There are lots of core exercises out there. You've got crunches, planks, ab machines and dozens of other options. Which ones should you do as a runner? Answering this question becomes easy if you first consider what your core muscles are supposed to do for you when you're running. Once you've identified the responsibilities that these muscles need to fulfill, choosing the right core exercises is a simple matter of picking movements that train your core to do its various jobs more effectively.
Your core muscles have three major duties when you're running:
- Keeps your pelvis and spine properly aligned, and stable in that alignment
- Aids the transfer of forces between the upper body and the legs
- Limits spinal rotation as you run
Let's take a closer look at each of these responsibilities and identify a sample exercise that helps the core perform each more effectively.
Core Exercise #1: Stability Ball Roll-Out1 of 4
Kneel on the floor facing a stability ball, lean forward slightly, and place your forearms on top of the ball. Pull your belly button toward your spine. Slowly roll the ball forward by extending your forearms out in front of you and allowing your body to tilt toward the floor. Concentrate on maintaining perfect alignment of your spine. Stop just before you're forced to arch your back. Hold this position for three seconds and then return to the start position, exhaling as you do so. Do up to 12 repetitions.
Core Exercise #2: Standing Cable High-Low Pull2 of 4
Stand with your left side facing a cable pulley station with a D-handle attached at shoulder height. Bend your knees slightly and place your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Use both hands to grab the handle. Your arms should be almost fully extended with your trunk twisted to the left.
Now pull the handle from this position across your body and toward the floor, stopping when your hands are outside your right ankle. This is a compound movement that involves twisting your torso to the right, shifting your weight from your left foot to your right foot, bending toward the floor, and using your shoulders to pull the handle across your body. Concentrate on initiating the movement with your trunk muscles. At the bottom of the movement, pause briefly, then return smoothly to the starting position. Complete 10 repetitions. Reverse your position and repeat the exercise.
Core Exercise #3: Standing Trunk Rotation3 of 4
Stand with your left side facing a cable pulley station with a handle attached at shoulder height. Grasp the handle with both hands and fully extend the arms. Begin with your torso rotated toward the handle and tension in the cable (i.e. the weight stack is slightly elevated from the resting position). Rotate your torso to the right while keeping your arms fully extended and the handle in line with the center of your chest. Keep your eyes focused on the handle as you rotate, and keep your hips locked forward. Return to the start position without allowing the weight stack to come to rest. Complete 12 repetitions, then reverse your position and repeat the exercise.