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FFS: Three Ways To Develop ‘Real’ Core Strength

Cristiano Ronaldo

This week, Rory McInerney of FFS returns with advice and tips on how to develop true core strength and improve your performance on-field.

Creating a truly strong core could be the missing link in helping you smash through plateaus in your training regime. To appreciate why you should train your core you need to understand what muscles are involved and then you will instantly understand the potential impact having a stronger core can have on your performance and overall health.

So, What Is Your Core?

The common misconception is that your core is just your abs and the surrounding muscles (pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae).


People need to start looking at their ‘core’ as all the key postural muscles that allow us to move well. This would include the above traditional core muscles as well as the addition of posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings), trunk muscles in your mid back, lats and scapular muscles.

When one sees the list of muscles above laid out, you should understand how training your core could have a huge impact in terms of injury prevention and making you move better in all aspects of your daily life. Having a stronger core can help you sit better, get out of a chair better and pick up your kids better.

Now let’s face it, for a lot of people who clicked on this article, aesthetics is the primary motivation, so let’s get to it.

In my experience as an S&C coach and working with hundreds of clients, the difference between people with very athletic physiques and very low body fat percentages is often the addition of proper core training into their programming and ditching the sit ups as their go-to core exercises.

But First, Breathe

Before we dive into three big areas, breathing is key to developing core strength that is often overlooked. Developing the ability to effectively breath and brace your core can assist in a lot of compound lifts at the traditional ‘sticking points’.

Remember when completing any of the exercises/techniques below to use your breath to create intra-abdominal pressure and be conscious that your breathing is consistent, not forced and not being held during bracing exercises.

1. Planks

Simply put, planks are awesome. They generally require no equipment or space and can easily be integrated into almost any training routine.  

One of my favourite plank variations is the RKC Plank.

Assume a normal plank position, grasp your hands together as hard as you can and form a 45 degree angle with your two forearms, then imagine you are trying to pull your elbows and toes together almost scrunching the floor up beneath you. This will create maximal tension of the superficial abdominals and lats but also directly intensify the activation of the deeper core muscles that are often missed.

You can of course use side planks, hand planks and a whole host of other variations suitable to your training experience, see the video below for some great ideas:

2. Anti-Rotation / Anti-Movement Patterns

If you have read my blog on how to increase explosive power you will know that I am a big fan of incorporating anti rotation and anti-movement pattern exercises to strengthen the core.

These exercises are essential for sports specific movements where rotation is required (think golf, rugby, hurling) and will improve all round rotation of your trunk to make you more effective in all planes of motion.

Check out some of the best anti rotation exercises here:

The final two reasons I love this type of exercise is that they are also a great addition to any workout finisher as a cardio element (they get the heart rate sky high very quickly) and they generally incorporate all of the muscles in the core. 

3. Loaded Carries

These are the potential game changer that you have been missing!

In a world where we crave everything to be functional, our houses, our cars etc., fitness is no different and using loaded carries are about as functional as it gets.

Done correctly, they incorporate the core (especially abdominals, trunk musculature and upper back) as well as improve your grip strength which has huge carryover to other areas in the gym.

I like to incorporate loaded carries as super sets with assistance exercises in order to target the core as well as increase the heart rate.

For example check out FFS Head Of Performance, Ciaran Ruddock’s superset of lunges with a farmer’s walk in the clip below:

Loaded Carry Superset

I look forward to seeing you get stronger.

If you have any more training questions or want to share your training footage, drop me a message on Instagram via @rorymcffs.

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Author: FFS

Fitter Faster Stronger (FFS) is a high-performance training facility designed for athletes & those with a serious commitment to long-term health.