If you’ve ever dealt with a running-related injury, chances are it came on for one of two reasons: overuse, or a weak core.
The overuse excuse seems obvious enough—you do too much, too soon, too hard, too fast, and your muscles and bones may not respond with the same enthusiasm you’re feeling with each victorious post-run Insta-ready selfie. But what does an achy knee or bum hip have to do with your core? Turns out, everything.
“When you build a strong core, you have greater stability when running, which will ultimately get you running faster for longer, and feeling good while increasing your mileage,” says Hollis Tuttle, coach at Mile High Run Club and leader of the popular strength-focused Dash Core classes. “Your stride will be more efficient, and you’ll be less prone to injuries.” Ready to get to work?
Try these 5 core exercises for runners that’ll upgrade your game
Do two to three circuits of the following five exercises, which all target the entire core, including the shoulders, abdominals, obliques, hip flexors, quads, lower back, hamstrings, and glutes.
Forearm planks: Place your forearms on the ground with your elbows aligned below the shoulders, arms parallel. Ground the toes into the floor and push the heels away from the ears. Press the forearms down while pulling the navel up toward the spine, tightening the glutes and quads to stabilize the entire body and keeping the hips in line with the shoulders. Keep the neck and spine neutral by looking at a spot 8 to 12 inches in front of the hands. Imagine pulling the elbows toward the toes and the toes toward the elbows while contracting the abdominals. Hold for 30 seconds.
Forearm side plank with leg raise: Lie on one side with your legs stacked on top of one another, and then prop the body up on the bottom elbow while keeping the feet flexed and stacked. Press down through the bottom forearm, extending the opposite arm straight up over the shoulder and tightening the muscles across the shoulder blades. Tighten the top leg and slowly raise it up and lower it down with control, keeping the hips lifted and in line with the shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds per side.
Bird dog: Start on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips, keeping the spine neutral. Pull the navel up toward the spine, keeping the torso still and slowly extending the right arm forward and the left leg backward. Hold the hips and shoulders square, and don’t let the lower back arch. Reach long through the fingers and push through the heel to flex the foot. Hold for five seconds, then slowly return to starting position and repeat on the opposite side. Complete 10 repetitions per side.
Linear bear crawl: Start on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Ground both hands and toes into the floor while pulling the navel up toward the spine, lifting the knees and shins off the floor. With a neutral spine, crawl forward and backward, moving opposite hands and feet in unison. Focus on keeping the back flat and motionless. Complete four steps forward and four steps backward for 30 seconds.
Glute bridge march: Start on the back with the feet 12 inches from the glutes, so the knees are aligned over the heels, arms extended by the sides, palms facing down. Drive the heels into the floor and lift the hips up so the knees, hips, and shoulders are in a straight line. Hold the hips in bridge position and lift the right knee toward the chest until the hip is at 90 degrees. Repeat on the left side without letting the hips drop or the back overarch while marching. Continue marching for 30 seconds.
Originally posted September 7, 2018; updated September 13, 2019
When you’re done working your core, consider what you’re putting inside your stomach before and after you run. And don’t let cramps get you down on the run—here’s what to know about how your menstrual cycle affects your workouts.
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