Tactical Fitness: How to Strengthen Core Muscles in Your Fitness Training

Chief petty officer strengthens her core.
Chief Petty Officer La Dala, who works at Naval Base San Diego, does crunches with a medicine ball during an abs class at the Semper Fit Center aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. (Lance Cpl. Crystal Druery/Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego)

Hi, Stew,

I have been using your TCGTNSF book and 26-week running plan. I heard that to develop a strong core muscle, I have to do core muscle workouts for 60 minutes each day as an extra workout. Is that true? Also, what's your favorite core exercise? Thanks so much for reading. Have a good evening. 

-- Ling

That is certainly not necessary. You can mix in core exercises throughout your workout; it's never a bad idea to mix extra core work into your week. But don't just focus on abdominal exercises, such as sit-ups. Think about hip mobility, shoulder girdle movements, and lower- and upper-back exercises and stretches. 

Exercising your core involves a lot more than just ab workouts, as you noticed in the two programs you are using. In fact, I like to rest with core exercises. Some of my favorites involve the TRX (TRX rollouts and atomic push-ups), plank pose and old-school ab exercises that work the hips, such as flutter kicksleg levers and more.

With that running plan, you have many excellent lower-back, hip and leg flexes and stretches, but you also can mix in the lower back plan. I typically do this as a warmup or a cooldown to a workout.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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