The 10 Best Core Exercises For Football Players


A strong core is essential for any athlete, regardless of sport, and this is especially true for football players. A strong core helps transfer power, aids in balance and provides stability when engaged with another player.

Football players know this as well because core work is generally the first thing they all gravitate toward (or curls to be honest) whenever they’re given extra free time in the weight room. (Or they just want those six-pack abs for the beach.)

The issue I see all the time though is that most guys do the same three or four core exercises every single time. I believe we, as coaches, are guilty of this as well. We tend to program the same core exercises for our athletes that we’re familiar and comfortable with.

In this article, I’m going to try to help break you out of the monotony and give you ten of the best core exercises for football players so you’ll have plenty of fresh ideas for your next core routine.


Core Exercises For Football


Toe Touches

Toe Touches
Photo Credit (Dusan Petkovic / shutterstock.com)

I’m not going to list crunches, because I think we’re all familiar with those. Instead, I’m going to give you another simple body weight core exercise that is one of my favorites – Toe Touches. Like crunches, Toes Touches are easy to learn and easy to do (technically).

Having to hold your legs vertical in the air forces the lower abs to be engaged making them slightly harder than regular crunches.

But, the reason I really like Toe Touches for football players is it gives me insight into who is extremely tight in their hamstrings. Players with really tight hamstrings will struggle to get into a proper position and will struggle even more to maintain it.

If this sounds familiar then it’s time to start addressing those hammys.

Lay on your back with legs straight up in the air, airs straight, hands close to legs. Raise the shoulder blades off the ground and reach the hands up the shins. Squeeze the abs at the top of the rep, lower back down and repeat.

Suitcase Crunches

Suitcase Crunches

Okay, let’s ramp up those (boring) crunches and add a new challenge to your core routine. Suitcase Crunches is an advanced variation to regular crunches.

Instead of laying your back, you’ll balance yourself up on your butt with your legs and back up off the ground.

Start with legs straight about six inches off the ground and torso leaned back as far as possible (while staying off the ground). Now crunch up, bringing your shoulders and knees together at the top. Lower back down to the start position and repeat.

Planks

Planks

There are so many reasons that I love programming planks for athletes, especially football players.

First, it teaches and reinforces what it means to brace your core. Knowing how to properly, and effectively, brace your core is so important not only in the weight room but on the field as well.

Second, holding a plank can sometimes be as mentally challenging as it is physically challenging. I think anytime you can introduce situations (safely!) that get players out of their comfort zone and force them to strain is beneficial.

Finally, planks are extremely versatile. You can add weight or time to make them more challenging. You can switch to a side plank to incorporate more obliques and they also work great as a competition to finish a workout.

Ab Wheel

There are two reasons I really like using Ab Wheels with football players.

One, they’re like the RDLs of the core world. It’s one of the only ways you can get great eccentric core work done. Almost every ab exercise possible focuses on the concentric part of the movement – literally ‘crunching’. Incorporating an Ab Wheel will add a whole new dynamic to your core training.

Two, because in my experience, guys love doing them. They get really competitive with them. Anytime you find something that players will go ‘all-in’ on – do that thing.

If you don’t have an Ab Wheel, don’t worry. Placing two 25-pound bumpers on a barbell will work just as well.

Med Ball Slams

Incorporating a medicine ball into your core routine is a great way to add resistance to some of the bodyweight exercises we’ve already gone over and it also opens additional dynamic core movements.

These next three core exercises are some of my favorites that utilize a medicine ball.

Med Ball Slams

Med Ball Slams is the perfect example of a dynamic core exercise incorporating a medicine ball. A Med Ball Slam is essentially utilizing your core to generate as much power as possible flexing at the torso and releasing that power in the form of slamming a med ball into the ground.

Coach Tip: Make sure to test how ‘bouncy’ your med ball is before slamming it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched athletes almost lose teeth because they weren’t prepared for the bounce coming back at them.

Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart. Reach med ball high overhead with arms extended and use your core to aggressively flex the torso and follow through with the arms and slam the ball off the ground.

Seated Med Ball Twists

Seated Med Ball Twists

Seated Med Ball Twists is one of my favorite rotational core exercises.

Make sure to focus on rotating through the core and not just moving your arms from side to side. I see this error in technique all the time by players who are only concerned with bouncing the ball on each side.

Start sitting on the ground with feet a few inches off the ground and torso leaning back at about a 45-degree angle.

Rotate to the left, focusing on rotating the shoulders as far as possible. Alternate rotating from side to side until all reps are completed.

Med Ball Side Toss

Med Ball Side Toss
Photo Credit (Srdjan Randjelovic / shutterstock.com)

Med Ball Side Toss is another rotational core exercise utilizing a medicine ball. It’s essentially a more dynamic variation of the Seated Med Ball Twists that we just went over.

Find a sturdy wall or, better yet, a partner. Get in a good athletic position – feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent. Load the starting position by slowly rotating the ball to the back hip and then aggressively rotate and release the ball toward your partner.

I love Med Ball throwing movements like Slams and Side Tosses because of how much power that players are able to generate. Definitely beats laying on the ground and doing crunches every day.

Hanging Straight Leg Leg Raises

Hanging Straight Leg Leg Raises

Hanging abs are some of my absolute favorite core exercises.

Not only are they very challenging ab movements, but they also provide extra benefits as well. They’re a great way to sneak grip strength into your workout and many also work the shoulders, back and biceps as well.

For Hanging Straight Leg Leg Raises, find a bar and take an overhand grip. Arms will stay relatively straight, but do make sure you engage the Lats so you’re not just dead hanging from the bar. This will make it much easier to keep the body stable when moving the legs.

From the hang position raise the legs until they’re waist-high, or slightly higher. Actively lower the legs back down and repeat (Allowing the legs to just fall will almost undoubtedly cause the body to swing).

Windshield Wipers

Windshield Wipers
Photo Credit (maxpro / shutterstock.com)

One of the hardest core exercises to do, hands down, is Windshield Wipers. It takes a tremendous amount of core strength and will stress your entire core (and your upper body and grip).

If you progress to the point where you can knock out a set of ten Windshield Wipers, you should feel pretty good about your core strength.

Same hanging starting position Hanging Leg Raises. Lift legs up until your feet are about a foot away from the pull-up bar.

Now rotate your hips and move your feet about two to three feet to the left. Rotate back and forth from side to side until all reps are completed.

Hyperextensions

Hyperextensions

Too often when players think about doing ‘core work’ they only think of working their abs. However, low back work is just as important, but it’s often either overlooked or just ignored.

Hyperextensions are one of the best movements you can do in a weight room to focus on building a strong low back. Hypers will also work the glutes and hamstrings as well.

If you don’t have access to a Glute Ham Machine, you can try either Supermans or Back Crunches. Both also work the low back and require no equipment.

Final Thoughts

There are dozens of core exercises to choose from so there is no need to get in a rut of doing the same movements over and over again all the time.

You also don’t have to limit yourself to just bodyweight abs, like crunches and sit-ups, either. Grab a medicine ball or find a pull-up bar and add some variety (and difficulty) to your core routine.

Finally, don’t forget about that posterior chain! Exercises like Hyperextensions, Supermans or even Back Crunches can help strengthen your low back – an important part of your core.

Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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