Have you ever felt that by the end of your run your movement pattern is a little less efficient, or that you don’t feel as stable? This could be from a lack of core strength and core stabilization. When a runner lacks core musculature it can lead to less efficient movement patterns, compensatory movements, strain on muscles, overuse of muscles, and potential running injuries (Fredericson, 2005). By building strength in our core musculature we help improve our posture while running which leads to more efficient movement patterns. The great thing about a core routine is that most times it can be equipment free which is great for people who have busy lifestyles and might not always be able to make it to a gym. Below you will find a few core exercises and how to perform each movement.
A bicycle crunch is a great exercise to target the abdominal muscles. By doing a bicycle crunch you are contracting the abdominal muscles as well as your external oblique’s as you twist. This leads to more activation of the muscles then by doing just a normal crunch. To perform a bicycle crunch you will start by lying flat on your back with your hands at your head. Your legs and knees will begin bent in the air at a 90 degree angle. To begin the crunch you will extend one leg out and with the opposite arm you will bring the shoulder up off the ground and twist over so the elbow and other knee meet. To get the most muscle activation you should perform the exercise in a slow controlled manner. Remember to alternate sides.
The plank is a great core exercise for a runner because it helps build isometric strength which aids in the improvement of your posture. The great thing about a plank is that it can be held in various different positions which can alter the level of difficulty making it easier or harder. To get started you will start by placing both forearms flat on the ground and having your elbows aligned with your shoulders. The palms of your hands should be kept flat on the ground throughout the exercise. When your body is held above the ground you want to keep a flat position and not let your hips, buttocks, shoulders, or head lower. Ideally your body should be a flat line.
Bridging is a great way to help build core stabilization as well as building on the strength of the gluteal region. To get started you will lay flat on your back and have your arms bent at your sides. Your legs will be bent so that your feet can be flat on the ground. Before lifting the hips off the ground you want to engage both your abdominal and gluteal regions. You will then lift your hips off the ground so that your shoulders, knees, and hips are aligned. You want to avoid dipping of the buttocks and hips. As well make sure you are keeping a straight alignment of the lumbar and that your pelvis don’t shift in either direction. Remember to hold the position at the top for a few seconds and then slowly drop down.
The great thing about the bird-dog is that it focuses on core strength and stabilization while challenging your coordination skills. It also helps strengthen the lower back! To begin you will start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees. Your back should be flat with your head aligned and not dropping down causing strain on the neck. Your hands should be placed directly below the shoulders and knees aligned with the hips. You will then begin by lifting one arm straight out so that it is extended from the body and parallel to the ground. As you lift your arm you will also lift the opposite leg and extend it straight out behind you so that your thigh and shin are parallel to the ground.