Courtside Circuit: Exercises To Improve Core Strength

Rosie Terrell
Courtside Circuit 1A

Core strength is the key to top athletic performance, say retired beach player Elaine Roque and sports conditioning coach Robert Hockley in their training DVD Core Power for Volleyball. The following circuit is one of three featured on the DVD, which helps athletes learn to “train movements, not just muscles.”

Roque, who was exposed to Olympic lifting and heavy squat training methods, which she believes led to several injuries, is confident that this circuit-based core workout is a solid preventative measure for all athletes to take.

“It’s important to realize that your core muscles are the body’s engine,” she says. “Most movements initiate from there.”

This circuit, adapted from the DVD, works the entire body, and athletes should first warm up with 2–3 minutes of jumping rope or 3–5 minutes of light jogging. Follow this by balancing on a stability ball for 1 minute, 20 standing rotations and 20 wood chops, both with the ball, and finish with back lunges with opposite arm up, the well-known yoga pose “warrior one,” and finally a series of arm circles. Now you are ready to jump into this nine-exercise courtside circuit.


  1. Multi-Directional Lunges


    Start in a ready position with feet slightly apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand or grab one with two hands at your chest. (A)
    With an erect upper torso and sitting back slightly, lunge forward in a controlled manner, with your knee nearly touching the ground. Focus on making right angles with your body, and for lateral lunges work on pushing off with the outside leg. (B)
    Complete two forward lunges, two back, two diagonal and two lateral (to the side).

  2. Cable Pulldowns with Elastic Bands


    Attach a cable to a post or tree, and stand far enough away that the cable is taut in your hand. (C)
    Stand in a ready position with knees bent and feet slightly apart.
    Keeping a flat back, raise arms and fire both arms together or alternating one after another, down to your side, keeping them perfectly straight. (D)

  3. Squat with Curl & Press


    Stand with your stomach tight and feet slightly apart. Grab a weight in each hand and hang arms down by your side. (E)
    Perform a traditional squat, transition to standing, and press your arms up and over your head. Return to starting position. (F) (G)
    Focus on sitting back and keeping your chest high throughout the motion, along with maintaining a flat back.

  4. Chest Press on Bench


    Use either a ball or bench for this exercise, and hold a weight in one or both hands.
    Rest only your back on the ball or bench with legs flat on the ground. Keep rear off the bench but don’t let it sag towards the ground. (H)
    Perform a traditional bench press motion, pushing arms straight up into the air and returning them to the starting position. Alternate arms if desired. (I)

  5. Hamstring Curl


    Use either a ball or bench for this exercise.
    Rest heels on the ball or bench with your back flat on the ground and arms out to the side for stability. (J)
    Think about “bridging” very high and lift pelvis to the sky, keeping the stomach tight. (K)
    For a more challenging exercise, left one leg off the ball or bench and perform with a single leg.

  6. Dumbbell Rows


    Begin with a dumbbell in each hand and feet slightly apart.
    Keeping a completely flat back, bend at the waist with arms hanging straight down. (L)
    Bending at the elbows, pull your arms up and to the outside of your chest, returning to the starting position. (M)

  7. Triceps Extension


    Grab a single cable in your hitting hand, or grab onto the cable with two hands.
    Turn away from the post and position your arms(s) overhead with one leg slightly in front of the other. Focus on keeping a nice spine angle. (N)
    Keeping your shoulder still, fire your arm from the elbow to hand forward, simulating a hitting motion. (O)

  8. Crunches


    Use either a ball or bench for this exercise.
    Set up in a traditional crunch position. If on a ball, focus on pushing down through the ball without it rolling. (P)
    Perform a crunch, breathing air out as you come up in the motion. (Q)

  9. Lower Back Extensions or Frog Leg Kick Back


    Use either a ball or bench for this exercise.
    Position your chest on the ball or bench and secure yourself tightly with your hands.
    When secure, fire your legs out behind you in a “frog” motion, keeping the stomach tight. (R)

Originally published in July 2011

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