (and fascia) around the core in achieving multidirectional core stability simultaneously.

Taking it a step further, how you control one plane of movement impacts the benefit you derive from a core stability exercise in the intended plane. In this half-kneeling cable lift, for instance, the primary goal is to work on rotary and lateral core stability, as the pull of the cable back toward the column is the primary destabilizing torque.  You will, however, often see athletes perform the entire exercise in lumbar extension, as evidenced by a rib flair in the front, a backward lean, and loss of the packed neck.  I execute the first two reps with the incorrect positioning, and the subsequent reps in neutral spine with adequate anterior core control.

3. When you consider the overlap among the various core stability exercise categories, it can be challenging to determine how to appropriately sequence them in a strength and conditioning program.

This will be the focus of part 2; stay tuned!

If you're looking for a great core stability resource right now, I'd encourage you to check out Functional Stability Training of the Core (as well as the rest of the Functional Stability Training series).  And, to sweeten the deal, you can get 25% off through Monday (discount is automaticaly applied at checkout).


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12 Responses to “How to Fit Core Stability Exercises into Strength and Conditioning Programs: Part 1”

  1. Tim Peirce Says:

    That’s good stuff Eric,

    I’m within striking distance of Cressey Performance. Do you have seminars that are open to trainers and the public or is it just a select group? If so how can I hear about future seminars?



  2. Lisa Says:

    It would be nice to see more trainers following this protocol when it comes to core training. Too often you see trainers teaching incorrect form with core exercises to their clients. Thanks for another great article.

  3. Jonathan Goodman Says:

    I love the proper attention that ‘core’ training is getting in the blogosphere lately. It’s deserved as the never crunch mentality scared a lot of people from doing any core specific training.

    I love the carries and chops for my clients. Also, one of my favorite selling techniques is to show them a proper plank while they actually brace. Works every time.

  4. Eric Cressey Says:


    We usually do one seminar for the public at CP each year.

    The good news is that we’re going to be launching a membership site that’s right up your alley. Stay tuned to the blog!

  5. Conor Says:

    Awesome article and videos. I’ve been following your stuff for the past couple months as I just stumbled across your site. I did a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology about 8 years ago and got into teaching, so I’m just getting certified to train athletes at the moment…finally got my act together to do something I love.
    All I have to say is your stuff is outstanding, I’m learning like crazy from you, and will continue to endorse anything you put out there.

  6. mark Says:

    Eric, thanks for the short videos showing proper form and various techniques to use. As a person who’s had low-back surgery it is one area of training-( core )-that I’ve tended to “shy” away from. Seeing the exercises done by a professional using the proper form to me is very beneficial. Once again; keep-up the good work!……

  7. Shane Says:

    Great stuff has always Eric. What about incorporating core into the workout instead separating the two? Like single arm pressing, pulling and offset exercises like the offset reverse lunge. Thats usually waht i do for clients pushed for time. What do you think?

  8. Fredrik Says:


    You mentioned dead bugs and curl-ups at the beginning of this post and I was hoping to clarify something… with these lower-level movements, is the main aim to keep a neutral lumbar spine posture throughout while performing the requisite arm and/or leg movements (in the case of dead bugs) or flexing only through the t-spine (in the case of curl-ups). I was always confused because certain trainers would cue clients to posteriorly tilt the pelvis during these movements. With these exercises, is it a case of posteriorly tilting as needed (depending upon the clients current resting / static posture) and not actually going into / being in posterior tilt during the performance of the exercises?

  9. Pedro Simao Says:

    Eric, I have been used this exercise progressions with my personal clients but I discovered that all those progression only will be efficient if the client/athlete knows and be able to activate the deep stabilizer muscles. Specially for who have some pain or disfunction in the lumbopelvic region (great part of population, including athletes). I mean, sometimes in my case, I saw some client evolution in that progressions and in movement patterns but the pain and disfunction was still there.

  10. Kaman Halim Says:

    Hi there, i am just an average fitness enthusiast and not a personal trainer or a performance athlete by any means, which product do you recommend for me? Would the show n go series will be too advanced? I recently completed the p90x program and now mostly using TRX as my main workout with some p90x exercises as well. Please advise. Thanks a lot.

    Kaman Halim

  11. Ant Says:

    Just tried the flutter exercise and it kicked my but!

  12. Israel Branford Says:

    You Guys are Awesome.

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