The core, also known as the ‘Powerhouse’, is the centre of the body which, when strengthened, creates the foundation for all movement. There are a complex series of muscles involved in the core that extend far beyond washboard abs. In simple terms, these include the muscles surrounding the pelvis, hips, abdomen and lower back. 

Strong and functional core muscles make it easier to do everything - from swinging a golf club, to bending down to tie shoe laces. When our core muscles are working together in harmony, it allows us to move safely and efficiently with strength and stability. Weak core muscles, on the other hand, leave us susceptible to poor posture, lower back pain and injuries.

When training the core, it is beneficial to choose exercises which challenge as many muscles as possible in integrated and co-ordinated movements. These exercises are often best conducted in a mindful and controlled manor, allowing the mind and body to connect through the movement. As far as possible (and providing there are no injures or contraindications), training programmes should include exercises which challenge the body in all three planes of motion. These three planes of motion are called Saggital, Coronal and Transverse. Some exercises are better than others to work within these specific planes, so below are five simple and dynamic exercises that target the powerhouse, incorporating all three.

1. Bird dog

Start on your hands and knees with your weight distributed evenly. Simultaneously reach your right hand forward, and left foot backwards. Pause, and then slowly bring your elbow and your knee into your midline, rounding the back and drawing in at the navel. This is a great exercise to develop strength and stability through the deep abdominals and lower back in the Saggital plane.

Repeat 12 times on each side.

Bird Dog Start  Bird Dog Finish

 2. Single leg extension

Lie down on your back with your legs in the table top position. Activate your abdominals and ensure you are in a neutral spine position (you can use a towel to support your neck, if necessary). Extend one leg to 45 degrees, pause, and return to the start position. As the leg gets further away from your body, the pelvis will want to roll forward and cause the lower back to arch. To counter this, imagine you are gently squashing a grape underneath your lower back – this will help to activate your abdominals through the Saggital plane.

Repeat 12 times on each side.

Single Leg Extension Start Single Leg Extension Finish

3. Side plank with leg abduction

Lean on your side with your bottom hand supporting your shoulder, and your top hand reaching up to the ceiling. Your bottom knee is bent, and your top leg is extended to the side, and ensure your head, shoulder, hips, knees and ankles are all in one straight line. Slowly (and with control), lift the top leg up to a height you feel comfortable and then slowly tap the foot back down. Try to avoid sinking into the bottom shoulder and keep the belly button drawn in throughout. This is a coronal plane exercise which will challenge the Obliques and Glutes.

Repeat 12 times on each side.

 Side Plank With Leg Abduction Start

Side Plank With Leg Abduction Finish

4. Swan

Lie on your front with your arms bent out to the side. Draw the belly button in towards the spine and gently press your pubic bone to the floor. Roll the shoulders back, lift the chest and lengthen through the crown of the head. Pause and return to original position. This Saggital plane exercise will help to develop strength through the lower back, and increase extension capability through the upper back.

Repeat 12 times on each side.

Swan Start

Swan Finish

5. Thread the needle

Starting on your hands and knees (just like bird dog), reach your hand underneath your chest, aiming to rotate the upper back. Bend the supporting elbow to allow a long reach. Imagine you are ‘ringing out your spine’ - like you would a wet flannel. Pause and return to the start position. This Transverse plane exercise will help to develop mobility through the upper back.

Repeat 10 times on each side, trying to go slightly further each time.

 Thread The Needle Start

Thread The Needle Finish