How working your core can improve your running

core workout for runners

Many people consider their “core” to consist only of their abdominal muscles.

That is not the case. 

Your core muscles include all the muscles from your trunk to your pelvis. This includes your glutes, back, obliques, and other muscles in addition to your abdominals.

Put it all together, and your core represents one of the most important groups of muscles in your body. That is why core strengthening exercises are crucial for your routine. Below, you’ll find a 10 minute core exercise for runners or walkers targeting all those central muscles!

Does a strong core help you run faster?

Absolutely, here are a few reasons why.

run fast

Balance

Your central muscles are crucial for your balance. Especially for running, where you are in a constant process of balancing on one foot, these muscles are essential. 

If you are like the rest of us mortals, you have probably lost your balance on a step or two. Even if you did not fall, you had to use energy to correct your balance.

The workout below, and other similar exercises will help reduce the amount of times you have to correct your balance. It will also increase your efficiency.

Posture

core balance

Your central muscles are also responsible for your posture. Having good posture is crucial for running.

This keeps you upright and efficient.

Without this, you begin to overwork a host of muscles and increase your chance of injury. A study by Michael Fredrichson, Ph.D, an expert in running bio-mechanics, demonstrated that 90% of runners do not have strong enough abs. Furthermore, he showed that weak abs lead to poor form. Obviously, you want to avoid this.

Stability

If you have ever seen professional runners race, you’ll notice something they all have in common. Especially early in the race, it looks like they are all running easy. They look like this even when they are running very fast paces.

Their stability is one of the main reasons professional runners look so smooth.

Your abdominals keep your body straight and prevent you from wasting motion on side-to-side movement. They are supported by your obliques, back, and other central muscles.

After all, the fastest way from point A to point B is straight, not side-to-side.

Sprinting

You may have also noticed that sprinters tend to have extremely strong abdominal muscles.

Your abs, back, and other trunk muscles become extremely active. Furthermore, athletes who train their core regularly have been demonstrated to be faster sprinters.

chicken

Chicken or egg?

eggs

It doesn’t really matter whether you are doing core exercises for sprinters or sprinting to get stronger central muscles. You’ll find that both will translate to better endurance running as well.

Don’t I Get Enough Core Work By Running?

You should be activating your core while doing other exercises. This includes running, but you are probably not getting enough work by running alone.

That it why it is useful to do specific exercises like the workout below. First of all, it is unlikely that you are keeping your central muscles activated enough while running and doing other workouts. Even most professional runners struggle to do this successfully.

Nearly every elite athlete in every sport does specific strength routines to target their abs, back, obliques, and glutes.

This is not by accident. 

Working out your abs and other central muscles have too many benefits to ignore. Professional runners tend to do a minimum of fifteen minutes of core a day. However, doing the ten-minute workout below two to three times a week will suffice.

10-Minute Core Exercise For Runners and Walkers

core workout

Here is a great ten-minute workout full of strengthening exercises for your central muscles. Do each of the following exercises for one minute each.

Even if you have already done some of these exercises before, take a moment to read the instructions. You may find, like many other people, that you have been doing them incorrectly. All of these exercises are very easy to flub. And, if you don’t do it right, you may find that the exercises are all still very difficult, but don’t give you the results you desire.

1: Front Plank

Do this either with straight arms and hands on the ground or forearms on the ground. Then make sure you have a straight line from your shoulders to your feet. Most importantly, keep your shoulders back and your hips forward.

This allows your body to practice holding proper running form.

2: Side Plank

Again, you can do this with straight arms and hands on the ground or on your forearms. During the side plank, make sure to keep your hips forward and in line with your shoulders and feet.

Do each side for thirty seconds.

3: Back Plank

This one is much easier with straight arms, but it certainly does not hurt to do it on your forearms. Put both hands (or elbows) on the ground under you and stretch out. Your heels should be the only other body part on the ground. Keep your hips up and you should notice your back starting to work very soon.

4: Crunches

There are a million different ways to do crunches. It does not really matter where you put your legs or feet. But, make sure you are lifting your shoulders up off the ground and look straight upwards. For extra work, hold at the top for a breath before lowering yourself back down slowly.

5: Side Crunches

Bend your knees and let them fall gently to the floor on either side. Keeping your shoulders parallel to the ground, repeat the same motion you did for crunches.

Having your hips rotated will work your abs at a different angle, activating your obliques as well. Especially if you have not done this before, you will feel it in no time.

Do each side for thirty seconds.

6: Reverse Crunches

Keeping your shoulders on the ground, extend your legs out straight so your feet float about six inches from the ground. Bring your knees to your chest, then extend your feet straight into the air so your body is at a 90-degree angle.

Then, repeat the motion on the way back down. To make this exercise easier, put your hands under your glutes while you do the exercise.

7: Windshield Wipers

Stay in the same position from reverse crunches.

Keep your legs straight in the air and your arms straight out to the side. Extend all the way to the right, then all the way to the left.

Rinse and repeat.

Keep your legs straight throughout the entire exercises and do your best to keep your shoulders flat on the ground.

8: Flutters

Keep your legs straight and your feet off the ground about six inches. Then, flutter your legs back and forth as if you are swimming freestyle.

People disagree on whether or not you should keep your feet dorsal flexed or pointed. Most runners argue dorsal flexed while most swimmers argue for pointed feet. Either way, if you keep your legs straight and off the ground, you’ll get a good workout.

Most importantly, however, make sure you are pulling your stomach in during the exercise.

9: Glute Bridge Raises

Remember that your core does not only consist of your abs.

For this exercise lay on your back with your feet on the ground. Pull your feet close to you. Extend your hips into the air, flexing your glutes at the top. 

Hold that for a second, then drop lower back down slowly.

10: Supermens (or Superwomen)

Lay on your stomach with your arms and legs straight out. Tighten your glutes and lift your chest and quads off the ground.

Hold for a second, then lower gently back down.

If you are doing this correctly, you should feel like you are working both your glutes and your lower back.

Extra Credit: Pushups

Plain and simple push-ups.

You can choose whether or not you want to do arms in or out, or whether you want to keep your knees on the ground. Whatever you pick, keep your abs tight and your posture straight.

Do as many as you can until failure. 

Especially after all the exercises listed above, you should find all of your central muscles very tired. Make sure to pay special attention to these muscles instead of focusing on your arms. This will ensure you get the most out of this exercise.

We hope that you now recognize the importance of your core. The 10-minute core exercise for runners and walkers listed above is by no means all inclusive. There are plenty of other workouts out there that are excellent for strengthening your central.

We recommend including this workout, or something similar, into your routine at least 3-7 times a week and you will see results in no time

Remember, have fun and happy running! 

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About the Author

Hayden Cox is a former NCAA DI athlete in Cross Country and Track. He has had the opportunity to work with 2x U.S. Olympian, Robert Gary, and a host of elite athletes at the collegiate and professional level. Hayden's ideal day consists of an early morning long run on a mountain trail followed by a giant bowl of pasta and a chocolate milkshake (just don't tell anyone about the milkshake!)

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