Exercises for Core Strength & Trunk Rotation

Fit woman doing side plank yoga pose Concept pilates fitness

The muscles of your trunk and core play a critical role in stabilizing your spine and pelvis during physical activity, protecting you from injury and optimizing your performance. Adding exercises to your training routine that target your trunk and core will give you a solid foundation for advancing to a higher level of fitness and improved sports performance.

Muscles of Your Core and Trunk

Your deep core muscles include the transversus abdominis that aids in respiration and functions like a corset, wrapping around your abdomen between your lower ribs and top of your pelvis; the multifidus, which runs along the back of your spine to stabilize your low back and pelvis; the pelvic floor muscles that form a hammock to cradle your bladder and reproductive organs. During trunk rotation, the rectus abdominis that forms your "six-pack" and your internal and external oblique muscles that run diagonally from your ribs across your trunk, work together with your core to produce strong fluid movement.

Take a Stand for Core Strength

According to exercise specialist Pete McCall, MS, the muscles of your trunk and core are designed to facilitate movement when your body is in an upright position, withstanding gravity and working against ground reaction forces. Once core stability is established, McCall argues that optimal core strength is best achieved from a standing posture. He recommends dynamic balance exercises and upright movement patterns that prepare your body to stabilize itself against gravity.

Laying a Stable Foundation

To establish fundamental core stability, begin with the bird-dog. From a quadruped position, extend your right arm in front of you and slowly lift and extend your left leg; balance and hold for five to 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side. Proceed to a plank -- in a prone position, place your elbows on a mat directly beneath your shoulders and rise up on your toes, holding your trunk in a rigid position so that you form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles; hold for 10 to 30 seconds. To perform a side plank, position your right elbow beneath your right shoulder and stack your feet one atop the other; lift your body to form a rigid line from your shoulder to your ankle; hold for 10 to 30 seconds, then repeat on your left side.

From Foundation to Rotation

Once you have established baseline core stability, try a standing cable rotation: Stand sideways to a cable-pulley system equipped with a single-rope grip, feet shoulder width, the cable set at the lowest position; keeping your arms extended in front of you and using both hands in an over-under grip, recruit your trunk muscles to rotate diagonally outward and upward as if swinging a golf club. Slowly return to your start position; perform 10 repetitions on each side. To integrate balance with core and trunk rotation, try an alternating diagonal lunge. Hold a medicine ball at chest height with arms extended in front of you -- keeping your gaze fixed on the ball, step diagonally into a lunge with your right foot; rotate your trunk left, then right; return to your start position. Repeat with your left foot; perform five to 10 lunges on each side.