Login | December 12, 2018

Core strength & stability tests

Pete’s World

Published: November 6, 2017

Last week I talked about the many muscle groups which make up our core musculature, and I explained how crucial these groups are for the protection, support and stability of our bodies.

So with that being said, let me begin this discussion with a couple of short questions: How do you know if you have weak core musculature, and if you don’t know, would you like to find out? Well, let me help you by offering three quickie core-strength tests.

These very telling tests will give you a basic, yet reliable picture of your core fitness, a Polaroid snapshot so to speak. You can do these tests on your own, grade yourself, then determine where you’ll want to proceed with respect to a bonafide core strength and stability program.

The first test, the simple plank exercise, is an easy evaluation, and more geared towards those of you who rarely if ever do core strength and stability exercises. And if you do poorly on this test there’s no need to proceed to the next two tests, because they require a moderate semblance of core fitness.

For test number one you’ll hold an elevated plank position for as long as possible. The upper body should be supported off the ground by the elbows and forearms. Keep your legs straight, with your lower body weight supported by the toes. Proper plank position requires alignment of shoulders, hips and ankles. Envision a theoretical straight line that would link these three joints together. The test is over when you’re unable to hold that straight-line position by either raising your buttocks or lowering your hips.

Grading is as follows: greater than six minutes is excellent; four to six minutes is very good; three to just under four minutes is above average; one-plus to two-plus minutes is good; 30-60 seconds is below average; 15-30 seconds is poor; and less than 15 seconds is very poor.

Below average and under indicate a MAJOR lack of core strength and stability. If this is your finding I’d highly advise that you consult a fitness professional who can help you ascertain a safe starting point for a core program.

If you scored average to excellent, then proceed to the second test, the standing single leg, partial squat. Hold that partial squatting stance for six-seconds per leg, where the knee of the planted leg is lowered to a partial squat such that the knee is positioned exactly above the toes. Are you still and stable, or do you loose your balance and/or sway side to side? Lack of stability indicates the need for more concerted core stabilization work.

The third test, the advanced plank strength and stability test, is the toughest, and should only be done by those who passed the previous two. Start in the same plank position as test one, but once in position lift the right arm off floor for 15 seconds. Return right arm to floor and lift the left arm off the floor for 15 seconds. Return left arm to floor and do same 15 second raise with the right and left legs respectively. Finally, lift both right arm and left leg off floor for 15 seconds, then both left arm and right leg for 15 seconds. Finish with plank position for 30 seconds. Total time for this advanced plank is two minutes.

Okay, if you could not compete the tests as described for the required time and/or parameters, then your core strength/stability still needs improvement.

The torso swaying motion you might have encountered in tests two and three is something that will carry over into all athletic movement patterns when core strength and stability is less than adequate. Such unstable motions result in wasted energy and poor biomechanics. So if you were weak in these, at the very least, you need to perform the tests several days per week until you’re able complete them properly.

On the other hand, if you were successful with those exercise tests, well, congratulations, you indeed posses good core strength and stability. But honestly…these exercises are really just the tip of the iceberg with respect to true core exercises.

Next week I’m going to go over several bonafide core exercises - not the glorified six-pack building stuff - that really activates this large and diverse collection of muscle groups both safely and efficiently.