Development and evaluation of a core training programme in highly trained swimmers

  • Angela E. Hibbs

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Core training is a popular technique for athletes and coaches concerned with improving sports performance. Achieving an appropriate level of muscular activation is a vital ingredient in a successful training programme. However, the evidence base with regard to the effectiveness of core training on improving an athlete’s core ability and resultant sporting performance is limited. This thesis aims to 1) develop a core training programme for highly trained swimmers and 2) evaluate its effect on sporting performance using the Medical Research Council (MRC) framework for developing complex interventions. The thesis outlines current theories and findings in both the clinical and sporting sectors regarding core stability and core strength training and also the MRC framework. It determines the most appropriate method of measuring muscular activation of the core muscles (EMG) and establishes the reliability of the technique for assessing different exercises. Key core muscles were found to produce significantly reliable (P < 0.05) measurements of below 25% CV and > 0.7 ICC values while performing MVIC and core training exercises. Subsequently, popular low and high threshold core training exercises were analysed and muscle activation levels of 1 - 110% MVIC were identified. A new training programme was developed and tested on a group of highly trained swimmers over 6 and 12 week training intervention periods. Significant improvements (P < 0.05) and a large likelihood of beneficial improvement during the performance tests were observed following 6 and 12 weeks of training (P < 0.05) along with significant reductions in muscle activation (%MVIC) during the performance tests and training exercises. Conclusions from the intervention studies are used to develop a theoretical model outlining how to structure an effective core training programme for highly trained athletes. It is proposed that this model could be used by coaches and athletes to help plan, conduct and evaluate their core training to maximise the potential benefits that core training could have on sporting performance.
Date of Award1 Nov 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Teesside University
SupervisorKevin G. Thompson (Supervisor), Alan Batterham (Supervisor), Duncan French (Supervisor) & Iain Spears (Supervisor)

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