Let me get one assumption about planning your training out up front. The assumption is that you are going to have a weekly training program. There is a day or more of technical training at your club. Two or three days of strength work and three or more days of cardio. You strive to have a regular schedule, where each component has a particular day when you do it. There are more complex approaches possible, but this is a good starting point. And, of course, there is progression from week to week.
First, don't try to do everything. I've presented four different types of core training and there are plenty of other options as well. Instead pick a couple of options and do them a couple of times per week each.
Second, remember that these exercises are not your only core training. Basic weightlifting exercises provide plenty additional stimulus to developing core muscles. Conditioning methods like kettlebells and battle ropes will also help train the core. As will medicine ball exercises (which are a great as a part of the warm-up for class).
Categories of Core TrainingTo help you decide which exercises to do it helps to start by categorize them by the basic kind of benefit the exercises will produce.
Intensity - the most basic core exercises will help us develop stronger core muscles and progression is achieved through increasing intensity. The most basic are the weighted isometric exercises from part I. If you are only going to include one kind of core work then make sure that this is it. Alternatives abound. For this category exercises should be low reps (<15) or low time (<45 seconds), with enough resistance for muscle fatigue to be the limiting factor. These exercises should be stable and involve only short arcs of movement or no motion.
Coordination - other core exercises are better at developing the integration of our core with whole body movement and/or the integration of sensory and muscular activity for balance and agility. Basic, whole body lifts like the squat will develop integration of the core and movement; medicine ball drills will do the same but with a different emphasis. Agility drills (like ladders and cones) will place a core demand where dynamic stability is developed.
Specific exercises include those described in parts III and IV. These should be seen as supplemental to other kinds of core exercise. As the other aspects (weightlifting and agility) are more important to include.
Activation - desk jobs, sedentary living and the general frailty of humans mean that we frequently need to help trigger muscles to be more active. These kinds of exercises may be less demanding physically and progress may be noted in improvements to other actions, not the exercise itself. A basic starting point for these are the hip exercises described in part II.
Lots of alternatives exist in this category, for instance the Turkish Get-up or various carry exercises. Common elements are that the exercise is highly form dependent and the core is used to support the resistance, rather than directly causing the movement. They are also low enough in intensity to be done most days.
Deciding What Goes WhereThe different exercises you do should be associated with specific other aspects of your workout, this will help keep things organized and guide decisions about what goes where.
Activation exercises are specifically beneficial as a pre-workout exercise, particularly before weightlifting.
Intensity exercises should probably follow the same schedule as strength training since they will require a rest day in-between. They should be done at the end of a strength training session since the bigger exercises are more technically demanding.
Coordination exercises can be used as part of the warm-up for any kind of exercise or as part of a circuit. Remember, that when used as a warm-up the volume of exercise will be lower than when they are a primary training goal.
When it comes to training, everything should be done a couple of times per week or more. Anything you are training only once a week will not see progress and development. More frequent training is necessary for improvement.
Here's a sample schedule to illustrate
- Monday - Activation and Agility work (coordination) as part of warm-up for class
- Tuesday - Activation before lifting, intensity work after main lifts (coordination)
- Wednesday - Activation and med ball work (coordination) as part of warm-up for class
- Thursday - Activation before lifting, intensity work after main lifts (coordination)
- Friday -Activation before long cardio session
- Saturday - Activation before lifting, intensity work after main lifts (coordination)
- Sunday - rest