Best Core Exercises for Runners

With Inwood’s amazing parks, running in Uptown Manhattan is incredibly popular. Because of this we get a huge amount of runners training at Hanuman Health Club. Our group strength classes focus heavily on core strength and integration, so let’s have a look at why this is particularly important to runners.

Core training for runners?

When we run the core acts to stabilize the pelvis and the spine, connecting and transferring power from your upper to lower body. This helps increase your efficiency limit any by limiting energy leaks or ‘wobbliness’, making you a faster runner with better endurance. 

Of course core training is not the silver bullet to take you from an 11 minute mile to a 6 minute mile. What it will do, though, is help your body endure the volume of running you will need to get your time down. Studies have shown that each running step can produce forces between 3 and 8 times the runner’s bodyweight. That means that for every step a 150lb runner takes their body is subject to 450lbs of pressure. Now imagine that over 5 miles...that same 150lb runner will have to endure over a ton of force through their joints on a 5 mile run.

A strong and connected core can help stabilize against and distribute these forces evenly throughout the body. 

Another overlooked but highly important aspect of the core is that it helps runners stay taller, which in turn helps with breathing. The main breathing muscles are also some of the main core muscles. 

Before we talk about the best core exercises for runners, let's look at what is the core.

What is the core?

This is a bit of a problem. There is no definitive answer, but certainly we know that it is a lot more than just the 6 pack muscles. The rectus abdominis are just one set of muscles that make up the entire trunk section of the body. 

Leets over simplify it, anything below the shoulders and above the upper hamstring/lower glutes can be considered the core. Think of muscles like your multifidus, transverse abdominis, pelvic floor, serratus, diaphragm, etc.

What does the core do?  

Biomechanically the core musculature of the trunk dictates the movement of the spine. Creating and controlling flexion, extension and rotation of the spine. Even more than that it helps facilitate the coordination of movement from upper to lower body and right to left. 

To simplify again,  your core is the physical initiator of all movement. Try scratching your nose without feeling the muscles around your ribs and shoulder blades. Won’t happen. Now think about how much it is involved in every running step.

The best core exercises for Runners:

As with everything to do with the body there can be a hard and fast rules and we can never say what works for one will work for another. However, these exercises have been proven to work for a lot of people in a lot of situations.

No.1 - Pelvic Clock:

Before you can properly strengthen the core musculature you must become aware of those muscles and feel them firing….holding a plank for 2 minutes won’t cut it. 

Understanding where your body lies in space is key to being able to control your body as it moves through space. In particular the relationship between your ribs and pelvis. 

We start this process with a body scan. 

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We then try to bring clients awareness to the control of their pelvis. 

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No.2 Diaphragmatic Breathing:

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This exercise is great to activate the muscles between your ribs, your diaphragm and pelvic floor. While it may not feel like training it is invaluable and can be used in either your cool down or warm up. 

No. 3 Deadbug:  

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Next up the Deadbug….basically this is a running motion but on your back. The key to this exercise is finding the progression that makes you work the hardest. If you find any of these moves easy you are not strong you are just doing it inefficiently.

To get a real in depth understanding of this exercise and to find the progression that gives you the most benefit follow this playlist.

No. 4 X rolls: 

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Again this may not seem intense enough to be training but this movement is vital for coordinating the upper and lower body through right to left. Again the goal here is to move through these ranges without extending through the lower back. 


No. 5 Birddogs and Crawling: 

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Similar to the deadbug we are training to use our limbs contralaterally without losing control of the spine. We can progress this movement into crawling which is a deceptively hard exercise. If your hips and spine are wobbling during the birddog do not advanc just yet to the crawl.

No.6 Pallof Press

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With this exercise we are working to resist lateral forces. This is particularly great for runners who experience excessive hip drop. 

No. 7 Half Kneeling Rotational Row

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When we run we want to orientate our center of mass over the front leg with limited hip sway. This exercise will help you feel your spine rotate while engaging your lats and glutes. 

No. 8 Suitcase carries: 

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Suitcase carries, a beautifully simple exercise with a huge bang for buck. To carry a heavy load on one side of the body without collapsing or leaning to one side over the other will require your trunk to stabilize and support the load while also maintaining your gait.

How to incorporate the exercises?

These exercises could done as one big workout done once or twice or twice a week separately to your run training or you could pick one or two of these and include them in your warm up. Pick the more intense exercises on the easier running days.

The idea of progression and regression is very important. As your advance your understanding of core control and strength you should progress the difficulty of the exercise. You can do this by changing the complexity or increasing the load. Do not rush the process though, three is more harm than benefit from moving too quickly.

If you have any questions or would like some in person feedback and instruction on these exercises. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.


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