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  • Writer's pictureLionel Pannunzio PT / SCS

Simple Core Strengthening Exercises - Part 1

Many people still don't understand or know what the core is and the importance of the core for Sports like soccer.

Anatomy of the Core Muscles ?

The major muscles of the core reside in the area of the belly and the mid and lower back.

Major muscles included are the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae  and the diaphragm.

The lumbar muscles, quadratus Lumborum, Spinal erectors.

Minor core muscles include the latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus, adductors and trapezius.

Anatomically it can be divided in two big groups:

The Deep Core Muscles :

Diaphragm, Transverse Abdominis, Pelvic Floor Muscles and Multifidus. These deep muscles wrap around the spine and act as a brace of belt around it.

The Superficial Core Muscles:

Rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, erector spinae  and the minor core muscles like glutes, Lats, Trapezius. The superficial group assist with spine stability ( avoid excessive motion ) and initiate any movement in the arms or legs.

The core is where your Power, your Strength, your Endurance and your balance originates.

The core allows you to Throw, Kick, jump, walk and all these activities while breathing.

It is very important to understand how the Core and the spine work to be able to deal with pain and back problems choosing better motions , postures and properly loading the spine to avoid damage of the joints ligaments or the discs of the spine.

Function of the Core Muscles

The core  muscles act to stabilize your spine providing a firm support to the spine for all the activities we do.

The core muscles are arranged around the spine and the main function is to STOP spinal movement ( movement in between the vertebraes).

The core muscles are set up in layers forming a “brace “ for the protection  of the spine and to create enough force and stiffness to bear loads , control movements , facilitate breathing and functional movements like squat lift pull push carry .

Your core muscles have to work together in symmetry in order to avoid abnormal movement. Muscle imbalance means that there is not a good equilibrium between muscles that are too tight or loose versus muscles that are weak or strong.  A typical example of this imbalance is when  in the pelvic area hip flexors and lumbar paraspinals are very tight and the gluteal/core muscles are very weak. This combination could result in an anterior pelvic tilt which can cause lower back pain as well as knee and hip problems.

The core is traditionally assumed to originate most full-body functional movement, including most sports.

Core Weakness and Injury

Functional movements are highly dependent on this part of the body, and lack of core muscular development can result in a predisposition to injury.

We must look at core strength as the ability to control the force we produce.

It is important to first achieve core stability to protect the spine and surrounding musculature from injury in static and dynamic movements. Second, we want to effectively and efficiently transfer and produce force during dynamic movements while maintaining core stability.

When the core muscles are inefficient they allow “excessive “ movement in the spine which will cause some type of damage in the lumbar area or down in the kinetic chain: hips, thighs, knees, lower leg, ankle or foot

Core weakness has been associated with every single injury in the back and lower extremity:

ACL tears, Low Back Pain, Groin Pain, ITB syndrome, Patello-Femoral Pain, Ankle sprains, Pulled Hamstrings.

To recover from this condition a good starting point is to train the core properly to set up a good stable base for safe limb movement.

Essential Core Exercises ❗️❗️❗️❗️

There are 3 primary categories of core training ( see picture above) :

1. Anti extension.

Exercises that challenge the core to resist extension of the spine. Example: Deadbugs.

2. Anti Lateral Flexion.

Exercises that challenge the core to resist the spine side bending. Example: Side Plank.

3. Anti rotation.

Exercises that challenge the core to resist rotation of the spine. Example: Palloff Press.

Training your core in a functional way will protect your spine and maximize your strength and performance

1. Anti Extension Core Exercises

A. Deadbugs Level 1 and 2

The dead bug exercise is a popular way to build core strength and stabilization.

It helps build a solid, stable foundation that protects the spine and allows for greater ease in everyday and athletic movements, such as moving heavy objects, walking up hills, and throwing.

In this exercise we challenge the body to resist extension of the spine.

The main goal is to keep the spine stable on the ground while you move your legs and arms.


Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.


Tighten your abdominals, lift both legs to a 90 degree angle. Keep your arms up and Slowly straighten one leg at down.

Return to the starting position and repeat with your other leg.


Make sure to keep your abdominals tight and back flat on the floor during the exercise.

B. Deadbugs Level 3 and 4.

Level 1 and 2 were just preparations to be able to perform this exercises properly therefore Level 3 is the real deadbug exercise.


Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.


Tighten your abdominals, lift both legs to a 90 degree angle and your arms up toward the ceiling. Slowly lower one arm overhead and you straighten your opposite leg at the same time. Return to the starting position and repeat with your other arm and leg.


Make sure to keep your abdominals tight and back flat on the floor during the exercise.

Level 4 is a simple version of a resisted deadbug to challenge even more your core exercises.

In the coming weeks I will continue showing you the other essential core exercises... stay tuned for Part 2.

Lionel Pannunzio is a Physical Therapist Certified in Sports Injuries.

With more than 20 years of experience helping athletes return to their sports after an injury.

He is the Owner of White Bay Sports Physical Therapy and Fitness, conveniently located  in the beautiful City of Weston,  where he treats Soccer Player, Runners and Athletes of all ages

Finally we would like to invite you to follow us  at our:

where you will receive information about your condition and other services we offer, always with the idea of keeping you healthy and fit to enjoy your favorite sport.

Lionel Pannunzio

Physical Therapist

Board-Certified Sports Specialist

Owner of White Bay Physical Therapy

“Keeping Athletes in the game”

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