Core training is an essential ingredient in any training program—whether you are just a recreational runner looking to achieve a ripped midsection or a serious athlete on the quest to improve athletic performance and avoid injury.
Whatever your fitness goals are, the core cannot be ignored, period.
Why the core?
The core, which includes your abs, lower back, hips, glutes and pelvic floor, is the baseline for all movements.
A strong and firm core increases running performance and may also reduce injury risk.
A strong core will allow you to run with more efficiency by improving speed and power in key running muscles such as the lower back and glutes, helping you run faster, further and with less fatigue.
Plus, working on strengthening your core muscles—not just your abs—will drastically reduce the risks of injury by improving posture, providing more support for your body and helping you maintain good form throughout your runs as fatigue starts to set in—especially in the long run or when racing.
Crunches are baaaad
The right core training routine is not all crunches. In fact, I don’t think you should be doing them from now on.
The classic abwork training—think sit-ups, crunches— target only the superficial surface muscles and they are a waste of time.
Plus, the traditional ab exercises are not specific to running, which is another reason you should steer clear of them.
Standing core training enters the picture
I’ve become a big fan of these standing core moves since they seem to engage the stabilizers muscles more efficiently than any other abwork routine.
The standing core workout I’m sharing with you today hits all of your core muscles, including your obliques, lower back and hip flexors
These standing core moves target and strengthen the whole midsection while also working the entire body, boosting calorie burn in the process. So they are total-body exercises disguised as an ab workout.
The 5 Standing Core Exercises Every Runner Should Do
So get your butt off the floor and upgrade your core routine with this great core routine for better running. It’s, in my opinion, an excellent 20-minute workout you can do anytime.
This routine includes seven standing core moves repeated two or three times for 30 seconds to one full minute each. It’s intended to be completed circuit-style, moving rapidly from one exercise to the next.
If you are looking for more challenge with these exercises, then add in medicine balls, dumbbells, kettlebells and a cable to the moves.
1. Single Leg Reach
The entire core plus the hamstrings and quads. This move improves balance as well.
Begin by standing on your right leg and raising your left arm in front of you.
Next, lower your torso, lift your left leg behind you and reach your left hand in the direction of your right toes. If you can touch your right toes without losing your balance, then go for it.
To go back to standing, make sure to contract your hamstrings and glutes. That’s one rep.
Do eight reps on that side, then switch sides. Aim for three sets.
2. Single Leg Squat
The Single Leg Squat works the entire core. Plus it improves mobility and balance throughout the pelvis and lower body.
Begin by standing shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, then balance on your right leg, firmly planted on the floor.
Next, squat down by bending at the knee and sitting your hips back as if you are going to sit in a chair behind you. Make sure to keep your back as straight as possible.
Once your right knee is bent at about a 90 degrees angle, extend your leg back and press up to standing, keeping the left foot lifted the entire time.
Use a chair or a bench for balance if you don’t have much mobility in your lower body. You should never compromise form.
Repeat at least for 8 reps, then switch sides.
Aim for three sets.
3. Medicine-Ball Slams
The Medicine-ball Slam is a great full-body and multi-joint exercise that increases strength and endurance in the core, and it also builds strength in the legs as you drive the ball back up overhead.
Stand with knees slightly bent and hold a med ball at chest level. Next, explosively press the med ball overhead, then immediately throw the ball down to the ground by driving it downward.
Then, retrieve the ball by assuming a low squat position with head up, chest and glutes low, and press the ball back overhead as fast and explosively as you can.
4. Torso Rotation with Cable
While using the cable, the torso rotation hits and sculpts the abs and the obliques.
Start by standing with your right side facing a cable pulley station with a hand attached at elbow height.
Next, grab the handle with both hands, while contracting the core and drawing in your navel, pull the cable attachment away from your body as far as possible by externally rotating your shoulders, hold it for a moment, then return to the starting position.
Complete 10 repetitions, then switch sides and repeat the exercise.
5. Knee Cross Crunch
The entire core—especially the oblique muscles. It also improves coordination and balance.
Begin by standing with your knees slightly bent, arms bent into your body. Next, shift your weight onto your left foot, leaving just the toes of your right foot on the ground.
Then, while engaging your core, raise your right knee up towards your left elbow while you turn your left elbow into your knee, crunching them together on a diagonal line.
Last up, lower right toes back slowly to the ground while keeping your balance on the left leg.
Shoot for 15 reps on each leg to complete one set. Complete three sets.