Planks are one of the most popular exercises for runners, and for good reasons. The simple exercise builds stronger cores, improves your running form, and helps you sculpt flat abs, all in only a few minutes per day.
Planks are also an amazing multi-tasker exercise. In addition to working your abdominal and back muscles, planks can tone your glutes, shoulders, arms, and chest, especially as you expand beyond the traditional plank into different variations.
Planks are so incredibly effective because they build both strength and stability in your core. For runners, a strong core helps you run faster and prevent injury by maintaining better form. A stable core helps you keep an upright posture when you run, especially when you run long distances, which prevents fatigue later in your run. If you run a lot of hills or are racing on a hilly course, planks will strengthen the core and back muscles that will help you keep a strong and upright running form to power up inclines.
Planks are also great for preventing lower back pain. Planks help build strength and stability in the muscles that support your spine and pelvis. By strengthening your lower back, you will experience less pain and discomfort and be less likely to strain your lower back. Normal crunches add additional flexion and stress to your spine, while planks work your abs while maintaining a neutral spine, which is ideal for people who suffer from back pain.For runners prone to poor posture or lower back injuries, planks can help make running and everyday activities much more comfortable.
Many runners, including myself, often stick to the traditional plank and try to see how long they can hold it. However, there are so many plank variations out there that you can get a total body workout from just doing different types of planks!
I recommend doing this planks for runners total body workout immediately following a run. By doing your plank workout after a run, your muscles are warmed up and less likely to strain. Your muscles are also slightly fatigued from your run, which means they will have to work a bit harder to hold the planks. This will build muscular endurance. After you complete this workout, do a few side bends, seated twists, or similar exercises to stretch your muscles and begin recovery.
Forearm Plank with Leg Lift: Get into a pushup position, and then lower yourself down so you are resting your forearms on the floor. Keep your knees and feet close together, and engage your core while keeping your back straight. Raise your left foot up off the ground and hold for 30 seconds; lower and repeat with your right foot.
This works your abs, especially your transverse abdominus, your lower back, and your glutes.
Side Plank: Begin in forearm plank position, and rotate onto your right side. Your shoulders, hips, knees, and feet should be stacked and your back should be straight. Engage your core and hold for 60 seconds. Return to forearm plank and then repeat on your left side.
This works your abs, especially your obliques, your hips, and your glutes.
Reverse Plank: Sit on the ground, extend your legs straight out in front of you, and place your hands on the ground directly beneath your shoulders. Push through your hands and raise your hips so that a straight line is formed from your shoulders to your feet. Keep your arms straight and engage your abs. Hold for 45-60 seconds.
This works your arms, especially your triceps, your back, your abs, and your glutes.
Plank with Shoulder Tap: Get into a raised plank (pushup position) with your arms straight below your shoulders. Engage your abs and keep your back straight. Raise your right arm up and tap your left shoulder, pausing to hold for a couple seconds, and then return. Raise your left arm up and tap your right shoulder. Try to avoid shifting your weight by keeping your hips level. This is one rep; repeat for number of desired reps.
This works your arms, core, shoulders, and back.
Plank with Row: Get into a raised plank position and hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand. Your feet should be about hip width apart to provide a strong base of support. Pull the right weight up and to your shoulder while maintaining a flat back and strong abs; hold, lower to the ground, and repeat on your left. This is one rep; repeat for desired number of reps.
This works your arms, back, shoulders, chest, abs, and glutes.