It is said that power comes from the core, and this adage most definitely holds true in the case of running. In fact, developing a strong core is one of the best things you can do to improve your running performance.
A strong core can enhance your runs in several ways:
- Run farther: Your core muscles keep you upright and help maintain good running form, even when fatigue sets in.
- Run faster: Having strong lower back and abdominal muscles will allow for a more powerful stride as you pick up the pace.
- Run injury free: Apart from helping you maintain good form, strong core muscles are able to absorb more impact, saving your joints from excessive pounding.
These five simple exercises will help strengthen muscles in your core specific to running. The best part? No gym membership is necessary – all you need to perform these exercises is a little floor space.
Take some time after your run to complete these exercises several times a week and see the improvement in your running for yourself.
Planks are a basic core stability exercise that works out the transversus abdominis (the innermost muscle of the abdomen) as well as the muscles of the lower back, both useful when increasing the speed of your run.
Lay facing down on your forearms and toes. Make sure that your elbows are directly under your shoulders. Your spine and head should be aligned; don’t let your hips sag or rise too high. Hold this position for 30 seconds to a minute, depending on your desired level of difficulty, and alternate lifting each of your legs off the ground for several seconds. Remember to breathe normally during the duration of the exercise.
Side planks work the hips and the glutes, beneficial for running hills and for increased stability. They also hit the obliques and the deep abdominals, which also provide stability and keeping you running upright.
Prop yourself on one elbow and the side of your foot. Be sure that your elbow is directly beneath your shoulder, and keep the opposite arm at your side. Your spine and head should be in alignment; make sure your hips and pelvis don’t sag towards the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds to a minute. For increased difficulty, raise your opposite leg. Repeat this exercise on the other side.
Bridges exercise the glutes and hamstrings, beneficial for running hills as well as reducing the impact absorbed by your joints, reducing the risk of injury.
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground and knees bent into a 90° angle. Squeezing your glutes, lift your pelvis and hips off the ground, while keeping your spine aligned. Alternate between extending each leg off the ground and holding for several seconds, then relax. Perform repetitions according to your desired level of difficulty.
The Superman is a simple exercise that will work the muscles of the back, increasing spinal stability and allowing for more running power.
Lie face down on the floor, with your arms extended forward. Contracting your back muscles, lift your arms, head, and legs 5-10 inches off the floor and hold this position for several seconds before relaxing. Perform repetitions according to your desired level of difficulty.
Windshield wipers are a challenging exercise that works the obliques, beneficial for increased stability and endurance.
Lie on your back, face up with your arms extended outward. Raise your legs so that they are vertical, with your knees extended and the bottom of your feet facing the ceiling. Keeping your upper back and arms flat on the floor, rotate your hips so that your legs fall to one side, coming within 1-2 inches off the ground before returning them to vertical. Repeat on the other side. Be sure to perform these rotations slowly in order to avoid using momentum to swing your legs. Perform repetitions according to your desired level of difficulty.