We all know that strong legs are important for running. They’re the workhorses. They’re the pistons that make our engine go. The draw of running is that if you’re going to get anywhere you’re going to get there under your own power and by your own two feet. Leg muscles are vital for running success, however there’s another key group that is just as essential and often over-looked in the running world… the core.
It’s a buzz-word you hear all the time in the world of fitness, but what exactly are the “core” muscles? When I refer to the core in my clinic I am referring specifically to your abdominal wall (front and both sides), the back, and hips. These key muscle groups comprise the literal “core” of our bodies and is the foundation around which all of our movement takes place.
A strong core enhances running performance and reduces the risk of injury. These key muscles provide stability, power, and endurance during running. Whether you’re training for a 5K or marathon training the core muscles can improve speed, power, and endurance. When your core is strong, everything else tends to follow suit.
So what are the best exercises for a strong core? How can you best train these muscles to help make your run more effective? The best core exercises for runners are those that replicate the specific ways that your muscles are required to work during running. Here are 5 go-to exercises to help build a solid running core and enable more successful milestones.
1. Plank (with march)
a. Lay on your stomach with your elbows tucked up underneath you. Use your core muscles to raise your body off the floor so that just your elbows and toes are on the ground. Keep your stomach tight and your bellybutton drawn in while holding the plank position. Can be progressed with “marching” on alternating toes. Hold 30 seconds, repeat 3 times.
2. Side plank
a. Lay on your side with your elbow underneath you. Raise up onto one elbow and the lateral side of your foot. Keep your core tight and your bellybutton drawn in. Hold 30 seconds, repeat 3 times.
3. Russian twists
a. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lean back at your trunk to engage your stomach muscles. Twist your shoulders until both your hands touch the floor to the right and then return to middle, “neutral” postion. Repeat to the other side. 3 sets of 10 repetitions to each side.
4. Bridge with march
a. Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. Engage the muscles in your buttocks and lower back to raise your buttocks up off of the floor. Hold this position and slowly “march” one of your bent legs towards the ceiling. Repeat with other leg. 3 sets of 10 marches per leg.
a. Stand on the edge of a stair on your left leg. Reach as far back behind you with your right leg as you can allowing your left leg to bend slightly. While maintaining level hips drive your right knee in front of you and up to the ceiling while straightening your left leg. 3 sets of 10 repetitions to each side.
For downloadable copies of these and more exercises essential to running success please visit our website at www.mlrehab.com/run.
Core exercises are essential to running stronger, longer, and with less likelihood of injury. Incorporate these exercises into your running training and see where they can take you!
Jared Beckstrand, PT, DPT
Mountain Land Physical Therapy
Director, Downtown Outpatient Clinic
508 East South Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84102
Phone: (801) 521-9222 Fax: (801)521-9333