Core workouts for runners are more than just a once in a while workout program, these movements can improve running performance and also reduce the risk of injuries. Core workouts help stabilize our body while we run, also so much more other movements and exercises.
Unfortunately, runners often miss core exercises because they don’t realize how important these exercises are to support our whole body strength and flexibility.
Many runners don’t know which are the best core exercises they can do.
One of the most common issue for running injuries is a weak core, which is our hips, glutes, lower back and abs, so it’s not just our six pack abs strength.
A Canadian study over 13 years and 8,000 people showed a death rate more than double for people with a weak core. So we absolutely need some good core workouts to support our runs, healthy body, and longer healthy life.
Benefits Of Core Workouts For Runners
Core and abs are not the same thing, core is super-efficient.
A strong core means better endurance, better strength and a pain-free back.
A strong core also means better posture, which can instantly make you look leaner.
Why Do Runners Need a Strong Core?
When you think of a strong core, many times the first thing you think of is probably having a six-pack. But core strength is more than just a six pack.
Having a strong core gives two main purposes for runners, improving performance, and reducing injuries.
We need to look at what function our core muscles provide. They are what control our torso and stabilize it. Our core muscles are what keep our torso upright when we run and reduce unnecessary movement when we’re engaging our arms and legs during a run.
This type of core strength helps our pelvis, hips, and lower back to stay strong and work together to help us move more efficiently and to expend less energy. It naturally allows us to have good posture and assists us in achieving the proper form when running.
All of this combined can improve the running performance over time.
When it comes to injury prevention, having a strong core will reduce the risk of common running injuries including:
Runner’s Knee (patellofemoral syndrome)
IT Band Syndrome
Which Muscles Are Part Of Our Core?
When we think of our core we often envision six-pack abs, but core and abs are not the same thing. Our core includes our abs but it includes much more than that.
Our core muscles refer to different groups of muscles that are located within our abdomen or the middle of our body.
There are 35 different muscles in your core and can be broken down into 8 major groups:
1. Rectus Abdominis
These are the muscles that make up our six-pack abs. We can work these through crunches, sit-ups, and really most any traditional ab exercises. They help to contract the body to curl the upper body down or lower body up and help raise our legs.
2. Transverse Abdominis
These muscles lie at the back of our rectus abdominis and around the body to the lower spine and are a major stabilizer when we run.
We can work this through planks, Pilates, stability ball moves, etc. They help to improve breathing for our runs as well.
This includes both our internal obliques as well as our external obliques and provides stability to our sides and the front core. The external ones are ab muscles that run along our sides, and the internal ones help twist our body from side to side.
They help to keep our shoulders square and help us breathe better while running. A sign of oblique weakness is that people stop breathing when performing simple movement to maintain stability.
We can work these with bicycle crunches, side planks, and the recommended core exercises.
4. Erector Spinae
These are a group of muscles that are located around our spine all the way from the cervical to lumbar areas, in other words from our neck down to our lower back area. They make up our lower back muscles, allow us to have a stable spine, and support our core when it’s engaged.
We can work these through lying on our stomach and doing supermans, deadlifts, etc. Having a weak lower back won’t support those strong abdominal muscles.
These are a group of muscles that wraps around either side of our spine from our pelvis to our neck. It contributes to the stability and support of the entire vertebral column, particularly in the lumbar region, and is most associated with lower back pain.
Our diaphragm is part of the core muscle group that’s right beneath the ribs and helps us breathe properly in and out during a run.
7. Pelvic Floor
These are the muscles located between the tailbone and the public bone between the pelvis. They are often ignored and can be even more important for those of us running postpartum.
Glute muscles are not just one muscle but three different ones. They help stabilize our core and even absorb some of the force when running to reduce the risk of knee injuries.
We can work these through squats, lunges, running, etc. They help to provide power to our stride, keep our gait aligned, and ensure our hip flexors aren’t overworked.
How Often Should Runners Do Core Workouts?
To perform these core exercises 3 times/week minimum will be very efficient to strengthen our core and maintain a great running form, and avoid injuries.
But what is also important is to know how to get into the proper form when doing the core exercises so that they benefit us rather than lead to an injury.
Should We Do Core Exercises Before or After Running?
