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The 8 Core Exercises Every Runner Should Do

When I started running a few years ago, I was so excited believing back then that I no longer have to do another annoying crunch to get rid of my beer belly.

And boy, was I really, realllly, wrong.

The fact is, especially if you’re serious about reaching your full potential while staying injury free for the long haul, core training is of utmost importance.

As a result, today I’m gonna share with you, my dear readers, some of my thoughts and practical tips on the importance of core training for runners (and all athletes in general).

Also, inside of this post you’ll discover a few of my favorite exercises to help take your core training and power to the next level.

The Core: It’s More Than Abs

What Is The Core?

First of all, you need to understand that your “core” isn’t just your abs.

It’s more than that.

The core muscles are the epicenter of the body. They are a series of muscles that connect the pelvis, spine, and trunk to each other and to the rest of the body, including the shoulders blades, hips, and legs.

The core involves five main areas.

  • The rectus abdominals—what we usually refer to the six-pack muscle.
  • The obliques—or what’s known as the side abs.
  • The erector spinae—AKA the lower back muscles.
  • The transverses muscles or deep abs, and
  • The gluteal muscles—the butt muscles.

The Benefits Of Core Training For Runners

One of the best ways to improve your running without running more is improving your core power and strength.

So why is it so relevant and important?

Here is why…

Keeps Stability. While running, your core muscles work together, often simultaneously, to support the spine and help keep good form—all of which can help you prevent pain (and injury) and run more efficiently.

As a result, if you neglect proper core work, then you’ll be increasing the risks of inefficient movement that can lead to all sorts of imbalances in your running, such as understriding, overstriding, or an unstable pelvis.

Protect the Lower Back. A strong core can also reduce lower back pain as well as the risks for lower back injury, according to research.

Hello Six Abs. Since the core includes all of the abdominal muscles that make up the foundation of a ripped midsection, core training is vital for getting the body and aesthetics of your dreams.

How Core Muscles Help You On The Run

Each muscle group has a particular function and can assist you in its own way to run efficiently and pain-free.

Run Faster with Deep Abs

For instance, powerful rectus and transverses muscle—mainly the lower and deep abs— help you generate more speed and power as you push off the ground, for a faster pace.

Therefore, the stronger your transverses muscles, the more speed and force you can generate as you pick up the up the speed.

Keep Good Form with the Obliques

The obliques are critical for supporting your torso and helping you keep good running form—especially for long distance runs.

These side muscles can also help you stand and stay upright, and transfer energy more efficiently on both sides of your body.

Run up The Hills with Powerful Glutes

If you run hills regularly, then you are familiar with the demands that uphill running puts on your glutes.

Also known as the butt muscles, the glutes are vital for providing with stability and power as you push up the hills, and also help you absorb impact on the downhill.

Downhill running can take a toll on your knees joints and quadriceps, leading to fatigue, pain, even injury.

But having strong glutes can support you on the way down, preventing lots of trouble.

On the downhill, powerful glutes can help you absorb the shock and reverse the momentum of the forward motion.

The 30-minute Core Training Routine for Runners

The right core strength training strategy should aim to target all the muscles that stabilize and support the pelvis and spine.

Today I’m going to share with you a core training workout that’s guaranteed to blow your midsection (and mind).

The core training routine outlined below involves seven exercises, repeated two to three times—depending on your fitness level and schedule.

Each exercise is done for 30 to 45 seconds, or a full minute—if you want to up the ante.

This routine targets the entire core, including the lower back, obliques, hip flexors, even the hamstrings, and quadriceps. No region shall be left behind.

What’s more? You can do this workout anywhere, whether you are at the office, at home, or the gym.

And if you are worried about fitting this routine into your training program, then just stop it.

The entire routine will take you no more than 30 minutes to complete. You just have to show up and do your best. That’s all I’m asking you for.

Do this routine at least three times a week, and you’ll start noticing a significant difference in your running form, posture, leg turnover, and hips by the second or third week—this is especially true if you have never done core work before.

1. Planks

I’m starting off this core routine with my favorite move: the plank.

I love the plank for many reasons. This tough, isometric exercise hits every angle of the core, and also works on spinal stability, which is vital for efficient and pain-free running.

Planks come in many shapes and form, so you can always pick the variation that feels most challenging—and most beneficial to you.

Proper Form

Lie on your stomach and prop yourself up onto your toes and elbows with feet slightly apart. The toes should be about hip distance apart with the elbows resting on the ground in a straight line under shoulders.

Next, straighten your body so you have a straight line from your head to your heel by keeping your core muscles engaged throughout the exercise.

Keep your torso straight and firm and your body in a straight line from head to ankles with no sagging. Gaze at the floor while keeping your head relaxed and stress-free.

Hold the plank for 45 seconds.

For more challenge:  As you get stronger, hold the position for one full minute or more.

2. Side Planks

A variation of the previous plank pose, this one strengthens the obliques while building endurance in the whole core—mainly the deeps abs, lower back, hips, and glutes.

Just make sure to use your obliques throughout the movement. No cheating allowed.

Proper Form

Lie on your side, supporting your upper body on your forearms, while holding the arm at the side (or up in the air), and feet stacked on top of each other. Make sure to keep a straight diagonal line from your head to your feet, and body parallel to the floor.

Hold the position for 30 seconds to one full minute then switch sides.

