I talk about the importance of endurance when it comes to the core A LOT. I have given a great starting platform as far as the specific exercises to use now I want to show you how to design a program that focuses on actually building the core endurance you need.

“The most common mistake when building core endurance is doing the exercise until ultimate, muscle failure. To build a stable core that will fend off back pain it’s actually the opposite”

The important thing to remember when building muscle endurance is to never train to absolute fatigue. I know this sounds crazy. We have always been taught in order to increase endurance you have to push past the fatigue to hit that next level. This may be the case for some types of training but when it comes to back pain and building a core that will do the job it’s designed to do, you can’t skip this step!! (McGill et al., 2000)


Remember: The key to getting through back pain and using fitness to do it successfully, you have to take out the things that cause pain or irritation you. When rebuilding the core to perform in a way to relieve back pain you don’t want to “work through” pain. Take out the irritants and focus on the exercises that support pain free movement. Make sure your lifting, turning, twisting and standing with good posture. Going into these exercises with poor posture, poor breathing technique and sloppy form is not going to make things better.

In most cases, endurance is built first with repeated sets of short holds. When training for endurance your holds should be no more than 8 seconds long. (McGill et al., 2000) The science behind these findings is the bodies oxygen loss in the core muscles when performing these holds. The studies have shown that short relaxation periods between sets allows the body to restore the oxygen levels to the area. The goal behind the endurance training is to build up repetitions of the 8 second exertions instead of just increasing the time you hold the position. Again, building up this endurance along with learning to breathe through your muscle contractions is the key to spine stability aka a pain free back. I have used the term “cocontracting” before, this is when the contraction of your core is not hindered or affected by your breathing cycle. They both are able to “coexist” if you will. Most people will relax their core between inhaling and exhaling. This is the worst for building true core endurance and stability. You want to maintain a solid contraction while breathing simultaneously.


What should my endurance training program look like?

The Russians do it right when it comes to building excellent form and technique. The technique they use is known as reverse pyramid endurance training. Their whole idea is to train for endurance without becoming tired (McGill., pg 182). You can use this technique with a lot of different types of holds. For example, planks and pallof presses work great using this technique.

This is how it looks:

1) Five repetitions on the right

2) Five repetitions on the left

3) Rest

4) Four repetitions on the right

5) Four repetitions on the right

6) Rest

7) Three on the left

8) Three on the right

9) Finished

You can apply this to any type of core training. Remember the objective of this technique is to maintain proper O2 levels in the body. It’s NOT to reach failure due to lack of oxygen or lactic acid build up. Rest times will vary from person to person. Odds are your practicing this on your own so take it one day at a time. I would start with 45-55 seconds and see how you feel after that. If by the end of the workout you feel exhausted then increase your rest times until your able to maintain proper breathing and control throughout each set.

Sample Workout:

If these basic foundational exercises are to easy you can increase the starting rep amount and drop the reps each set until you reach the final single set. Remember- Training to relieve back pain is not a “strenuous” thing. You are re training the body to do what it’s not.

Pallof Press: Start with a weight you can comfortably control. Do 5 reps holding 8 seconds each while maintaining deep breathing throughout the exercise.

Stir the Pots: 5 Reps going to the right and five to the left then rest for 45-55 seconds, repeat this cycle until you get to one rep in each direction. Go slow, maintain breathing and be sure to set up in front of a mirror to ensure proper form.

Side Planks: 5 on each side then rest. Hold each plank for no more than 8 seconds. Repeat until you are down to one rep on each side.

Bird Dogs: 5 reps on each side holding for 8 seconds. rest for 40-50 seconds and repeat.

Repeat this workout 5-6 days a week for best results. You will notice an increase in stability and endurance within a couple weeks of starting this program! If 5 sets becomes too easy you can increase the amount of sets from 5 to 7 or 8 and so on.

Thanks for reading!

Let me know in the comments below how your back felt doing any of these exercises!

Talk to you soon,


7 thoughts on “How to build core endurance to relieve back pain

  1. Hi William.

    I left an earlier comment, but it didn’t post. I did request the online workshop to be emailed to me but haven’t yet received anything. Anyways, i thought I’d get started with the way you prescribe these core exercises with a focus on endurance (with the time limit you propose).

    I have one concern regarding what im currently doing for treatment if you dont mind offering your opinion. Im seeing a stretch therapist who does active isolated stretching. I dont really feel much of a lasting difference from the sessions which entail intense spinal twisting to stretch the QL. My chiropractor has mentioned that i am already very flexible in my spine and recommends i approach such intense stretching protocols (that target the lower back) with caution. Would you agree with that?


    1. Hey Brandon you should have been taken to a page where the videos are held. Sorry that didn’t happen. Here is the link to the series of videos Start Here

      If for some reason the link doesn’t work just copy and paste this: https://fitness4backpain.mykajabi.com/p/video-1-core-coordination-1

      This is just my opinion. In some cases aggressive stretching will only make things worse. If the muscle is truly in need of stretching you should see lasting results. If after you are getting some aggressive stretching and it seems you feel even more unstable and in pain STOP the stretching. It could be more of a stability issues. Your body naturally wants to protect itself especially the spine so if it feels threatened the muscle will clamp down and give you this false sense of “stretching is the solution” when in reality its not.

      Your Chiro is right. Stretching an already mobile spine is NOT going to be your solution. I would look at your movement habits such as how you carry your posture, for how long do you sit in a period of time and how well do you hinge. Your daily habits would be the first thing I break down before anything else. Feel free to email me yo keep this convo going! fitness4backpain@gmail.com

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