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Core Strengthening for Athletes: Enhance Performance and Prevent Injuries

Home News & Videos Injury Prevention Core Strengthening for Athletes: Enhance Performance and Prevent Injuries

No matter what your favorite form of physical activity is, you need a strong core. Whether you run marathons, play tennis, swim, dance, or participate in any other kind of athletics, if you work on your core muscles, you’ll benefit.

The core muscles, which include abdominal muscles, obliques, and back muscles, work to stabilize the spine and pelvis. A properly-developed core is essential for injury prevention as well as general athletic performance.

At JAG Physical Therapy, we work with athletes of all levels, offering a robust sports medicine program that’s tailored to your specific pursuits and lifestyle. Book an appointment at your nearest JAG PT location in New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania, or read further to learn about the top core strengthening exercises.

Why Is Core Strengthening Vital for Athletes?

A strong core keeps the spine straight. Strengthening core muscles helps with everyday things like posture, allowing us to sit, walk, and do work around the house without pain. It also protects the body from issues with the back, neck, and knees.

Core strengthening for athletes takes the level of injury protection and core stability to a whole new level of importance. Core strength helps athletes move and react faster while stabilizing the torso and protecting the hips, knees, and joints from damage.

Studies show that core strengthening improves:

  • Balance
  • Efficiency of movement
  • Neural control
  • Coordination skills
  • Muscle functioning

In general, core training improves fitness and helps to prevent common athletic injuries, like IT band syndrome, ACL tears, and shin splints. But it also improves sport-specific performance. Here are some examples:

Which Muscle Groups Should Athletes Focus on for Core Strengthening?

Athletes should focus on the following muscle groups to strengthen their core:

  • The recti abdominis are your ab muscles that help with breathing and bending forward.
  • The erector spinae muscles are the back muscles that help you bend in all directions and stabilize the spine.
  • The obliques go from midway down your ribcage to the hips. These muscles allow you to twist and bend to the side. They keep your lower back strong and support good posture.

What Are Some Effective Exercises for Athlete Core Strengthening?

There are a lot of great exercises that athletes can try at home to strengthen the core muscles. Remember that you should always consult with your physical therapist before starting a new exercise regimen, especially if you’re recovering from an injury. Here are three of the most effective exercises at building core strength:


Planking strengthens your core and upper body. To do this exercise, hold a push-up position, keeping your spine neutral and keeping your toes and the palms of your hands on the ground. You can also start with your forearms on the floor.

Hold the position for 10 seconds. As you get stronger, work up to 30 seconds or longer.


This core exercise strengthens back and glute muscles. To do it, lie down on your stomach and extend your arms and legs. Lift your arms, legs, chest, and upper thighs off the ground and hold for five seconds.

Slowly lower your limbs. Repeat several times. Once you master this exercise, try to hold the superman position for longer and lift your arms and legs further off the ground.

Russian Twist

This exercise targets your abs, obliques, transverse abdominis (deep core muscles), and lower back muscles.

To do the Russian twist, sit down with your legs bent at the knees and heels touching the floor. Create a V-shape with your upper body and your thighs. Then, hold your arms out straight from your shoulders and twist your torso to the right, then to the left. Repeat this motion. When you’re ready to advance to a more difficult version, lift your heels off the ground to activate your core. You can also hold a weight in your hands while twisting.

How Does Nutrition Play a Role in Maintaining a Strong Core for Athletes?

Core exercises are one part of building and maintaining a strong core, but nutrition plays a role as well. You should make sure your diet includes plenty of nutrients that support muscles, including protein, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.

If you want to keep your core healthy and strong, minimizing processed and high-sugar foods while getting plenty of nutrient-packed ingredients like the following will help:

  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • Almonds
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Fermented vegetables
  • Chicken
  • Fish

JAG Physical Therapy Core Strengthening Programs

The team at JAG PT has years of experience helping athletes improve their performance through specialized training programs. We’re ready to assist you by creating an individualized core strengthening program to help you succeed at your chosen sports. Schedule your appointment now or learn more about sports medicine at JAG PT.

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