Nontraditional Core Training

Core training is not black and white. There is not a cutoff line saying this is traditional and this is nontraditional. Honestly, I am not even a huge fan of using the words “traditional” and “nontraditional”, because they do not illustrate the differences and the word, “tradition” is all relative depending on your past exposure. If anything, something along the line of simple versus complex, predicted versus variable, or steady versus perturb might serve as better replacements. Regardless, we are going to stick with “traditional” and “nontraditional” just for the sake of consistency.

Like all exercises, core training is on a sliding scale and at no definitive point can they be separated in to “traditional” or “nontraditional”.  However, it isn’t a bad idea to get an understanding of what aspects of core training will slide it closer towards one end or another. Below is a very short and overly simplified list to give some ideas of what aspects of the movements will influence the exercises placement on the sliding scale (example videos included).

Traditional versus Nontraditional core training

Traditional core training: Tends to be movements that have a large area of ground contact, slow in velocity, little perturbations and predictable.

Nontraditional core training: Tends to be movements that have smaller area of ground contact, faster in velocity, larger number of perturbations and unpredictable.

Possible benefits of traditional core training

  • Easier to learn
  • Less variable forces (possibly safer)
  • Simpler motor task (less to control)
  • Can target specific regions
  • Can build strength

Possible Cons of Traditional Core Training

  • Predictable forces
  • Slower velocity
  • Too isolated
  • Not very specific

Possible Benefits of Nontraditional Core Training

  • Unpredictable forces
  • More specific
  • Can build strength
  • More complex motor task
  • Allows for more variance
  • Works system as a whole

Possible Cons of Nontraditional Core Training

  • Too complex to learn early on
  • High demand of core strength
  • Variable forces (less safe)
  • Could allow for more compensation (more limbs moving)
  • Less isolated control

Traditional Exercises (Stable)

Some examples of traditional core exercises are as follows:

  • Lying leg lifts

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  • Bicycles
  • Plank
  • Crunches
  • Supermans
  • Hip Bridge




Nontraditional Core Training (Perturbed)

Examples of traditional and nontraditional (steady and perturbed) core exercises and a breakdown of some of their elements

Back Extension With Weight Plate Parallel Press

  • The shoulder girdle pushes and pulls the weight way and towards the body, while the torso has to maintain position. The lever arms of the movement change as the arms are being extended back and froth, which changes the force demands on the body and adds a perturbating stimulus (basic physical properties of level arms). If the athlete does not absorb these forces, the postural integrity will degrade and there will be a noticeable change in form. Like running, jumping, cutting, or any other sporting movement, the body has to maintain proper posture while dealing with a degree of peturbations.

#Repost @sportsciencecollective with @repostapp ・・・ This exercise is great at developing lumbar and hamstring strength. It is ideal at creating isometric tension of the trunk while resisting perturbations (pulsing of the weight). This trunk strength is useful for preventing injuries and bracing the spine during heavy compound lifts. Suggested athletes include fighters, lifting based sports (strongman, weightlifting etc), rowing, cycling, running and swimming. #weightlifting #powerlifting #conjugate #strengthtraining #strengthandconditioning #strength #strengthcoach #lift #weights #squat #science #learn #humanperformance #train #training #weightlifting #powerlifting #deadlift #deadlifts #strongman #squat #squats #jump #dunk #jumphigher #dunks #westside #dynamiceffort #maxeffort #fit #crossfit

A post shared by Max Schmarzo (ATC/CSCS/MS) (@strong_by_science) on


Overhead Pressing With Chains

  • Kneeling on both knees puts the athlete is an unfamiliar position. This alone requires a level of core stability to maintain posture. However, when you add a pressing movement to it, the core has to maintain posture while other limbs produce forces (commonly seen in sport).  Pressing chains incorporates another unpredictable perturbation component because of their natural sway. You can increase the perturbation of this movement,  by adding linear translation of the body (walking, lunging, high steps etc..) .
  • Most movements in the weight room are predicted and pre-planned. However, adding chains will force the athlete to immediately react and stabilize to the minuet swaying and unsteadiness of the chain links. If the core can not maintain postural integrity, the athlete will not be able to press as well (put in a poor position) and will lose their form. Such “total body” core movements could theoretically have a higher transfer to performance because they meet more similarities than that of a core exercise with high levels of stability and predictability.



There is no definitive cutoff point as to what core movement is traditional or nontraditional (stable versus perturbed), its all on a sliding scale. However, it is important the we understand what aspects make up a movement, because we can then modify specific aspects to meet out individual needs.

We also need to be careful about how we place labels. Hopefully after reading this you might see why using words like traditional and nontraditional is not only a little miss leading, but not doesn’t give us any information as to what the movement entails. I am not saying I have the right answer for the proper wording, I just don’t think the current nomenclature works well.


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