Do guys need to do "core strengthening" exercises?

According to this Wall Street Journal article, by Kevin Helliker yes they do.  Core strength is the new buzzword in exercise circles.  Everyone from elite athletes to weekend warriors are finding their inner strength (pun intended).

To quote Helliker:

After years of conquering the treadmill and bench press, I am now striking poses and performing movements that I had always considered “girly,” and the difficulty of it is humbling.

While he doesn’t specifically use the word Pilates, the three exercises illustrated in the article, glute bridge, pillar bridge and plank, look very similar to Pilates moves I do with my clients.

According to the author: “After three months of two core-training sessions a week, my body-fat percentage is down five points. My cruising speed on the treadmill has risen a full mile per hour, even though my weekly mileage plummeted to make time for the core exercises.”

Want to improve your running time?  Try adding some core strengthening exercises to your program.

Here are three simple and effective core strengtheners.  Shoot for one minute of each of these:

Plank hold:  Make a straight line from your shoulder to your knee.  Pull your belly button in and relax your neck.

Crunches: Rest your hands behind your head and slowly curl head and shoulders off the ground.  This is about half as much effort as a traditional sit up.  Think of flattening your abdominals and breathing.

Pilates Bridge:  Press into your heels to lift your hips towards the ceiling without gripping with your glutes.  Imagine your spine getting longer and your neck relaxing.

Try these moves two to three times a week for the next month and see if you notice a difference in your strength workouts.


  1. Isn’t “core strength” just an imprecise term for rectus abdominus muscles ? Are there really any voluntary “core” muscles ?

  2. Good questions Mark.

    Yes you have voluntary core muscles and you can train them along with your pelvic floor muscles to better support your spine and your internal organs. A strong healthy back and core will allow you greater support during any activity.

    Now for the anatomy lesson: Your deepest layer of abdominal muscle is your transverse abdominus. These muscle fibers run laterally across your belly and help to support your spine and internal organs. You can feel them contract when you laugh or cough. Your internal and external obliques run diagonally – as if you were to put your hands in your jacket pockets. They allow your spine to twist and also act as a lower back support. The rectus abs are the most superficial layer – what we think of as “six pack” abs. These run up and down from your lower ribs to the top of your pelvis.

    In Pilates we are working to strengthen the deeper abdominal muscles to better support your back. All of your core muscles are voluntary and they along with your pelvic floor muscles can be strengthened through specific exercises.

    Try this: Lay on your back and rest one hand on your lower belly. Engage your lower abdominal muscles to gently pull your belly button in towards your spine. Now slowly lift your chin towards your chest (support your head with your other hand if needed). Stop at the point where you feel you abdominal muscles pop up into your hand. Come back down and try this again. Once you can do this move with a flat belly then you can graduate to a full sit up.

    This mini-crunch allows you to strengthen your abdominal wall from the inside out working as efficiently as possible. Remember your low back should never hurt while doing ab work.

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