The 5 Most Effective Sports for Your Core

So, you might think that having a strong core means having great abs, and sure, who doesn’t want a six-pack? But it goes further than that, because training your core muscles means exercising your whole trunk — everything that isn’t your arms and legs — and this is far more important than having great abs. According to Jeff Kuhland from Breaking Muscle, your “core most often acts as a stabiliser and force transfer centre rather than a prime mover”, and exercising the muscles in isolation isn’t as effective as looking at it as a unit to be worked together. Diane Teles who is a physiotherapist and CrossFit coach based in Fourways (Johannesburg), shares five sports that are the most effective for training your core, and why.

  1. Kettlebells

Kettlebells are cast iron balls with a handle welded into the top*. Unlike dumbbells, which have equal weights on either end, the odd shape of the kettlebell is designed to challenge balance and stability, which you provide by using your core muscles, as you resist the motion of the kettlebell. They come in different weights, which you change according to your current ability and the exercise that you’re doing. “Exercising with kettlebells targets all of the major muscle groups as well as the stabilizing muscles delivering a full-body workout in an extremely efficient amount of time,” according to Pamela Micks.

  1. CrossFit

“CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity,” according to The workouts consist of a range of full body movements, that work even the extremes of joint range, usually under a high demand for oxygen. This exercises your diaphragm — an essential breathing muscle, and an integral part of your core.

  1. Climbing

Whether you do this outside in nature or on an indoor climbing wall, the benefits are multiple. A strong core is necessary for a smooth transfer of torque and efficient use of the legs and arms when transitioning through grips and positions. Climbing walls are a good place to start for beginners, as they have set routes that are achievable, and are set at different abilities, whereas natural rock walls require a bit more experience in looking for and finding adequate foot- and handholds.

  1. Trail Running

If you’ve been road running for years, it may be time to go off the beaten track. Running on uneven terrain demands multiple small adjustments of the core to maintain balance, breathing rhythm and accuracy of foot placement. Even if you’re a competitive road runner, training on the trails can benefit you, according to Max King at Runners World, who says “trail running can help activate and condition the ancillary muscle groups in [y]our legs and core that provide stabilisation and take the load off the main muscle groups used for forward motion.”

  1. Boxing or Kickboxing

Boxing is largely performed by the arms and upper body, and kickboxing the legs and lower body — but both require stability. The rotational drive behind a powerful punch or kick originates in a strong core, making both of them a powerful workout for those central muscles. Whether you try one or more of these exercises, they should help add an element of interest to your workout, and help you reach that coveted six- (or eight-) pack you’ve been after for so long.

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