Core Conditioning and Athletic Performance: Is There a Connection?

by Joy Keller on Oct 01, 2007

Core conditioning has quickly become a major component of many athletic training programs; however, recent research questions the validity of claims that it enhances athletic ability. The Indiana State University study tested the core strength of 29 NCAA Division I football players and compared the results to the athletes’ abilities in three strength variables and four performance variables. Subjects were first tested on how long each could hold the following positions: back extension, trunk flexion, and left and right bridge. They were then asked to perform the bench press, squat, power clean, vertical jump, 20- and 40-yard sprints and 10-yard shuttle run.

While study authors noted some connection between core strength and athletic ability, the results weren’t encouraging. “We were surprised that core strength is only moderately responsible or related to an athlete’s overall strength and power performance, based on the variables we tested,” stated Thomas Nesser, assistant professor of physical education at Indiana State, on the Indiana State website. While he didn’t rule out core conditioning as a means of enhancing ability, he did suggest that athletes and their trainers might be spending too much time focusing on core training.

Annette Lang, MS, owner of Annette Lang Education Systems in Brooklyn, New York, has concerns about the methods used in this study, in that the exercises chosen were better suited to determining core strength in the average individual as opposed to the athlete. “I think you could pick different exercises to more precisely relate to specific sport moves,” says Lang. She contends that, in most athletes, the core muscle fibers are already functioning properly, and so there isn’t a huge industry push to spend more time on core-strengthening programs. “From my understanding, it is suggested more for people whose cores don’t function appropriately.”

—Ryan Halvorson

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About the Author

Joy Keller

Joy Keller IDEA Author/Presenter

Joy Keller is executive editor of IDEA Fitness Journal and IDEA Fit Business Success, and is also a certified personal trainer, indoor cycling instructor, yoga teacher (RYT 200) and Reiki Master. Joy joined IDEA Health & Fitness Association in 2002, and brought with her a wealth of information about how to fine-tune communication channels, after having spent her formative career years specializing in business-to-business journalism. Before she even graduated with honors from the respected University of Georgia journalism school, Joy was offered a job at one of the most successful trade publishing companies in the southeast, Shore Varrone, Inc. She made her mark in the automotive aftermarket industry as a creative thinker and journalist with an intuitive knack for researching and understanding niche audiences. Joy has worked on several titles, including Auto Trim & Restyling News, Truck Accessory News, Digital Output Magazine, Retail & Construction News, Miata magazine, Ford Racing, and many more. Her passion, however, lies with health and fitness. She was the associate editor of ACE Certified News while working at the American Council on Exercise, and transitioned that publication from a newsletter to a magazine. She has enjoyed 17 years at IDEA, where she has launched several publications, including the award-winning Inner IDEA Body-Mind Spirit Review, IDEA Pilates Today and IDEA Fit Business Success. Joy is a content creator and media 2.0 advocate who takes pride in discovering the unique information needs of qualified audiences, and she is dedicated to serving those needs while following the highest available standards.