As a runner, you probably like running and find it difficult to motivate yourself on cross-training days. But you’re missing out on some great benefits that can help improve your running!
In this article, we’ll cover 10 core exercises that are perfect for runners, explaining how to do each one as well as why core exercises are important in the first place. You’ll find that by strengthening your core, you become a better runner, and what runner doesn’t want that?
Why Core Exercises Are Important
Core exercises are important because they help teach your core (abs, hips, lower back, and pelvis) to work as a solid unit, which will help prevent any wiggle in your torso. This stability is necessary to improving and strengthening your stride.
As an added benefit, core exercises help to improve posture, which is especially ideal if you’re a long-distance runner. As your body gets tired, you start to slouch more, which will cause you to slow down.
But you’ll be less likely to do so if you’ve been working on your core exercises that have strengthened your stability, balance, coordination, and posture. A strong core helps you “run tall.”
In sum, by incorporating more core training into your workout routine, you’ll improve your efficiency not just as a runner but as an athlete in general, and help reduce injuries. Win-win!
10 Exercises You Can Try
Consider incorporating one or more of the following exercises into your workout routine 2-3 times a week. You’ll start to see the benefits in no time!
You have a variety of different options for planks, as we discussed in another article. The tried-and-true traditional plank starts in the up position of a push-up. Hold that for 30 seconds.
You could also try variations such as side planks or forearm planks, where your forearm is on the ground. Forearm planks are an especially good place to start if a traditional plank seems a bit too challenging for you.
2. Russian Twists
For a Russian twist, start in a seated position. Bend your knees and pull them about halfway towards your stomach. Lift your feet up off the floor and twist from side to side with your arms, touching the ground on each twist. If you’re looking to make it more challenging, you can hold a medicine ball or other weight in your hands.
3. Hip Bridge
For this exercise, lie flat on your back with bent knees and both feet on the ground. Your arms should be relaxed at your sides. Tighten your abdominal and glute muscles and lift your hips to the ceiling.
There should be a straight line between your knees and your chest, as you hold for at least five seconds. Slowly lower back down to the starting position and repeat for 10-15 reps. Ideally, as you improve, you’ll be able to hold for up to 30 seconds.
Make sure, though, that you don’t get lazy and let your hips sag. This won’t help strengthen your core, and will put undue pressure on your lower back.
4. Modified Bicycle
Start by lying on your back with one leg bent and in the air and the other leg 2 to 3 inches off the ground. Hold for several seconds before switching legs. Repeat this exercise for 1-3 sets of 8-16 reps.
5. Donkey Kick
In this exercise, you start with your hands and knees on the ground in a tabletop position. Kick one of your legs up and hold for several seconds as your knee is bent at a 90-degree angle. Then switch sides. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
Start by lying face down and extending your arms forward, hands down, and legs backward. Then – like Superman – lift your arms, head, chest, and legs as high as you can.
When you can’t raise your arms and legs any more, keep them straight and hold the position for 3-5 seconds before slowly lowering to the starting position. Repeat 5-10 times. Again, as you do this exercise more, you’ll get better and be able to hold for longer.
If you already feel pretty good about the superman and want to make it harder for yourself, try putting your arms and legs in an X position. This will make your muscles farther apart and thus the position harder to hold.
7. Bodyweight Squats
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes just slightly facing out. Slowly bend at the knees as you keep your heels flat on the floor. When your thighs are close to parallel with the floor, pause and then strongly push up to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps.
Remember to hold your arms out in front of your at shoulder height and keep your back as straight as possible. You don’t want to strain or injure it!
Take a large step forward, bringing your back knee to touch the ground and then pushing off on the opposite leg to get to a standing position again. Complete 10 reps on that one side and then switch. You may even want to try backward lunges to mix it up.
9. V-Sit Ab Exercise
For the V-sit ab exercise, you’ll be doing exactly what the name implies—turning your body into a human V. Start from a seated position with your hands flat on the ground behind your back.
Contract your abs and core and slowly raise your legs to a 45-degree angle, reaching your hands toward your shins. Balance yourself as best as you can and hold for several seconds. As you work on this exercise, you should be able to hold for longer and longer.
10. Bird Dog (or Alternate Leg and Arm)
In order to complete this exercise, start on the ground on your hands and knees with your hands shoulder-width apart. Raise one leg off the floor and hold straight out behind you. In the same motion, raise the opposite arm forward and hold.
Hold for at least five seconds and then switch to the other leg and arm, repeating 8 to 12 times on each arm/leg. Ideally, you will build up to 10-30 seconds for each rep.
We hope that this article detailing some great core exercises for runners has been helpful! So, get out there and start including even just one into your routine so that you can improve your core strength and your running!