A blog by runners. For runners.

Yoga for runners: a strong core without sit-ups

In my classes I often ask if anyone has requests. I like to cater to my students and give them what they’re craving. Every once in a while someone will request ab work. There is always a collective groan from the rest of the class at this request. I used to be the same way. I hate sit-ups — they make my neck uncomfortable, and are generally unpleasant. But their benefits are plentiful and who doesn’t like having a stronger, leaner mid-section?

In my attempt to still reap the benefits of core work, without the sit-ups, I put together a series of ab exercises that I often teach in my power classes and do on a regular basis myself as a part of my training. These moves likely go by different names in other fitness disciplines but for the sake of this post, I made up my own names.

Basic plank pose


  • Come to your hands and feet. Make sure your shoulders are over your wrists and your fingers are spread wide. Draw your hips in line with your triceps. Firm up the quads, drawing the knees up. Engage the core by drawing the belly button up and in toward the spine. Shoot the heels toward the wall behind you and breathe.
  • Hold for 30 seconds then release.
  • Repeat for one more 30 second hold.
  • Build up to holding for a minute at a time.

Once you’ve mastered basic plank, move on to the next three exercises.

Plank shift


  • Come to plank pose.
  • On an inhale shift one inch forward with your heels over your toes, keep your core engaged (pictured above).
  • On an exhale shift back one inch so your heels draw toward the wall behind you. This is a subtle move but is killer on the abs if done slowly. Repeat this move, shifting forward and back ten times. Move with control to reap the most benefit.
  • If this is easy for you, add a push up in between the shifts. Inhale forward one inch, exhale to a push up, inhale back to plank, exhale shift the heels back or come to downward facing dog. Repeat ten times.

Forearm plank with heel shifts


  • Come to plank pose then lower to your forearms.
  • If your shoulders are tight you can interlace your fingers, otherwise place the palms face down and spread your fingers. Draw your heels back and engage your core.
  • On an inhale shift both heels to the left, hold for 3 seconds trying to lift the hips then exhale heels back to center.
  • Inhale and take your heels to the right, lifting the hips, hold for 3 seconds, then exhale heels back to center (pictured above).
  • Repeat five times on either side then push back to downdog.

Three-legged dog with twist


  • Bring yourself to downdog.
  • On an inhale lift your right leg skyward (pictured above).
  • Exhale and draw your knee to your nose, rounding the thoracic spine and engaging the core, hold for 5 seconds as you draw your knee higher toward your chest. Inhale your leg long and back.
  • On your next exhale draw your right knee toward your right elbow or tricep, hold. The higher the knee comes up the arm the more core work you get.
  • Inhale back to three-legged dog.
  • On your last exhale, take your right knee to your left elbow or tricep. Hold for 5 seconds. Inhale your right leg back.
  • Repeat on left side.

When I teach these moves they are part of a larger class so I don’t tend to do a lot of reps but if you are doing these after a run feel free to do as many sets as you’d like until you feel the burn. No sit-ups required.

Written by Lisa Horvath.

Related: Check out the WalkJogRun guide to Yoga for Runners

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