An older study with a more innovative approach conducted by researchers at Stanford University assigned runners diagnosed with IT Band Syndrome a six-week gluteus medius strengthening program (the gluteus medius is the main hip abductor and external rotator). After the six-week protocol, all but two of the injured runners were able to return to healthy training.
How to Strengthen the Core to Prevent Injury
Now that we know just how important the core is to staying injury-free while training, how do you target it?
The goal of an effective core routine for runners is one that avoids over-targeting or isolating less effective muscle groups, like the abs, and emphasizes the hips, glutes and transverse abdominis.
Here is a quick, very effective routine to start building a better foundation:
Plank With Bent Knee
Muscle groups emphasized: Erector spinae, rectus abdominis (abs), transverse abdominus and hip flexors
Value for runners: This modification of the basic plank engages your hip flexors, placing you in a more running-specific position, while still providing the same benefits as the basic plank.
Logistics: Hold the bent leg position for up to 60 seconds
Instructions: Flex your deep core muscles to prevent your lower back from sagging down or angling up. You should be able to rest a board flat on your back, glutes and legs. Beginners can balance their weight on their hands until they feel comfortable moving to the elbows.
Muscle groups emphasized: gluteus medius
Value for runners: This exercise improves the control and function of the gluteus medius, a muscle found to be weak in distance runners with IT band issues. This move restores balance between the anterior and posterior hip muscles. It is not OK to substitute this exercise for the multi-hip machine at the gym.
Instructions: Keep the pelvis perpendicular to the floor rather than rolling backwards, which is a way to cheat during this exercise. Hold for 10 seconds at the top; work up to 20 repetitions.