5 Ways To Train Your Core (and why you actually need to)

We’ve all been there, right?

After a particularly grueling set of laps or a really intense practice with lots of time in derby stance, it feels like someone is literally stabbing us in the back.

Or maybe you try to jump over a set of cones only to find that you can’t get your legs quite as high as you thought you could.

Or that time when you busted out a smooth lateral move to catch the jammer or escape those blockers only to find that your upper body didn’t respond quite as quickly as you had hoped.

There are a lot of reasons why this might be the case, of course.

But one of those reasons might just be that you have a weak anterior core.

If you’re thinking: “I can hold a plank for days” or “I can do a million crunches”, good for you. But those things in and of themselves aren’t indicators that your anterior core is firing up as efficiently as it should be.

These muscles are responsible for a lot of things that you do only the daily even without your skates on your feet. The anterior core muscles primarily help stabilize the hips and spine along with keeping your spine from over rotating (anti-rotation) and hyper extension (anti-extension).


The act of bending at the waist — doing something like, say, crunches — actually has little impact on these super important muscles. In fact, they do more than just stabilize. Your anterior core muscles aid in:

  1. Proper exhalation. Forcing air OUT is a larger task than you might realize. Are you a shallow breather? Might need to beef up your core.
  2. Transferring force evenly across your body. This protects your spine by ensuring that it doesn’t take the brunt of impact or force as you move (or get hit). Got lower back pain? Might need to beef up your core.
  3. Rotation at the torso. Strong anterior core muscle provide the stability needed for your oblique muscles to rotate fully and properly. Ever strained an oblique muscle? Might need to beef up your core.
  4. Lower body injury risk reduction. A strong core responds to (and sends) signals more quickly than a weak one. Nagging knee issues? Might need to beef up your core.
  5. Upper body injury risk reduction. Yup. The same theory from above applies to your upper body too. Shoulders wonky? Might need to beef up your core.

Your anterior core is the keystone of a lot of the movement in your body. Especially dynamic movement like you might encounter in sports. If you have nagging issues, it never hurts to light up your core.

Here’s how:

1) Breathing.

A lot of us breathe with our neck and shoulders. Learn to breathe with your actually breathing muscles by incorporating some crocodile, prone, or quadruped breathing into your daily routine. I use this in all of my warm-ups first thing, before hitting the track at practice, AND on the end of the bench when I’m starting to lose my shit.

2) Dead bugs

This is an anti-extension exercise at it’s finest. Most of us will find that when we first try any variation of a deadbug exercise that our lower back lifts off the floor. That’s your body being a low-down, no-good, dirty cheater. Make your anterior core do the work.

A lot of your problems could be solved with greater core strength. And I’m not talking about skating problems either. I’m talking about pain problems. Those weird twinges you get in your hips or across your inner thigh. That stabbing ache in your lower back. Things that might disappear if you focused on core strength more often. I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT CRUNCHES HERE EITHER. Try this: stability ball breathing. Set up in a dead bug position (on your back, legs in the air stacked above the hips, knees at 90 degrees, arms in the air stacked above the shoulders). Hold the stability ball lightly between your knees and forearms/hands. Inhale. As you exhale, bring your knees and hands together squeezing the ball in between. 2 quick sets of 8-10. You might even find your hips feeling better… Want more pain-free focused exercises? Stay tuned for the FREE #pfpchallenge coming soon. 👀 . . . #ironoctopusfitness #intelligentcrosstraining #trainlikeanathlete #rollerderby #painfreeperformance #rollerderbyathlete #rollerderbytrainer #rollerderbycoach #nocrunches #hipsdontlie hi

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3) The Plank (of course)

If you can currently plank until the cows come home, awesome. Next step is making sure that you’re doing it properly. There’s a sad number of people out there holding planks with their hips sagging or piking up. Or with their shoulders scrunched up toward their ears and their shoulder blades drawn together.

Fix that.

4) Stability Ball Rollouts

Consider this a plank on steroids. Once you’ve gotten your form down on a regular plank, you can move up this more dynamic, more challenging version. It’s super easy to let your lower back arch like crazy as you rollout. Just don’t.

5) Palloff Press

While this is not a traditional anterior core exercise, it IS a great way to get your entire core working together. Plus a little bit of an arm workout, too. Just like with all of the other core exercises, your posture plays a big roll in making sure that you’re getting the most out of it. Watch that lower back arch and be sure to exhale as you press. Remember, your anterior core helps with that!

Now what?

These exercise are ordered from least to most complex in terms of working on your anterior core. Start with the first one and work up from there. As your core becomes stronger, you can start doing fantastical variations of the above exercises (single leg/single arm planks, anyone?).

But working on anterior core strength a little bit every single day that you train will help you get stronger overall without a ton of time invested.

Try adding the following to your warm-up or just before your cooldown:

  • Crocodile Breathing or All Fours Breathing x 8 breaths
  • Any Deadbug variation x 8-10 (on each side, if applicable)
  • Front Plank 3 x 10 seconds
  • Side Plank 2o seconds (on each side)

Want more?

If you’re interested in more exclusive content, access to my FREE resource library, and the slightly weird workings of my inner mind, you can sign up for the Iron Octopus Fitness email list HERE. Wherein I harass you weekly with all things intelligent cross training, mindset, and…other.


About IronOctopusFitness

Online athletic training and nutrition coach, full-time mom, okay skater, and connoisseur of all things tea, chocolate, and roller derby. I'll help you unleash your inner athlete by building a strong, capable body that can withstand whatever life throws at you.

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