Whether you are a recreational or elite runner, incorporating a variety of core exercises into your training program may yield significant improvements in your running form.
For distance runners to sustain posture and performance, core stability and strength is essential. It also helps promote effective running form and movement efficiency, especially when running for extended periods. The core, which consists of approximately 30 muscles in the abdomen, pelvis, low back and hip, controls the position and motion of the trunk over the pelvis and stabilizes the spine during loading and movement. During activities like running, an effectively functioning core improves muscular balance and may minimize the risk of injury and overuse.
During running, when the core is doing its job of stabilizing the trunk and maintaining postural alignment, the hips, knees, ankles and feet can function effectively and ground reaction forces (forces that impact the body when the foot makes contact with the ground) are appropriately absorbed and distributed. This reduces stress and compression of the joints and movement becomes more controlled and efficient.
Here are three core exercises to incorporate into your training program, along with progressions and regressions. Each exercise aims to improve core stability, endurance and strength. Perform each exercise for up to 30 seconds and increase intensity by adding progressions. Duration may be extended for up to one minute. Keep in mind, however, that the goal is to improve function, so duration should only be extended if you can achieve proper form.
Focus: Hip stability and mobility, core stability, activate and strengthen gluteal muscles
- Lie supine (on your back) with the feet flat on the floor and the knees hip-width apart.
- Brace your abdominals (as if you were preparing to be punched in the stomach), and lift your hips upward as you squeeze the glutes. Avoid excessively arching your low back.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
Progressions: Single leg, banded, stability ball (lie supine on ball or feet on ball), or marching glute bridge
Focus: Core stability and endurance, and hip stability
- Begin by lying on your side, with elbows positioned underneath the shoulders.
- Lift your hips and stack or stagger your feet.
- Brace the abdominals and squeeze the glutes.
- Keep your head in line with the shoulders, and eyes focused straight ahead. Hold and repeat on the other side.
Progressions: Hip lift or extend top leg
Regression: Knees bent
Triplanar Toe Taps
Focus: Hip stability and strengthen the glutes
- Begin with feet hip-width apart.
- Balance on one leg. With the extended leg, tap your toes, to the front, side and diagonally behind you, while slightly bending the knee on the standing leg.
- Repeat on the other side.
Progression: Banded, or on BOSU
Regression: Stand next to a chair or a wall to hold onto for support.