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We know that to improve your running, you have to run. This is classic specificity in action—you train what you're looking to improve. It reminds me of this great quote: "You can't plant potatoes and expect to harvest carrots."
But this doesn't mean that you can skip core workouts and only run. Strength and core exercises will actually help your running and prevent injuries. Many runners know this but they're not sure when to do these workouts or what to do—until today.
Understand that your "core" isn't just your abs. It also includes your hamstrings, glutes, hips, lower back, and oblique muscles. Core routines for runners should target these areas in order to prevent running injuries and maintain health.
General strength includes all of these muscles. And, while not particularly focused, a well-rounded core program can improve your athleticism, reduce injuries and make you a more efficient runner. These exercises should become part of your normal routine. And if you're looking to take the exercise intensity up a notch for an even stronger core, then you're going to need to upgrade your equipment.
- Here are the top 4 pieces of core-strengthening equipment that we recommend:
Modified Bicycle1 of 14
Lie on your back and hold one leg up in the air. Your thigh should be perpendicular to your body and your shin parallel to the ground. Hold your other leg 2 to 3 inches off the ground. Hold for several seconds and switch legs. Make sure your lower back is in a neutral position during the entire exercise. You can put one hand on the small of your back to gauge this—make sure your back neither presses down or lifts up from your hand.
Plank2 of 14
Lie on your stomach and prop your weight on your forearms and toes. Keep a straight line from your head to your feet, and hold this position for the entire exercise.
Bridge3 of 14
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground. Lift your hips so there is a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Extend one leg straight out, hold for several seconds, then put it back down on the ground and repeat. Make sure your hips don't dip and don't allow your butt to sag to the ground.
Side Plank4 of 14
On your side, lift your body so your weight is resting on one forearm and the side of one foot. There should be a straight diagonal line from your head to your feet. I usually do 10 lateral leg raises during this exercise as an advanced form of the exercise.
Modified Bird Dog5 of 14
In a table position, lift your left arm so it's parallel to the ground. At the same time, lift your right leg so your thigh is parallel to the ground and your shin is perpendicular. Your knee should be bent at 90 degrees and your glute muscles activated. Hold for several seconds and switch sides.
Supine Leg Lift6 of 14
Lie on your back with your weight on your elbows and heels. Lift your hips and keep a straight line from your toes to your shoulders. Lift one leg about eight inches off the ground, hold for several seconds, and repeat with the opposite leg.
Lateral Leg Raises7 of 14
Lie on your right side with a theraband around your ankles. Lift your left leg to about 45 degrees in a controlled manner, then lower. I do 30 reps per side.
Clam Shells8 of 14
Lie on your right side with your knees together and a theraband around your lower thighs. Your thighs should be about 45 degrees from your body and your knees bent at 90 degrees. Open your legs like a clamshell but don't move your pelvis—the motion should not rock your torso or pelvic girdle. Keep it slow and controlled. I do 30 reps on each leg.
Hip Thrusts9 of 14
Lie on your back with your weight on your upper back. Your legs will be bent at the knee. Lift one leg so your weight is all on one leg and your back. Lower your butt almost to the ground and thrust upward by activating your glutes. This exercise is great for glute strength and hip stability. I do 25 reps on each leg.
Side-Steps/Shuffle10 of 14
With a theraband around your ankles and knees slightly bent, take 10 steps laterally. The band should be tight enough so it provides constant resistance during all steps. Still facing the same direction, take another 10 steps back to your starting position. That is one set. I like to do five sets. This exercise will look like a slow-motion version of a basketball "defense" drill.
Pistol Squats11 of 14
These are simply one-legged squats. The key to a successful pistol squat is to stay upright (don't lean forward), keep the motion slow and controlled, and make sure your knee does not collapse inward.
Hip Hikes12 of 14
Stand on your right foot. With your pelvis in a neutral position, drop the left side so it is several inches below the right side of your pelvic bone. Activate your right hip muscle and lift your left side back to its neutral position. I do 20 reps per side.
Iron Cross13 of 14
This dynamic stretch will help you feel loose after the previous strength exercises. Lie on your back with your arms out at your sides and swing your right leg over your torso and up to your left hand. Repeat with your left leg; do 20 reps total.
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