When you think about running, you probably imagine it as a lower-body exercise, with your legs getting all the action. But, you might not realize that your core has to work in overdrive, too—keeping you upright, protecting your spine from impact, and even bettering your form to avoid injury. So, core work should play a major role in any runner’s workout routine. “Core strength is important for runners because it helps with posture, power, and speed,” says Meghan Takacs, NYC-based running coach. “I like to look at core as the powerhouse center of your movement. If this is strong, you are strong.” Find out more about how a strong core makes you a better run. Then, add these five core exercises for runners to your workouts.
How a Strong Core Improves Your Run
A recent study focusing on runners found that those with weak deep core muscles had an increased risk of developing low back pain, thanks to the extra force placed on the spine. Other research points out the relationship between core instability and injuries in the lower body. Takacs goes on to explain that a weak midsection could affect your stride, particularly your foot strike.
“The core helps stabilize your midsection. Therefore, makes it easier for your foot placement to fall under your hips,” she explains. “If you over-stride, you probably have a weaker core, as your legs are likely compensating for your lack of stability.” By strengthening your core, you run with a more upright posture, which means you also get your back and chest involved. All of this helps propel you forward so that you can increase your speed, sans aches.
5 Core Exercises for Runners
Now that you know why core work is crucial to keeping you injury-free and quick on your feet, it’s time to add some effective exercises to your weekly workout schedule. And, we don’t just mean crunches and planks, although those will help, too. “Dynamic, total-body, triple extension movements are more effective in improving core strength,” Takacs says. That includes exercises like back squats, deadlifts, burpees, squat jumps, and high knees. “Explosive movements that require full hip extension force you to stabilize and draw from your core to complete,” she adds.
Takacs picked five must-do core exercises for runners that you can start today. Tackle eight to 12 reps of these for at least two rounds, and you’ll have completed quite the stride-strengthening, core-stabilizing routine.
- Start by standing with feet hip-width apart.
- Place a barbell behind your head, resting on your shoulders, hands holding the bar with palms facing forward.
- Push your hips back and down, keeping weight in your heels to perform a squat.
- Stand back up and repeat.
- Start by lying on your back on the floor.
- With arms straightened overhead, lift your shoulders and legs off the ground to achieve a hollow hold position.
- Begin to slowly rock forward and backward, keeping your body lifted.
- Start by standing with feet hip-width apart, with a slight bend in your knees.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing you.
- With shoulders down and back, perform a hip hinge by pushing your hips back and leaning forward at the waist, as you reach the dumbbells toward the floor.
- Maintain a flat back; no rounded shoulders.
- Squeeze your glutes to stand back up and repeat.
Single Arm Dumbbell Snatches
- Start by standing with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in one hand, palm facing you.
- Squat down, keeping your chest up, to tap the dumbbell on the ground.
- Then, drive through the legs, pulling the dumbbell up overhead by keeping it close to the body and bringing your elbow high as you lift it.
- When you reach shoulder height, drop your elbow and flip your fist up, so your palm faces away from you and your arm extends overhead, bicep by your ear.
- With control, return the dumbbell back to the floor and repeat.
- Switch sides after eight to 12 reps.
- Start in a forearm plank position, elbows right under your shoulders and body in one straight line from shoulders to ankles.
- When you can hold this position for 30 seconds without breaking form, add some movement.
- You can push off your toes to move forward and backward, or alternate dropping your hips slightly to each side for hip dips.
Incorporate these core exercises for runners to your strength training workouts a few times per week and watch your stride, form, and pace improve. And check out Aaptiv for strength training and cardio classes across multiple categories and levels.