Doing core work before or after running is often a personal choice according to our running schedule.
How it affects our body before vs after our run:
Prior to your workout it activates muscles.
Muscle activation means they are ready to work and provide more power.
Prior to a workout means it’s part of your dynamic warm-up and you’re less likely to skip it.
Too much prior to a workout can over-fatigue the muscles, in which case why not do half before and half after.
Post-workout has fewer benefits on that run but will benefit you overall.
What does running do for our core?
Running can help to improve the endurance of our core muscles, but we need to do external work to truly get the benefits we’re looking for.
When running faster, we should notice an automatic tightening of our core. This also happens because we are slightly leaning forward to maintain our balance.
Best Core Exercises for Runners
Perform 2 sets with 10-15 reps of each move below:
1. Plank With Leg Raise
A plank is a great exercise to start with and covers most of our core muscles. They’re especially great for runners since they focus on the engagement between our core and limbs.
To do this, lie flat on your front and then lift up to the top of a push up, with your shoulders stacked over your wrists. Make sure you have a flat back and hold your body in a straight line from your ankles while squeezing the glutes and abs. This is the proper form for a plank position. The goal is not to let your hips dip when raising the leg.
2. Knee to Elbows High Plank (Cross Body Mountain Climbers)
A variation of the classic plank position is the knee to elbows high plank. To do this, start in a full plank position and keep your abs engaged.
Then, lift your left knee and bring it forward towards your left elbow. Go back to the starting position and switch sides by bringing the right knee to the right elbow.
Make this a slow and controlled movement, really focusing on the squeeze of your abdominals.
3. Glute Bridge March
There are a lot of glute bridge variations and learning to get in to proper position will maximize your time using them. This is one is very helpful, because you’ll absolutely feel the muscles working.
Lie down, face up with arms extended along the body
Press full foot in to ground to raise hips up to a straight line with head. Then slowly alternate picking up the right, then left foot. As always, don’t let the hips drop.
Lying on your back with arms straight above and knees bent to 90 degrees (table top position).
Option 1: Try to simply hold this for 2 minutes and see if you fatigue and start arching
Option 2: Keeping the right arm straight, lower it along the side the head, while also straightening and lowering the left leg. This movement requires a lot of control to do it correctly.
From a standing position, roll down going to touch your toes. If you need to bend your knees that’s ok.
Place your hands on the ground and walk them forward to a full plank position. Engage the core and do a push up.
Then slowly walk the hands back to your feet, keeping the legs as straight as possible. This is going to work on that hamstring flexibility, which many runners are lacking.
Once hands are at the feet, slowly roll back up to standing.
6. Fire Hydrants
From a tabletop position you are going to raise your bent right knee to the side. It’s a slow and controlled movement. Also you can add a band above the knees for additional resistance.
7. Side Plank
This movement really works the glute medius (along with the obliques), which is a very under activated muscle. It is part of those powerhouse glutes.
Getting in to a forearm side plank, press the bottom foot in to the ground.
Once you feel stable begin to raise and lower the top leg. This is going to require more focus on keeping your hips strong and high so they don’t lower down and get weak during the movement.
8. Advanced Russian Twist
This is a useful core exercise, but often done incorrectly which can lead to back pain. Perform this Russian Twist version to have the proper form.
Start by sitting on a mat with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
Root into your sit bones as you lift your feet up from the floor. Keep your knees bent while you do this. Make sure your core is engaged and your torso is upright to create a V shape with your thighs and torso.
Now extend your arms out in front of you and clasp your hands together. Using your abdominal muscles, twist to the right and then back to the centre, and repeat it on the left side. That’s one rep.
To add some more strengthening core and arms, you can hold a light dumbbell in your hands as you twist from side to side.
9. Better Superman Version- Low Back Pull
Your back plays a key role in holding good posture while you run.
Lying on your stomach with arms and legs extended. Contract the core and raise both arms and legs, then pull arms down as doing a lat pull. Arms are bent to field goal posts then straightened and you lower back down.
Raising the legs helps engage that lower back, which often gets sore for runners.
Best 9 Core Exercises Video: https://vimeo.com/767751758
Perform And Add Some Great Core Exercises To Your Training Schedule, Feel Better, Stronger, And Enjoy Some Better Nice Runs!