Weekend Reading: Chris Carmichael’s 10-Exercise Core Training Workout

**Scroll Down for video and text descriptions of the Core Workout I’m Doing This Week!**

As I travel around the country to training camps and events, I get a lot of questions about core strength and stability training. People want to know what role core training should have in a cyclist or triathlete’s program, and more specifically what I do for my own core training. So let’s start with my view on core training for endurance athletes, and then I’ll give you all the details on the workout I’m currently doing three times per week.

For time-crunched endurance athletes, who are the vast majority of people reading this blog post, core strength is not the limiting factor for your athletic performance. Your limiting factor is your ability to accumulate enough aerobic training stress to achieve overload, because overload-and-recovery is absolutely necessary for adaptation. That means that core strength is nice, but it’s not going to directly lead to you being a faster cyclist or triathlete. To be faster you need to focus on energy system development (power/pace at lactate threshold, etc.).

So, if my view is that core training won’t directly increase your power output, then what is core training’s role in endurance training – particularly for time-crunched athletes? I believe core training is an important component of being an athlete, because a strong and stable core enables you to maintain good posture during your everyday activities as well as during your long workouts and competitions. That can indirectly lead to better training efforts and stronger race performances, by delaying the onset of technique-destroying fatigue.

A strong torso also helps prevent injuries by enabling you to withstand the unanticipated stresses of daily living (kid jumping into your arms, catching luggage coming out of an overhead bin, moving furniture, etc.) without tweaking your back or being tossed to the ground. That’s important because in our experience with thousands of athletes, those stupid lifestyle injuries take athletes out of training and competition more often than sport-related or training-related injuries!

Instructional Video of My 10-Movement Core Workout

I incorporate core training three times per week during the winter when my weekly cycling hours diminish. Right now I’m doing the 10 exercises listed as a superset and repeating it 3 times through (takes me about 20 minutes). When I’m in a period when I’m really working on building cycling fitness, I focus even more of my limited training time on cycling workouts and cut the core work down to once, maybe twice, a week. I also cut the sets back to two or even one superset per session. It’s important to remember that you have finite amounts of time and energy to devote to training, so as your on-bike training load (in terms of time and energy expenditure) increases you will inevitably need to reduce the number of core training workouts you’re doing.


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Have a Great Weekend
Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach
Carmichael Training Systems



My 10-Exercise Core Training Workout for Time-Crunched Athletes

1.     Toss-n-Twist: Stand approximately 8-10 feet from your partner, facing each other. Have your partner underhand toss your big medicine ball to you. Catch the ball in front of you, then twist to your left side, back across to your right side and then return to center. Bend your knees and keep your back straight as you lower the ball to knee level, and toss the ball back your partner.

2.     Sit-n-toss: Sit on the floor with knees bent and back at a 30-45% angle to the floor. Your partner should stand in front of your feet (or on your toes if you’d like). Have your partner drop a medicine ball so you catch it in front of your chest and quickly toss it back up to him/her. Maintain your body position as you complete 20 tosses. To make this harder, catch and toss the ball over your head (just don’t miss!)

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3.     Balanced Plank: Get into a pushup position with your hands on top of your smaller medicine balls, and your toes on top of your larger medicine ball. Lower your chest until your upper arms are parallel to the ground and your body is in a straight line from head to heels. Lift your left foot off the ball so you’re balancing on your hands and right toe. Hold this position for 15 seconds, and then complete 5 pushups. Rest 30 seconds and repeat, this time lifting your right foot off the ball.

4.     Over-the-Shoulder Toss: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your upper body leaned back slightly. Your partner should stand diagonally behind you to the left, about five feet away. Look over your shoulder at your partner as he or she tosses a medicine ball to you. Catch the ball at about shoulder level on your left side, controlling its momentum before it lands in your lap. Tap the ball on the floor to your right, left, and right sides, and then toss the ball back up over your left shoulder to your partner. Repeat 10 times from the left side. Rest 10-15 seconds and then complete 10 times from the right side, tapping the ball on the left, right, left before tossing it back over your right shoulder.

5.     Head Crushers: There’s no risk to your head in this exercise, it just looks like you’re trying to crush someone’s head. Get into a standard pushup position, and place a medicine ball directly under your chest. Lower your chest toward the ball, and then push powerfully off the floor and get your hands onto the sides of the ball. Once you’re stable on the ball, push powerfully against the ball again and quickly move your hands back to the starting position in time you catch your falling body weight. Repeat 10 times (It took me a few weeks to be able to get 10 of these.

6.     Twist Crunches: This is an oldie but a goodie. Lay on your back with hands by your ears, knees bent and feet secured. You can do these with your feet off the ground if you’re by yourself. Use your abdominal muscles to crunch straight forward first, then twist your torso to move your right elbow to your left knee. Return to the starting position and then crunch and twist your left elbow to your right knee. Complete as many repetitions as possible in 30 seconds (aim for at least 30 in 30 seconds)

7.     Plank Toe Taps: Get into a plank or pushup position with your toes on top of a stability ball, your hands shoulder width apart, and your body in a straight line from heels to head. Lower your right foot off the ball and touch it to the ground next to the ball. Return to the starting position and touch your left foot to the ground on the left side of the ball. Continue until you complete 10 touches on each side. For a more advanced version of this exercise, complete a pushup after each cycle, as in right/left/pushup. Right/left/pushup. Etc.

8.     Stability Ball Pass: Start by laying down flat on your back. Lift your feet to hold a stability ball at its widest point. Keeping your legs as straight as possible, use your abdominal muscles to lift your legs until you can transfer the ball to your hands. Keeping your arms straight, lower the ball over your head to the floor while simultaneously lowering your feet to the floor. Lift both your legs and the ball simultaneously and transfer it from hands to feet over your body. Lower the ball to the ground. Repeat until the ball has touched the ground at your feet and overhead 10 times.

9.     One-Legged-Roll-n-Toss: Start by standing on your left foot with your right foot off the ground and out in front of you slightly. As your partner rolls a medicine ball toward your right side, lift your right leg up behind you as you bend forward at the waist and reach down to grab the medicine ball. Toss the ball back to your partner as you rise back to the starting position. Complete 10 repetitions balancing on your left leg, then immediately switch to standing on your right leg for 10 repetitions.

10. Plank-n-Roll with Leg Lift: Start by getting into a pushup position with your feet about shoulder width apart. Have your partner roll a medicine ball toward your right hand. Lift your left foot and right hand off the floor, and then stop and roll the ball back to your partner with your right hand. Return to the starting position and then lift your right foot and left hand off the floor as your partner rolls the ball toward your left hand. Stop and roll the ball back to your partner with your left hand. Continue until you have rolled the ball with each hand 10 times.


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Comments 5

  1. Hi, I loved this article, I found this article very interesting. It was really helpful for me. Thank you for sharing valuable information.

  2. I tried using a wall to bounce the ball back. Not exactly the same, but better in some ways because of catching the ball off balance, concentration, etc. Maybe not as good in others. My only option though since I don’t work out with a partner. All in all very good workout, I was sore for a few days. I added some jumps and lunges.

  3. Hi Chris,

    Great looking workouts. I can’t wait to begin them now that I’m completed cross season (and TCC phase for autumn). One major comment. I don’t have a training partner. My wife probably can’t throw the ball to me even if we had time to train together. What if I modify the partner exercises by replicating the movement with the medicine ball without actually catching it? For example, on the toss n twist I’d start from the receiving position with the ball in my hands and then continue the exercise right through to a “pretend” toss. Perhaps not exactly the same but perhaps close?

    Detlef Hess

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