How can you know how strong your core muscles are and whether you are improving with training? There are many exercises and movement patterns available for developing strong abs and building core strength, but few methods are offered for evaluating that strength.
Sports Coach Brian Mackenzie offers the following test for core muscle strength and stability as a way to determine your current core strength and gauge your progress over time.1
The objective of this evaluation is to monitor the development and improvements of an athlete’s core strength and endurance over time. To prepare for the assessment you will need:
Watch, app, or clock with second counter
Conducting the Core Strength Test
You will start in the plank exercise position. This is parallel to the ground with your torso straight and rigid, resting your weight on your toes and forearms. You should not be sagging or bending.
Position the watch or clock where you can easily see it. Assume the plank exercise position with your elbows on the ground. Hold for 60 seconds.
Lift your right arm off the ground. Hold for 15 seconds.
Return your right arm to the ground and lift the left arm off the ground. Hold for 15 seconds.
Return your left arm to the ground and lift the right leg off the ground. Hold for 15 seconds.
Return your right leg to the ground and lift the left leg off the ground. Hold for 15 seconds.
Lift your left leg and right arm off the ground. Hold for 15 seconds.
Return your left leg and right arm to the ground. Lift your right leg and left arm off the ground. Hold for 15 seconds.
Return to the plank exercise position (elbows on the ground). Hold this position for 30 seconds.
Results and Interpretation
Good core strength: If you can complete the test fully, you have good core strength.
Poor core strength: If you cannot complete the test fully, your core strength needs improvement.
Using the Results
Poor core strength results in unnecessary torso movement and swaying during all other athletic movements. This results in wasted energy and poor biomechanics. Good core strength indicates that the athlete can move with high efficiency.
If you are unable to complete the test, practice the routine three or four times each week until you improve.
By comparing your results over time, you will note improvements or declines in core strength.
Your trainer or coach may be able to suggest exercises that will help build your core strength.
About the Test Design
The core muscle strength and stability test was designed by Brian Mackenzie, a senior athletics coach (UKA 4) with UK Athletics, the United Kingdom’s National Governing body for Track and Field Athletics.