10 Core Strengthening Exercises for Runners

1
10 Core Strengthening Exercises for Runners

Bicycle Crunch Exercise
Bicycle Crunch Exercise. Eri Morita

Having a strong core is vital for running performance and injury prevention. As you build your core strength, your running form and efficiency will improve and you'll just feel better overall. Plus, a trimmer middle section is always a nice bonus.

Here are ten moves runners can do to strengthen their core.

2
Superman (Back Extension) Exercise

Superman exercise
101dalmatians/E+/Getty Images

 
This exercise strengthens your entire core (abdominals, obliques, lower back) by isolating them as you lift your shoulders and legs off the floor.  It’s really a full-body exercise because you’ll use your entire body to a certain extent for stabilization. 

How to do it:

1. Lie face down on a mat and extend your arms forward, palms down, and your legs backward. Keep your neck in a neutral position and keep your abdominals contracted.

2. Simultaneously lift your arms, head, chest, and legs as high as you can get them off the mat. The motion is complete once you can’t raise your arms and legs any farther.

3. Keep limbs straight.

4. Contract your abdominals. 

5. Hold the position for 3-5 seconds.

6. Slowly lower your limbs to the starting position

7. Lower to the starting position and repeat 5-10 times.

Advanced Tips:
•    To make this exercise more challenging, you can put your body in more of an “X” shape so your limbs are angled farther out from your body.

•    Other ways to increase the difficulty are to add ankle weights or hold the end position for a longer period of time in each rep.

3
Opposite Arm and Leg Raise Exercise

opposite arm leg exercise
kristian sekulic/E+/Getty Images

The opposite arm and leg raise exercise can help strengthen your upper and lower back. You can do it right after your Superman exercise since you’ll already be in that position on the mat.

How to do it:

1. Lie on your stomach with your forehead resting on the floor, arms extended next to your head and legs extended. Your feet should be resting on the sides of the big toes.

2. Slowly and gently raise your right arm and your left leg for two counts and then lower for two counts.

3. Repeat using left arm and right leg, alternating sides.

4. Complete a total of 10 reps (5 with each arm/opposite leg) and progress to 3 sets of 10 reps.

4
V-Sit Ab Exercise

V Sit Exercise
kristian sekulic/E+/Getty Images

The V-sit ab exercise will strengthen your core, upper, middle and lower abs, as well as your oblique muscles. It will also help improve your balance.

How to do it:

1. In a seated position on a mat, place your hands flat on the ground, behind your back in line with your hips.

2. As you contract your ab muscles and core, slowly raise your legs to a 45-degree angle.

3. Slowly try to reach your hands forward toward your shins.

4. Try to balance yourself and hold this position for a few seconds. See how long you can hold it. You should be able to hold the position longer as you progress.

5. Repeat this movement 5-6 times. 

5
Hip Bridge Exercise

hip bridge exercise
kristian sekulic/E+/Getty Images

The hip bridge exercise is a great way to isolate and strengthen your butt and hamstring muscles. You’ll also strengthen your abs and help build core stability.

How to do it:

1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and both feet on the floor. Keep your arms relaxed at your sides.

2. From the starting position, draw in your abdominal muscles. Tighten your butt muscles.

3. Lift your hips to the ceiling to create a straight line from your knees to your chest.

4. Hold the contraction with your glutes for 5 seconds and then lower back down to the starting position. As you progress and build your strength, try to hold it longer, working up to 30 seconds. If your hips start to sag and you lose the proper form, lower back down to the starting position.

5. Repeat this exercise for 10-15 reps.

Hip Bridge Variation:

You can also do hip bridges on a fitness ball. Lie on the ball on your upper back and the back of your head. Lift your hips as high as you can, and maintain balance on the ball.

Once the basic hip bridge becomes too easy, you can try the Single Leg Bridge exercise.

6
Single Leg Bridge

Single Leg Bridge Exercise
kristian sekulic/E+/Gett Images

The one-leg bridge is based on the same position as the basic hip bridge but is a little more challenging.

How to do it:

1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and both feet on the floor. Keep your arms relaxed at your sides.

2. From the starting position, draw in your abdominal muscles. Tighten your butt muscles.

3. Lift one leg straight up, then push your hips off the ground with the opposite hip.

4. Hold the contraction with your glutes for 10 seconds and then lower back down to the starting position. As you progress and build your strength, try to hold it longer, working up to 30 seconds.

