The Role of Trunk Muscle Strength for Physical Fitness and Athletic Performance in Trained Individuals: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis



The importance of trunk muscle strength (TMS) for physical fitness and athletic performance has been demonstrated by studies reporting significant correlations between those capacities. However, evidence-based knowledge regarding the magnitude of correlations between TMS and proxies of physical fitness and athletic performance as well as potential effects of core strength training (CST) on TMS, physical fitness and athletic performance variables is currently lacking for trained individuals.


The aims of this systematic review and meta-analysis were to quantify associations between variables of TMS, physical fitness and athletic performance and effects of CST on these measures in healthy trained individuals.

Data Sources

PubMed, Web of Science, and SPORTDiscus were systematically screened from January 1984 to March 2015.

Study Eligibility Criteria

Studies were included that investigated healthy trained individuals aged 16–44 years and tested at least one measure of TMS, muscle strength, muscle power, balance, and/or athletic performance.

Study Appraisal and Synthesis Methods

Z-transformed Pearson’s correlation coefficients between measures of TMS and physical performance were aggregated and back-transformed to r values. Further, to quantify the effects of CST, weighted standardized mean differences (SMDs) of TMS and physical performance were calculated using random effects models. The methodological quality of CST studies was assessed by the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) scale.


Small-sized relationships of TMS with physical performance measures (−0.05 ≤ r ≤ 0.18) were found in 15 correlation studies. Sixteen intervention studies revealed large effects of CST on measures of TMS (SMD = 1.07) but small-to-medium-sized effects on proxies of physical performance (0 ≤ SMD ≤ 0.71) compared with no training or regular training only. The methodological quality of CST studies was low (median PEDro score = 4).


Our findings indicate that TMS plays only a minor role for physical fitness and athletic performance in trained individuals. In fact, CST appears to be an effective means to increase TMS and was associated with only limited gains in physical fitness and athletic performance measures when compared with no or only regular training.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Olaf Prieske.

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This study is part of the research project “Resistance Training in Youth Athletes” that was funded by the German Federal Institute of Sport Science (ZMVI1-081901 14-18).

Conflicts of interest

Olaf Prieske, Thomas Muehlbauer, and Urs Granacher declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.

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Prieske, O., Muehlbauer, T. & Granacher, U. The Role of Trunk Muscle Strength for Physical Fitness and Athletic Performance in Trained Individuals: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med 46, 401–419 (2016).

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  • Physical Fitness
  • Strength Training
  • Trunk Muscle
  • Athletic Performance
  • Trained Individual