You always read about the importance of cross-training and doing more than just running. I firmly believe in becoming a better athlete in order to become a better runner. However, when you are training on a busy schedule or you are in the peak weeks of marathon training, you don’t have the time or the energy to fit in several other forms of exercise.
If you only add one type of exercise into your training to supplement your running, make it a core workout. Core work provides the most benefits for the least amount of time and energy. Pilates refers to your core as your “powerhouse” because of the role it plays in functional movement. For runners, a strong core improves running form (by improving posture), decreases risk of injury, and increases fatigue resistance. Essentially, core work enables you to run further and faster.
Core work encompasses and extends beyond traditional ab exercises. Ab muscles (including the deep stability muscles) and back muscles comprise the core. Many core exercises also strengthen the glutes and hips.
You can add core exercises onto a total body strength training routine or do them as their own workout. Ideally, you want to do 2-4 core workouts per week. Consistency matters! I like to do a few shorter core workouts and then incorporate core-focused exercises into my weekly strength training workouts.
6 Core Workouts for Runners
My core workout for runners is a combination of my favorite core workouts: Pilates, stability ball, and weight lifting. This workout will strengthen and stabilize your core, prevent injury, and improve your running form. You can do the whole workout on its own or pick one of the sets to add to your own strength training routine.
Let’s quickly break down each of these exercises. For many, I’ve included instructional videos rather than written explanations, since they’re easier to understand with a visual medium for form cues.
Pilates Hundred: This exercises activates your core, teaches you to engage your transverse abdominis, and warms up your core. Watch this video from Pilatesology for demonstration.
Pallof Press: This exercise is important for runners because it is anti-rotational. It trains your core to stabilize against resistance, which means you can power up and down hills and run long without detriment to your form. This video from Competitor demonstrates how to safely and effectively do a Pallof Press.
Russian Twists: Russian twist is a rotational exercise that works your obliques, transverse, and other abdominal muscles. This video from Runner’s World explains two variations of the Russian twist.
Stability Ball Passes: This exercise is deceptively hard and works all of your core muscles, including your hips and inner thighs. Focus on keeping your abs engaged throughout the entire exercise. For a visualization, see this video from PopSugar.
Stability Ball Hamstring Curls: Your core extends beyond just your abs; it includes your lower back, hips, and glutes. While this workout strengthens your hamstrings primarily, it also works the lower back, glutes, and stabilizing muscles in the hips and abs. This video shows you how to correctly do a hamstring ball curl.
Side Plank: Side planks are a variation of the basic forearm plank, with a bit more focus on the obliques and hips. Be sure to keep your hips stacked and shoulders down away from your ears when doing a side plank. For demonstration, see this video.
Bridges: Many runners are familiar with the glute-strengthening, abdominal-stabilizing powers of bridges. For more of a challenge, do raise one leg in the air at a time and do single leg bridges. You want to be using your glutes the entire time, so watch this video for cues on proper form.
Pilates Series: When done properly, you will feel your core burning by the end of this exercise! The series of five is included in most Pilates workouts and consists of the single leg stretch, double leg stretch, scissors, double leg lower, and crisscross. This Pilatesology video will guide you through all five exercises.
Now let’s get to these fun and challenging core workouts for runners from the other wonderful ladies of the monthly workout round up!
Vita Train for Life gives you a quick equipment-free core workout that you can do at home or the gym:
Fine Fit Day has a total body workout that will functionally strengthen your core:
Brooklyn Active Mama designed a workout to help new moms get their core back into pre-pregnancy shape:
Happy Fit Mama brings you a no-equipment core workout that will work your back just as much as your abs:
Linking up for Wild Workout Wednesday!
What’s your favorite core exercise?
What’s your workout today?