For more than 100 years, traditional core training included exercises such as sit-ups, back extensions and twists. Isometric core exercise might be a better way to develop core strength and stiffness. Core stiffness is vital for athletes because it strengthens muscles, improves muscular endurance, reduces low back pain and boosts sports performance. Greater core stiffness transfers strength and speed to the limbs, increases the load-bearing capacity of the spine and protects the internal organs during sports movements.
A landmark study by Benjamin Lee and Stuart McGill showed that isometric exercises for the core resulted in greater core stiffness than performing whole-body, dynamic exercises that activated core muscles. Isometric core exercises include planks, bird dogs, side-bridges, torsional buttress, pallof presses, stir-the-pot, carry exercises, inverted rows and cable wood chops. Dynamic core exercises included curl-ups, Supermans, side curl-ups, twisting curl-ups, advanced curl-ups, back extensions, Russian barbell twists, curl-up twitches, Superman twitches, lateral medicine ball throws and rotational medicine ball throws. The results of this study cast doubts on traditional core-training methods. This is an extremely important study that might change the way we train for sport. (Journal Strength Conditioning Research, 29: 1515-1526, 2015)