10 Core Exercises that Every Runner Should Do
Too often, runners focus exclusively on their cardio as they try to extend the miles they are running each workout and doing their best to quicken their pace. They absentmindedly forget that the whole body works together. Their whole training routine consists of running and running more. However, a very important piece of the puzzle is being left out of the training. One that could lead to a better time and also increase the miles the person is capable of running.
A Strong Core Equals Strong Results
A person’s core consists of the abs, obliques, back, hips, and even the lower chest. If a runner possesses a strong core, they have better overall stability as their legs and arms pump away. It enables the runner to have proper balance and posture as they make their way further down the road. Plus, it limits the chance of injury as is usually the case, a solid core means the rest of the body is in tip-top shape as well.
Rather than be one of those runners that are hunched over like Igor from Young Frankenstein after a few minutes of running, try a few of these core exercises that will keep you upright and with better results.
Planks are one of the simplest core exercises to do as far as movement. All you do is hold the pose as long as possible. Yet, it produces great results. In addition, if you perform them on an unstable surface, all of your core muscles will be firing away even more as your body works harder to stabilize itself. This is a perfect exercise for runners as they need more stability as they run on various surfaces and slopes. Time yourself during each workout and see how long you can hold your plank. Try to best your time by thirty seconds each new training session. After a few workouts, it is not uncommon to be able to hold a plank five minutes or more.
There are a variety of ways to perform hip thrusts and there is a very good chance that you have seen an assortment of them at your local gym. Some people lie down completely on the floor and just use their body weight as resistance as they push their hips up and off the floor. Other people use a flat bench to rest their upper back on and either place weight plates, a medicine ball, or a barbell around their midsection as they thrust their hips up into the air. You will eventually find the way that works best for you. Don’t try to overload yourself with too much weight as you perform hip thrusts otherwise you could eventually tear muscles in your abdomen, legs, back, or even your groin. Start off slow and work your way up safely.
Stability Ball Pike
Ready to have some fun training your core at the same time you challenge your buddies to a friendly contest? The stability ball pike is the perfect exercise to strengthen all of your core and at the same time watch your friends wipe out on the gym floor. Trying to keep your feet on the ball as you arch your upper body into position should be a good time for all. You will feel like a gymnast and may possibly want to join the circus after you start mastering these. If you can do ten to fifteen reps of the stability ball pike then your core will really get a tremendous workout.
Many people frown on doing crunches and situps while laying flat on the floor. The critique is that there are some who declare it puts extra stress on the spine. Does it? Who can know for certain if a person’s back problem comes from floor crunches? In any case, I have found that a good adjustable and inexpensive ab bench can do wonders when doing crunches or full situps. The padding definitely feels better than the hard floor. Plus, you can choose the degree of incline to increase resistance or make it a bit easier.
Medicine Ball Twist
Admit it. Once you break out the medicine ball and start doing a core workout, you feel a bit like Rocky during one of his training montages. You just need some eighties music and a trainer yelling at you in the background to make the workout complete.
While there are various ways to perform a medicine ball twist core workout, I like to do a variety of twist exercises. For instance, sit down on the floor as you hold your feet up in the air and twist back and forth with the medicine ball as you tap the floor at every rotation. You can also do a standing medicine ball twist as you rotate from side to side. If you want to drag a friend into it, stand back to back and perform these while exchanging the medicine ball back and forth. Your obliques will definitely get stronger as your love handles shrink away.
You might want to try these first in the comfort of your own home before you do them in public. The first time you do windshield wipers, there is a very good chance that you will literally look like a fish out of water. As you raise your feet up in the air and swing your legs back and forth, be sure to do it in a controlled manner. If you start swinging your legs too fast, you just might injure yourself. Keep with it at a good pace and your whole core will be feeling it. Be sure to give yourself proper support by laying your arms flat and having them spread out from your side.
Kneeling Cable Crunch
There is always a risk when doing crunches with a weight plate on your chest. A little slip here or there and you could be left seriously injured and needing a new set of teeth for your mouth. A kneeling cable crunch takes out that risk and provides a core workout at a completely different angle than most of these exercises. If you have use of a cable crossover machine or even a lat pulldown, you can do these effectively without any issues. You could even set up an athletic band or two and do these that way if you wish. In any case, your core muscles will be stretched and then contracted with each rep for optimal efficiency. Try to shoot for a few sets of 20 to 30 reps if you can.
Hanging Knee Raise
The hanging knee raise can be completed anywhere you have a pullup bar. You simply place your hands on the bar and hang there while doing repeated knee raises over and over up towards your chest. It results in a good stretch and will have you feeling an inch or so taller after you hang there for a minute or so. It does wonders for the spine! If you don’t have a pullup bar to use, you can always do hanging knee raises at a dip station as well.
We used to do these in gym class back when I was in elementary school and loved them. Although, to be fair, having an exercise called “dead bug” is bound to make it a favorite for an eight-year-old boy.
There are a couple of variations to this core exercise. You may choose to lay on your back and hold your arms straight up in the air while your legs are only a few inches off the ground. Another way is to keep both your arms and legs straight up in the air and hold them there for 30 seconds to a minute. Still, some people choose to do the dead bug by alternately lowering your arms and legs to the ground and then sticking them right back up in the air. Choose the style you like best and keep with it! If it helps, while we would do these as kids, we would chant out “dead bug” the entire time we did them. You might get a few strange looks, though, as an adult in a packed fitness center.
Before you shout out that you do not have an ab roller to use, there are items you can use in its place. In fact, a cookie sheet or even those little sliding furniture movers can be used in place of an actual ab roller. If you get creative, I am sure you can find other things in your house that will work just as well. These will activate your abs and shoulders as you slide back and forth in a controlled manner. It really does make your core feel like it just got a stupendous workout.
Set a Routine
With these ten core exercises to choose from, you can now do a different core exercise every day of the week. Some runners enjoy doing them while they are stretching right before they do their run. Others like to do these core exercises during a completely different part of the day, apart from their time they set aside for running. You will find the routine that works best for you over time. It may take a few weeks before you feel the difference while you are running. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is your core. Keep at it and you will be happy that you did.