Core for endurance

Core stability is essential for both sports performance and injury prevention. The body’s core muscles are the foundation upon which all other movement is built. These deep lying muscles of the torso stabilise the spine, but also support movement in the pelvis and shoulders so we are able to generate powerful movements at the extremities. Training these muscles also corrects postural imbalances that can lead to injuries. Everything in the body is connected, so back pain – to use a personal example – can often be triggered by the feet, ankles, as well as overall posture, and can be improved by orthotics and greater core strength.

The benefit of core conditioning is functional fitness, to propogate improved biomechanics and effective sports performance. It focuses on engaging many muscles in co-ordinated movement (rather than specific muscle isolation) to build deep core strength. A common mistake is to assume the core relates purely to the abdominals. A good core workout for endurance sports will include the upper legs, glutes and lower back as well.

There are several ways to work the core – Swiss (or Stability) ball exercises, Pilates, Calisthenics for eg. As endurance athletes training upwards of 10 hours and 7 days a week, time is precious and gym work is often dropped in preference for sports specifics. I made this mistake; needless to say I’ve learnt my lesson! There’s no perfect core session – current strength, time, and other factors shape what you do – but here’s my personal routine. My preference is 2 sets per session, performed in my gym 2-3 times per week.


Swiss Ball Crunchies – 60

Hip Extensions – 75

Plank – 2-min

Glute Lifts (sideways on mat) – 60 each side

Table Top (alt arm/leg extension and hold) – 8 each side

Pelvic Bridge (alt leg lift and hold) – 8 each side

Side Plank – 6 lifts each side

Superman – 1-min

I compliment this with interspersed leg exercises to enhance overall core conditioning.


Lunges (with dumbells) – 3 x 10 each leg

Squats (with bar weights) – 2 x 10

Leg Extensions (machine weights, 50% max weight, fast controlled reps) – 30

Step ups (alt legs, using bench, with dumbells) – 60 secs

Calf Raises (using step) – 30 each leg

Single-leg squats – 15 each leg

Check out vodcasts on You Tube or sites like this for exercise descriptions – correct performance is crucial!



  1. Nice post. You have swiss ball yes?

  2. […] In addition to the riding, I’m building in plenty of core work now. I realised too late last year that my core muscles (abs, back and hip flexors) needed to be stronger to avoid fatigue on long, hard rides. I would go into the exercises in detail but Millsy’s already done it for me. […]

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