There are a wide variety of core training exercises. They often fall into at least one of two groups: core strengthening exercises and core stability exercises. Core exercises may be performed with body weight alone or with the aid of equipment. Some exercise systems, such as Pilates, focus on core conditioning. Core training exercises, such as ab exercises, are also used to condition the body for enhanced physical appearance and ability.
Strengthening exercises for the core are designed primarily to increase the strength of the core muscles. This allows for better athletic performance and easier performance of many physical tasks. Common exercises include the plank, the bridge, push-ups and the crunch. Numerous variations of these core exercises exist to increase conditioning, provide a greater challenge and reduce boredom. Variations of the plank often involve adding motion from an arm or leg.
Stability training routines tend to focus on exercises and stretches that that will aid proper posture and prevent injury. Back pain is often associated with weak core muscles and can be alleviated by performing core exercises. This form of training involves many of the same exercises as core strength training.
Most core training exercises require proper positioning to avoid injury and derive full benefits from the exercise. In stability training, there is often a greater focus on proper contraction of the core and alignment of the body. A static plank, in which the exerciser takes care to maintain a neutral spine and tucked pelvis, can be held for up to several minutes. This can work the core and help the body to become more limber.
Many forms of equipment can be used to aid core training. The most common ones, such as a stability ball or wobble board, force the exerciser to move on an unstable surface. Using an unstable surface can also force the body to utilize core muscles during exercises that normally do not involve the core. For example, doing some types of arm exercises on a stability ball will require use of the core muscles.
A number of exercise systems such as yoga and Pilates focus on core training exercises. Most Pilates exercises, such as the hundreds, combine breathing rhythms with core contraction. Yoga also emphasizes breath work and positioning, and many yoga positions work the core. Both these systems can be done without equipment, but a class or instruction through a Digital Video Disc (DVD) is advisable, especially for the beginner.