For more challenge: Do lateral leg raises with the top leg or try to lower your hips toward the floor and lifting them up while keeping the core engaged the throughout the motion.

3. Balance Plank

This is an advanced form of plank variation, and it will help you build strength and endurance throughout the body, not the just the core—this is a crazy total body move, which builds strength, stamina, balance and mental grit.

Proper Form

Lay face down on your stomach and prop up yourself on your toes and forearms.

While keeping a straight line from your head to toe, hold this position as I already outline above, making sure your lower back, glutes, and abs are engaged.

Next,  extend your lift arm in front the right leg behind you at the same time. Keep them off the floor. Hold it for 3 to 5 seconds and alternate sides.

For more challenge: Hold the position for longer, or do crunches by bringing your left elbow to meet your right knee, and vice versa.

4. Russian Twists

Russian twists mainly target your obliques, and they are some of the best exercises for firing up these sides muscles.

Proper Form

Have a 5 to 15-pound medicine ball or weight next to you. Then sit on the floor with your knees bent and heels about a foot from your butt.

Next, while keeping your back straight, lean back slightly without rounding your spine to a 45-degree angle and raise your feet off the floor, engaging your core in the motion.

Pick the weight and while holding it at chest level, twist to the right, reaching as far behind you as possible with good form, pause, then rotate to the other side and keep alternating sides.

Start with 10 reps on each side.

For more challenge: Add more weight with a medicine ball or a dumbbell or do more reps.

5. Superman

The Superman pose targets the erector spinae muscles—AKA the lower back muscles—vital for keeping the hips stable and reducing running pains in the back, hips, and hamstrings.

Proper Form

Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs extended out just like Superman in flight, then slightly raise your head off the floor.

While keeping this Superman pose, raise your left arm with your right leg roughly 3 to 5 inches off the floor, hold for a 5-second count, then slowly lower and alternate sides.

Aim for at least 8 reps on each side.

For more challenge: Hold the Superman pose for longer and do more reps.

6. Single-Leg  Glute Bridge

The glutes muscles—your butt—are also one of the main components of the core.

This is an excellent core exercise, and mainly targets the glutes, but other core muscles get to work hard as well.

Proper Form

Lie on your back with legs bent at an almost 90-degree angle and feet flat on the floor. Next, while engaging your core, lift your hips so there is a straight line from your knees to your shoulder.

Extend your right leg straight with toes pointing toward the ceiling, hold for the moment, then lower it down on the floor and switch sides.

Make sure to keep a good form throughout the motion. No sagging or dipping of the butt is allowed.

For more challenge: Flex your legs and reach them as high as you can while solely relying on your glutes to support you the whole way.

7. Windshield Wipers

Also known as metronomes, this is another powerful core exercise for the obliques.

It’s also key for building rotational core strength, another vital component to superior running performance.

Proper Form

Begin by lying on your back on the floor with knees bent and raised over your hips, with the ankles parallel to the floor.

Next, 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 8 reps on each side.

To keep proper form, make sure to avoid swinging too fast and using the momentum of the movement. No cheating allowed. Engage your core throughout every inch of the motion.

For more challenge: Flex your toes and keep your leg straight, or hold the pose for more time on each side.

8. Scorpion Planks

This one is a tough move, and it will not just work your core hard, it will also build strength and mobility in your upper body. It’s, in fact, an excellent total body move.

As a bonus, it can also help you stretch out those often neglected hip flexors and obliques.

Proper Form

Begin by assuming push-up position with the balls of your feet resting on a low chair or a bench. Make sure to keep your back and legs aligned in a straight form.

Next, lift your left leg off the bench and cross it over your body toward your right shoulder as far as you can. Then reverse directions, bringing your left leg back to the bench, and switching sides.

For more challenge, add a push-up to the top of every scorpion move you make.


The topic of core training for runners is one my favorite running subjects of all times. There is always more to learn.

Hence, if you want more core workout routines, then check these posts:

The Obliques Blaster Workout

The Standing Core Workout

The Yoga Core Workout

The 11 Ab Exercises Every Runner Should Do

In the meantime, thank you for reading my post.

Feel free to leave your comments below.


Featured Image Credit – a james Through Flickr


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David Dack



  1. Incredibly thorough guide! These exercises can provide a lot of benefits for general upkeep in addition to fitness gains. Great source of info, thanks for sharing.

    • Lauren
    • June 30, 2015
    • Reply

    This is without a doubt the best core exercise guide I have ever seen. Not just for runners but also for anyone looking to properly build a stronger core. I have found dozens of core workouts online but they all seem lacking in a way I could never put my finger on. I am getting back into running after having two babies and an 8 year hiatus. I will be doing this religiously. Thank You!

    • You are welcome Lauren. I do my best to provide my readers with well rounded training guides. And please get back to running as soon as possible 😉

      Keep me posted


    • Sheri Ariail
    • July 5, 2015
    • Reply

    This has been very helpful and I plan to start using these exercises today. I am a slow runner and most often wind up walking and would like to be able to have better endurance PLUS I hate dressing room mirrors.

    • Allison
    • August 14, 2015
    • Reply

    Awesome! I started these today! I have been running for over a year now, but want better performance! I am excited to see improvements! Thanks!

    • Sam
    • October 29, 2015
    • Reply

    Would adding these after running work? Like before the cool down stretches? I just started running recently and still trying to figure everything out haha

    • I recommend adding them after the stretching.

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