Building a Solid Athletic Base: The Vital Role of Core Strength

Core strength is an absolutely vital component of your overall fitness and general well being. By testing it in different ways, you will continually improve and develop this aspect of your fitness. In an athletic context, think about a heavy Snatch or the movement required to bring your toes-to-bar during a single rep of the exercise – these movements both require powerful core strength, but manifested in slightly different ways. If you can test and train your core in various ways, then you will be able to build solid overall core strength.


Nordic skiing is world renowned for being challenging, mentally tough and building great muscular and cardiovascular fitness as well as strong core strength. At the recent Oresund Games Competition in Malmo, Sweden, it was brought indoors and used in the WODs. It destroyed the athletes!

They used the ThoraxTrainer, a realistic and highly developed Skiing machine to push the athletes to their very limits during the workouts. Take a look at one of the events:

WOD from the Oresund Games

  • For time (TC 14 mins)
  • 800m Skiing on the ThoraxTrainer
  • 20 HSPU
  • 40 Overhead Squat (45 / 35 kg)
  • 60 Double Unders
  • 800m Skiing on the ThoraxTrainer

With a workout like this you can see how this new element was brought into the metcon, and understand how each athlete’s core strength, physical fitness and capacity for endurance was tested as a result.


Your core consists of the multifidus, transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, oblique’s (external abdominal, internal abdominal, and transverse) intercostal and serratus muscles.

The system of multifidus muscles control and support the movement of the spine on all four quadrants (left and right on the rear, left and right on the front) They are responsible for rotating, flexing and extending the spine.

Also, the Ileo-Psoas, and all the muscles of the pelvic floor as well as the diaphragm and the pelvic internal muscles (obturatorius int & ext) should be considered part of the core. Some even count the latissimus dorsi as important corpuscles, as it has fibres that cross the pelvic crest in the gluts. Additionally, it always automatically engages the abd. transversus. Generally, people tend to have weak control over most of these muscles. That is why they are difficult to exercise – especially the profound ones.

The advantage of the ThoraxTrainer is that it automatically engages all your core muscles during each range of motion – without you even thinking about it. Both superficial and profound corpuscles are engaged, even the pelvic floor.

  • The Rectus Abdominis stretches from your sternum down to your pelvic bone. They pull your upper torso towards your hips.
  • Your Obliques are located either side of your waist. They are essential for you to be able to tilt and twist your upper body.
  • Intercostals are located to the side of your rib cage. They function to elevate and depress the ribs.
  • The Serratus is located between your abs and lats. Its function is to pull the scapula forward.


In general life

A strong core is a vital necessity for long term health. Think about almost every movement you make, from everyday tasks such as unloading a barbell to building a shelf, your core will help you to control and support the necessary movements. A weak core can lead to poor posture and an increased chance of injury. From Crossfit to swimming, hill walking to Nordic Skiing, any activity will be made easier with good core strength.

rope climbs thoraxtrainerSource: Sels Photography
A strong core is vital for training and performance

In training

With a weak core, you will not be able to recognise or achieve your full potential as a Crossfitter, and again, you will increase your chances of injury.

Your core stabilises your body, controls the force that you generate and allows you to move barbells, kettlebells and other objects through their full range of motion during exercises. Think about how involved the trunk of your body is when you perform exercises such as Front Squats or kettlebell swings, it is the foundation that allows you to move well.


Attack it in different ways

As with developing any muscle group, you must subject it to enough stress so that it is forced to adapt and grow. Coupled with the proper rest, recovery and nutrition, it will become stronger.

You core responds well to being tested in many different ways. Exercises such as Squats, Deadlifts, L Sits, Hollow Rocks and Toes-to-Bar are all excellent ways to strengthen this part of your body. This is however one problem with all of these exercises, and with the vast majority of movements in Crossfit, which is that they neglect a vital movement Plane. The ThoraxTrainer allows you to easily and effectively train this neglected plane of motion.


There are three Planes of motion and each one characterises a different form of movement. Your core provides allows you to generate and control force across all three planes of motion:

cable exercises for the 3 planes of motionSource: Machine Design
The 3 planes of motion

The Coronal Plane – Here the plane divides the body into front and back and includes all sideways movements. Lateral lunges are a good example of this.

The Sagittal Plane – This divides the body into two halves and weight and movement are transferred up and down along a straight line. Think Thrusters, Squats and Cleans

Transverse Plane – Movements along this plane split the body into a top and bottom half. Russian Twists are an exercise that moves along the Transverse Plain.

Most Crossfit exercises work along the Coronal and Sagittal Plane, so it is necessary to include other full body movements to work your body in the Transverse Plane as well. The ThoraxTrainer is a perfect example of this.


The ThoraxTrainer is incredibly versatile, allowing for over 50 different variations of exercises. A multitude of these involve twisting motions that move the body through the Transverse Plane.

This versatility makes it fun to program into your workouts because you can use the ThoraxTrainer to hit a specific target each round (say 10 calories or increasing / decreasing intervals), but you can also use the variations to create grueling workouts that will hit your core in ways that you have never experienced before. Ultimately, this is exactly what needs to happen in order to improve core strength. It also works the deeper core muscles that are often neglected by other exercises.

Interval WOD

For time

  • 1500m Skiing
  • 60s break
  • 1200m Skiing
  • 50s break
  • 900m Skiing
  • 40s break
  • 600m Skiing
  • 30s break
  • 300m Skiing
rope climbing core athlete thoraxtrainer
A strong core will set you up for success


10 x 1 minute intervals with 30 sec break. (15minutes)

Interval no.

  1. Double poling
  2. Double poling
  3. Double poling on one leg, 30 sec on each leg (extremely efficient work on the core and balance)
  4. Double poling on one leg, 30 sec on each leg
  5. Diagonal poling on one leg, 30 sec on each leg
  6. Diagonal poling on one leg, 30 sec on each leg
  7. Double poling with jump from leg to leg for each stroke.
  8. Double poling with jump from leg to leg for each stroke.
  9. Standing at the rear end of the machine : Double poling
  10. Standing at the rear end of the machine: Double poling on one leg, 30 sec on each leg


The ThoraxTrainer is also a great way to burn unwanted fat from your body. Intensive workouts such as those used in the Oresund Games or interval WODs are incredibly effective at doing this.


Antagonistic and agonist muscles work together as antagonistic pairs. When one contracts, the other relaxes, and the end result is movement. A clear example of an antagonistic pair is how the bicep and tricep work together to raise and move the arms. Functional movements generally move the full body so work many different antagonistic pairs. Isolated exercise such as bicep curls do not. The ThoraxTrainer brings the toughness and functionality of Nordic skiing indoors, developing your body, core and conditioning through antagonistic movements.

thoraxtrainer workout instructionsSource:
Workout time


The ThoraxTrainer offers a great deal of resistance when you use it. Nordic Skiing is an endurance sport, but it is also an incredibly functional exercise that builds and strengthens muscle. Because it emulates Nordic Skiing so effectively, you will also build muscular endurance when you train with it and include it into your workouts. You will also activate your quads and glutes when you train, helping to build muscular endurance for other exercises such as high rep Wall Balls or Thrusters.

Developing a strong core is an absolute necessity for anyone serious about their long term health, posture and movement. For athletes, neglecting your core strength will result in an inability to reach what you are truly capable of and increase your chances of injury when you are lifting heavier weight or performing tougher metcons.

Strengthen your core now!


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