A Simple Path to Better Core Training

It’s a common question we encounter in the fitness industry and a subject matter that has created it’s own classes and product lines to address the interest.

What’s the best core exercise?

My answer has varied over the years based on my experience. In the very beginning I would have happily named a few exercises that I enjoyed doing. What my answer is today can be described as a sound approach based on the information we gather in our assessments. It leaves the person seeking the quick-fix-easy-solution answer a bit frustrated though.

“It depends.”

I have to give credit to Brett Jones for that gem. He was my instructor for many of my certification events that I’ve attended over the years and he belted that answer out quite a bit. I was frustrated when I heard it first too. But then I started seeing programming as a system and it all made sense. My decision making also became much easier when writing programs for my clients.

So, what does it depend on?

  • Your client’s goal.
  • Your client’s current competency.
  • Your means to deliver your client from where they are at to where they want to get to.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Client Goals:

So what kind of goals would core training tie into? Well, I say all of them.

Strength goals? Core training.

Movement goals? Core training.

Performance goals? Core training.

You name it, core training is going to be a building block! I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that you can’t name one single movement that is not made possible or enhanced by sufficient core strength.

Client Competency:

Here’s my message to my clients: Start where you are!

I will change that just a bit to craft a message to you, a coach: Start where they are!

In a recent Instagram post, Todd talks about two things that are part of our guidance system when programming core work.

  • Can the client resist gravity? (ie. can they resist extension while planking?)
  • Can the client resist change? (ie. can they facilitate adding a press to a Palloff hold?”)

From there, we plug that information into the 4X4 matrix that we use for all other programming decisions which looks like this:


Prone/Supine Assisted/Unloaded

Quadruped Unloaded

1/2 Kneeling/Tall Kneeling Assisted Loaded

Standing Loaded

The 4X4 Matrix gives us a truckload of options that will address what positions we need to work from and how we can assist or load the movement to match the client’s competency level. From there we can create a clear and easy path to follow to core competence glory!


This seems like a common sense issue but I think it’s worth mentioning. Logistics play a huge role in what we do as coaches. Time, space, equipment… all things that influence what things we do and how we do them. It’s very rare that all of those considerations are present in abundance so I wanted to share a thought with you.

Let’s go back to that question of what the best core exercise is because I want to share another gem of an answer with you:

“Most exercises done properly serve as outstanding core developers.”

A lot of times my goal in writing programs is to get the job done in the least amount of time needed to do the job right. That’s because most of my clients don’t have a ton of time to train. And while core training is very important and I do think that you need to spend time developing competency there, I don’t think you need more than 1, maybe 2 core exercises in any one particular session.

That’s why realizing that most exercises done properly are great core developers was a big win for me. Heavy carries, squats, swings, presses, throws… they’re all core exercises if you’re coaching them right. So don’t think that you have to put more than 1 or 2 core exercises in a particular session to build core competency because you don’t. Save time by looking at how other exercises are doing their part to achieve that goal.

Simplicity is a great goal as a coach. The above information outlines a very simple process to use to guide the core training you do with your clients. In the next Strength Faction Mini-Course we are going to deep dive on this subject and make sure that everyone leaves comfortable and confident that they have this thing licked. It’s easy to get in on that action and will only cost you $1. Just go to http://www.strengthfaction.com and get access to this and every other Mini-Course we have done to date.

In 2010, two dudes Chris and Todd, started the business that would eventually become Strength Faction.

You know how they say the rest is history? Well, it’s not.

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