5. Repeat this exercise for 10-15 reps.

7
Front Plank

Front plank exercise
Cavan Images

Plank exercises are an excellent way to strengthen your core muscles. Here's how to do a front plank properly:

1. Rest on your forearms and make sure that your shoulders are aligned directly over your elbows. Your hands can be palm down or thumbs up, whichever position is more comfortable.

2. Extend your legs straight behind you and rest on your toes, as if you’re about to do a pushup. You can keep your legs touching or shoulder-width apart.

3. Make sure you're holding your body in a neutral position and keeping your abdominal muscles engaged. Your goal should be to attain a straight line between your shoulders and toes. Don’t allow your hips or butt to rise up.

4. Hold plank position for 30 seconds. Don't forget to breathe!  Breathe in and out slowly and steadily as you're holding the plank.

Beginner:  If the above exercise is too difficult, try lowering your knees to the ground, so your lower body is supported by your knees rather than your toes.

Advanced:  As you get stronger, keep adding another 15 seconds to your holding time.  You can also lift one leg straight up in the air while you’re in the front plank position.

8
Side Plank

Side plank exercise
Cavan Images

A stronger core helps you run stronger and prevent running injuries and plank exercises are an excellent way to strengthen those core muscles.  Here’s how to do a side plank properly:

1. Start by laying on your right side with your legs straight. Prop your upper body on your right forearm and elbow.

2. Position your elbow under your shoulder. Your feet, knees, and thighs will be stacked one on top of the other.

3. Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to ankles. Make sure your head stays in line with your body.

4. Tighten your abs and glutes as you hold the pose for 30 seconds.

5. Breathe in and out slowly and steadily as you're holding the plank.

6. Repeat on your left side.

Beginner:  If the above exercise is too difficult, you can start with bent knees.

Advanced:  As you get stronger, keep adding another 15 seconds to your holding time. You can also lift and lower your top leg, while staying in the plank position. Gradually work toward holding the upper leg for 5 to 10 counts.

9
Bird Dog

Bird Dog exercise
Ben Bloom

The bird dog (or alternate leg and arm) exercise strengthens your abdominals, your lower back, butt, and thighs. Here's how to do it:

1. Start on the floor, on your hands and knees, with your hands firmly placed about shoulder width apart.

2. Tighten your stomach muscles.

3. Raise one leg off the floor and hold it straight out behind you. Be careful not to let one hip drop lower than the other, so you don't twist your trunk.

4. Once you feel stable with your leg raised, raise your opposite arm straight out in front of you at the same time (see photo).

5. Hold for 5 seconds, then lower your leg and arm.

6. Switch to the other leg and arm.

7. Repeat 8 to 12 times on each leg/arm, holding each rep for 5 seconds.

8. Build up to holding each rep for 10 to 30 seconds each time.

10
Bicycle Crunch

Bicycle Crunch Exercise
Eri Morita

 The bicycle (or elbow-to-knee twisting crunch) is a great move to help strengthen your abdominal muscles. And if you're bored with regular crunches, it’s a fun way to mix it up. Here’s how to do it:

1. Start out on the floor (on a yoga mat or towel), on your back, with your knees raised and your hands gently supporting your head.

2. Curl your right elbow toward your left knee, bringing them together over the center of your body.

3. Return to your starting position and repeat with your left elbow toward your right knee.

4. Don't forget to breathe evenly throughout the exercise.

5. Continue alternating nonstop for one minute. Work up to 90-120 seconds as you continue to progress.

11
Reverse Crunch

Reverse crunch exercise
David Sacks

The reverse crunch is an excellent core strengthening move. Here's how to do it properly:

1. Start out on the floor (on a yoga mat or towel), on your back, with your arms at your sides.

2. In one motion, bring your feet up off the floor and crunch your knees toward your chest while pressing your hands into the floor.

3. Pull your knees far enough up to raise your hips off the floor.

4. Lower your hips back to the floor and uncurl your legs until they are straight. Hold your feet one or two inches above the floor and then begin another crunch.

5. Repeat nonstop for one minute.

More Strengthening Moves for Runners:

Also see:  Cardio and Strengthening Home Workout for Runners 

Continue Reading