Running & Fitness • 17.07.2016

6 Amazing Core Exercises You Should Be Doing If You’re A Runner

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If you like to run or are thinking about starting to run, you should immediately consider the importance of a strong core! Plenty of runners underestimate the power of adequately equipped abdominal muscles. If you want to improve your running endurance and form, you want to keep your core activated with every step you take.

Get your running form in check
Your pelvis and trunk have to be stabilized while running, especially because of the shifting of weight from one leg to another. When you’re running, your back muscles and abs are working hard to stabilize your entire body. The connection of your muscles and bones in areas like the spine, shoulder girdle and pelvis help you keep that upright and stable posture you should have while running.

A stable upper body is vital for efficient running form. If you have weak core muscles, you are more likely to compensate with other inefficient movements. This decreases the power of the push off, thus reducing the effectiveness of your steps.

Stay injury-free and have fun
When talking about a strong core, it’s really important that we dig a bit deeper into the benefits beyond running performance. Post-run back pain is a common complaint among runners and is often the result of weak back muscles. Running is a high-impact sport in which your body is subject to forces of up to three or four times your body weight. Over time, these small impacts can cause the intervertebral discs in your spine to lose fluid and shrink. When this happens, the ability to absorb the shock from running is reduced. Don’t worry, when we sleep this fluid loss is replenished and the discs return back to their original size. But, the stronger your core is, the better equipped the muscles are to keep your spine stable and your runs injury free and fun!

The 6 best exercises for a strong back and abs
These bodyweight exercises can be done by anyone and everyone – not just runners. But, they are particularly good for runners because they help to develop that stability and strength for efficient running we talked about earlier.

  • Perform 3 rounds of 8-12 reps
  • Rest 90 seconds between rounds
  • Incorporate these exercises into your routine 2x per week (rest 48 hours in between sessions)
  • Make sure you do a warm-up first for approx. 15 minutes
  • This workout is great for something extra after a run

1. Lunge and twist

Start:
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, core engaged and back straight. Open your arms out to the side with palms facing forward and hands at shoulder height.

How to perform the exercise:
Step forward into a lunge with your left leg. Be sure that your left knee does not go beyond the tip of the left shoe. Rotate your torso and turn your upper body to the left. Hold that position for 2 seconds (Note: Are your shoulders scrunching up to your ears? Keep them down!). Then return your body back to center and switch sides.

 Athletic man is doing a lung forward while his upper body is rotating.

 Athletic man is doing a lung forward while his upper body is rotating.

2. Low side plank with leg lift and swing

Start:
Begin in a low side plank position. Make sure that your elbow is directly under your shoulder and your core is engaged (of course!). Additionally, activate your glutes and legs. Tuck your hips under to lock your pelvis into a safe and stable position. Ideally, your shoulders, hips and legs should form a straight line. Rest your upper hand on your thigh or put your hand on your hip.

Athletic man makes a low-side plank with foot lift forwards and backwards .

How to perform the exercise:
Lift your top leg up in the air. Activate that core throughout the entire exercise. Keep your hips stacked on top of each other and your pelvis straight. Move your leg forward and backward. The idea is to perform this exercise in a controlled manner, so make sure you hold each position for about 2 seconds to really get the most out of the exercise. Return to the starting side plank position and then switch to the other side.

Athletic man makes a low-side plank with foot lift forwards and backwards .

Athletic man makes a low-side plank with foot lift forwards and backwards .

Athletic man makes a low-side plank with foot lift forwards and backwards .

3. Marching bridge

Start:
Lie down on your back and start to activate your abs. Focus on eliminating the low-back arch by keeping it flat against the floor. Bend your knees at a 90 degree angle with your feet flat on the floor. Your arms can just rest right by your side, palms facing down.

Athletic man makes a bridge combined with squats.

How to perform the exercise:
Press through the heels of your feet to lift your hips off of the floor and engage your glutes. Your shoulders, pelvis and knees should form a straight line. Lift your left leg up, maintaining the 90 degree angle with the leg, and hold this positon for 2 seconds. Your foot should be flexed the entire time. Control the release of your foot back onto the floor and then switch to the other side.

Athletic man makes a bridge combined with squats.

4. Quadruped limb raises

Start:
Start on all fours. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart and your knees directly underneath your hips. Bend your elbows slightly, spread the fingers wide and activate through the palms of the hands by pressing into the ground. Make sure your core is activated, eliminating any arch in the back. Be sure that your upper back is awake and ready. Your shoulders blades should not be squeezing together. Finally, pull those shoulders down and away from the ears.

Athletic man makes a Quadrupted Limb Raise.

How to perform the exercise:
Extend your left arm forward and your right leg back, lengthening between the heel of your right foot to the tip of your left finger tips. Keep your foot flexed throughout the movement. Hold the position for about 2 seconds and then return to the starting position. Don’t forget to do the other side :)

Athletic man makes a Quadrupted Limb Raise.

5. Quadruped trunk rotation and crunch

Start:
Once again, we will start this exercise on all fours. Make sure you go through all the form checkpoints mentioned in the previous exercise to start this one as well.

How to perform this exercise:
Lightly place your right hand on the back of your head. Keep a tight core as you lift your left leg and bring your left knee to your right elbow. Then, rotate your upper body to the right while simultaneously lifting your left leg up to the side. Be sure to maintain a 90 degree angle with the leg. Be sure that your hips are square to the ground throughout the exercise. Hold each position for 2 seconds before returning to start. Both sides, please.

Athletic man makes a Quadrupted Limb Rotation.

Athletic man makes a Quadrupted-Rotation.

6. High plank knee-to-elbow + side knee raise

Start:
Start out in a high plank position. Your hands underneath your shoulders and, of course, shoulder-width apart. Keep a slight bend in your elbow, engage your glutes and activate the core to keep your back straight. Your shoulders and hips should be in a straight line.

Athletic man makes a high plank while lifting his knee to the front and to the side .

How to perform this exercise:
Keep that strong high plank position. Bring your left knee to the outside of your left elbow first. Then raise that knee out to the side maintaining a 90 degree angle with the leg. Control the movement and be sure to hold both positions for 2 seconds. Your shoulders and hips should always form a straight line. Keep your hips square to the ground and your glutes and hips tucked and tight throughout the exercise. Return to the starting position and switch to the other side.

Athletic man makes a high plank while lifting his knee to the front and to the side .

Athletic man makes a high plank while lifting his knee to the front and to the side .

Ready to mix up your running training? Cross-training is the answer! By trying another sport like climbing, rowing, slacklining, stand up paddling or kayaking to improve that core strength, coordination and stabilization, you will inevitably improve your running!

Now you’re ready to transform your body completely with our bodyweight training app, right? Runtastic Results helps get your entire body fit and strong…just what you need to give your running performance that extra kick!

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Herwig Natmessnig

As a former professional athlete (white-water slalom), Herwig lives and breathes health and fitness. Whether in competition or just for fun, he can never turn down a physical challenge. And with his enthusiasm, the sports scientist feels right at home at Runtastic.
View all posts by Herwig Natmessnig »
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