Unlike other areas of the human anatomy, our bodies do not contain much skeletal support at the core, so core abdominal muscles are required for stabilizing the body in imbalanced positions. And there might be no more imbalanced environments an athlete can subject themselves to than the swim, bike, and run legs of a triathlon.
One triathlete who realizes the importance of a strong core was Terry Nugent, former NFL quarterback and current elite age-grouper, who got introduced to the sport through his triathlon coach, Dave Scott (six-time Ironman champion).
In a recent interview, Nugent sat down with us to describe three of his favorite core-strengthening workouts that Scott had designed for him and how you can add them to your training regimen to boost your balance, efficiency and performance.
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The Importance of Core Strength
Looking back on his early workouts with Scott, Nugent recalls going in confidently and being quickly humbled by his lack of core strength.
"I could out-lift Dave, without question. But then things changed" said Nugent. "I remember the first time he took me through a weight workout–he absolutely destroyed me."
Nugent may have had more upper-body strength than Scott, spending decades in a football weight room will do that. But in terms of core strength, it wasn't close.
"Pound for pound, in terms of just lifting pure weight, I was stronger," said Nugent. But he just killed me with all the exercises he does, all the core stuff."
"I was converted."
Exercise No.1: Climbing the Mountain
From the plank position, there are three exercises that Scott has Nugent do to strengthen his core. The first exercise requires him to assume the plank position and then rapidly spread his feet apart, while on his toes, and then bring them back together.
Nugent will repeat this about thirty times. He explains "as soon as that's complete, the right knee comes up to the chest and then back to the plank position, then the left knee up, so it's almost like the mountain climbers, but you're in the plank position."