To boost your running power, efficiency and durability, your core muscles need to be trained for the unique biomechanics of running. Here is your three-step plan for a rock-solid runner’s core.
Standard planks and bridges will tone your abs, but they aren’t the optimal core drills for boosting your running performance.
Although abs are important, your core is really an intricately connected set of muscles which crosses your entire midsection, including the internal and external obliques (side muscles) and erector spinae (back muscles).
All these muscles need to be strong to allow your pelvis, hips and back to move in sync as you run, to minimise energy wastage, and to help you avoid injuries.
“As you run,” says Dr Chris Bramah, a physio who specialises in running, “the spine and pelvis move in a dynamic and coordinated pattern, and static exercises don’t tend to train your muscles to control these patterns.
“It’s better to integrate exercises which force your musculature to control the specific movement patterns when you run.”
Here are three dynamic drills designed exclusively for runners…
1. Swiss Ball Plank with Leg Raise
- Adopt a press-up position with your hands on a Swiss ball to make this a more dynamic exercise.
- Now raise one leg behind you to simulate the running motion.
- Try to avoid any trunk rotation as you slowly lift and lower your leg.
“When you run, your core has to be strong enough to transfer energy across your trunk, pelvis and hips,” says Dr Bramah, “to prevent excessive rotation, and to bring the swinging leg back through more efficiently.
“This exercise works your obliques and hip flexors to stabilise your trunk, pelvis and hips, and to develop extra strength and rotation control.”
2. Weighted Deadbug with Leg Lower
Reps: 20-60 secs
- Lie on your back while holding a medicine ball in the air.
- Raise your legs and draw in your abdominal muscles to keep your back flat.
- Now straighten one leg in front of you while moving the ball behind your head.
- Repeat with the opposite leg.
“Poor abdominal strength can lead to a loss of pelvic and spinal control while running, causing anterior pelvic tilt or increased lumbar extension,” says Dr Bramah.
“This can lead to an over-stride running gait or extra loads on the lower back, which can lead to injury. This exercise works the abdominals in a functional, running-specific way to help control pelvic tilt and spinal extension.”
3. Kneeling Runner’s Arms
Reps: 20-30 secs
- Kneel in a lunge position with a dumbbell in each hand and perform fast ‘running’ arm drives.
- Keep your trunk still and minimise rotation while performing the arm actions, which mimic your running motion.
“When you increase your running speed, it’s harder to control trunk rotation,” warns Dr Bramah.
“But good trunk control will allow a greater transfer of energy between your trunk and lower limbs, making you a more efficient runner.
“This exercise will strengthen your internal and external obliques to control the rotation of your trunk whenever you pick up pace.”
Words: Mark Bailey
Illustrations: Peter Liddiard