As a runner, adding regular core training to my workout routine was a true godsend. It helped me improve my running form, cut my injury risk, and boosted my overall athletic performance.
Here are some practical tips on core training for runners. I’m also sharing a few of my favorite exercises to help take your core training and power to the next level.
What Exactly Is The Core?
Let’s break down what the core is all about.
Contrary to popular belief, your core isn’t just your abs. It’s much more than that.
The core is the epicenter of the body. It includes the whole series of muscles that connect the pelvis, spine, and trunk to each other and to the rest of the body.
It involves five main areas.
- The rectus abdominals, which you may refer to as the six-pack
- The obliques, or what’s known as the side abs
- The erector spinae, which are the lower back muscles
- The transverse muscles, or deep abs
- The glutes, or butt muscles
The Benefits of Core Training for Runners
Why is core training so important for runners?
Check the following reasons:
Deep Abs Help You Run Faster. If you have powerful rectus and transverse muscles—mainly the lower and deep abs — you’ll be able to generate more speed and power as you push off the ground.
Obliques Help You Keep Good Form. The obliques are critical for supporting your torso and keeping good form. This is especially true for running long distances.
Maintain Stability. When you neglect proper core work, you increase your risk of inefficient movement. This can create an imbalance like understriding or overstriding in your gait. Such dysfunction can only lead to trouble down the road.
Cor Muscles Protect Your Lower Back. Research shows that a strong core can reduce lower back pain and lower the risk of injury to this vulnerable area.
Hello Six-Pack Abs. Since your core includes all of the abdominal muscles working within your midsection, it’s vital to strengthen them if you want to get the body you’ve always dreamed of.
Note: The information listed is by no means an exhaustive list of the benefits that core training has to offer, but it should you give a clear idea of what you stand to gain by adding in a few simple core exercises each week.
The 30-minute Core Training Workout for Runners
As a rule, core work should strengthen all the muscles that stabilize and support the pelvis and spine. To make that happen, try the following routine, which involves seven exercises repeated two to three times. Do each exercise for 30 to 45 seconds. For more challenge, do them each for a full minute.
Oh…I forgot! One of the best things about this routine is that you can do it anywhere, whether you’re at the office, your home, or at the gym.
I love planks. This tough isometric exercise hits every angle of the core. It also works on spinal stability, which is vital for efficient and pain-free running.
Lie on your stomach and prop yourself up onto your toes and elbows with your feet slightly apart. Your toes should be about hip distance apart, with your elbows resting on the ground in a straight line under your shoulders.
Now lift and straighten your body, so it’s forming a straight line from your head to your heel. Keep your core muscles engaged throughout the exercise.
Gaze at the floor while keeping your head relaxed and stress-free. Hold the plank position for 45 seconds.
For more of a challenge: As you get stronger, hold the position for a full minute or more.
- Side Planks
This plank variation strengthens the obliques while building endurance throughout the core. Just make sure you engage your obliques the entire time. No cheating allowed!
Lie on your side, supporting your upper body on your lower forearm while holding your top arm at your side or up in the air. Your feet should stack on top of each other. While lifting your body, keep a straight diagonal line from your head to your feet.
Hold the position for 30 seconds to one full minute, then switch sides.
- Balance Plank
An advanced plank variation that builds strength and endurance throughout the body.
Assume a plank position. While keeping a straight line from your head to toe, hold the position, making sure your lower back, glutes, and abs are all engaged.
While holding the position, extend your left arm in front of you, return to position and then extend your right arm. Then return to position and lift your right leg off of the ground behind you, return to position and repeat with the left leg. Hold each new position for 3 to 5 seconds, and repeat the cycle for 45 seconds.
For even more of a challenge: Hold each position longer, or do crunches in a plank position by bringing your left elbow down to meet your right knee while lifting the knee, then switch sides.
- Russian Twists
Russian twists are some of the best exercises for firing up sides muscles.
Have a 5- to 15-pound medicine ball or weight next to you. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your heels about a foot from your butt
Keeping your back straight, lean back slightly without rounding your spine to a 45-degree angle and raise your feet off the floor.
Pick up the weight and hold it at chest level, then twist to the right, reaching with the ball as far behind you as possible. Pause, then rotate to the other side. Keep alternating sides.
For more of a challenge: Use a heavier medicine ball or dumbbell, or do more reps.
The Superman exercise targets your lower back muscles, vital for maintaining stability in the hip region.
Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs extended and raise your head off the floor slightly, so you look like Superman in flight.
While holding this pose, raise your left arm with your right leg roughly 3 to 5 inches off the floor, holding for a 5-second count. Slowly lower your arm and leg, and switch sides. Repeat for 45 seconds.
For more of a challenge: Hold the Superman pose longer and do more reps.
- Single-Leg Glute Bridge
This is an excellent core exercise that mainly targets the glutes, but other core muscles work hard as well.
Lie on your back with your legs bent at an almost 90-degree angle and your feet flat on the floor. While engaging your core, lift your hips off the ground so there’s a straight line from your knees to your shoulder.
Extend your right leg with your toes pointing toward the ceiling. Hold for a moment, then lower your leg to the floor and repeat on the other side. Continue for 45 seconds.
Make sure to use good form throughout the exercise. No sagging or dipping of the butt is allowed.
For more of a challenge: Flex your legs and reach them as high as you can while solely relying on your glutes to support you the entire time.
- Windshield Wipers
Also known as metronomes, this is a powerful core exercise for your obliques. It’s also key for building rotational core strength, another vital component of good performance.
Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and raised over your hips and your ankles parallel to the floor.
While engaging your core muscles and keeping your hips in contact with the floor, rotate your legs to the right, hold for a moment, then bring them back up and repeat the movement on the other side.
Aim for at least eight reps on each side.
Avoid swinging too fast and using the momentum of the movement.
For more of a challenge: Flex your toes and keep your leg straight while doing the exercise, or hold the pose longer on each side.
- Scorpion Planks: This tough move will not only give your core a tough workout, but will also build strength and mobility in your upper body. Scorpion planks also help you stretch out those your hip flexors and obliques, which are often neglected.
Assume a push-up position with your hands on the floor and the balls of your feet resting on a low chair or a bench. Keep your back and legs aligned in a straight form.
Lift your left leg off bench and cross your knee under your body toward your right shoulder as far as you can, then return it to the bench and do the same with your right knee and your left shoulder. Repeat for 45 seconds
For more of a challenge, add a push-up to the top of every scorpion move you make.
Want more core workout routines? Check out these posts:
In the meantime, thank you for reading my post.
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Featured Image Credit – a james Through Flickr.