A blog by runners. For runners.

Be hardcore: core exercises for runners


When we run, we tap into the infinite and unforgivable force of gravity. Lean forward, lift your dominant leg to gain balance, drive forward your opposite arm and leg, repeat. Skip a step and the asphalt will humble you. Our arms and legs drive us forward, but our core muscles stabilize us along the way.

What is your core?
Let’s first hear from Michael Scott from Dunder Mifflin:

  • Oscar: Twelve hundred dollars. What’s a Core Blaster Extreme?
  • Michael: That is by far the best way to strengthen your core. This machine, you sit on a stabilizer ball, you put your feet into the power stir-ups, you reach up and you grab onto the super rod, and you twist, and you twist, and you twist. It strengthens your entire core. Your back core, your arm core, the Marine Core actually uses it. I think that’s how they got a core.

What is it, really?
In the simplest of terms, your core is your torso, basically everything but your arms, legs, and head.

Stand up straight
A strong core can properly align your back to improve your posture, balance, and stability. During the late phases of a run, a strong core will keep the spine erect, therefore enabling the chest to expand and facilitate more airflow to your lungs and blood to your heart when you need it most. A runner with a weak core may run hunched over like an accordion when fatigued, reducing airflow and reducing performance.

Hold still
Traditional core exercises like crunches and sit-ups are isotonic, dynamic movements that target particular muscles groups. While isotonic exercises are common for most strength training, they neglect the many core stabilizing muscles. The most effective way to engage and strengthen your core is through isometric exercise, static exercises without joint movement. These exercises require you to hold a position for an extended period of time, using your own body weight and the force of gravity as resistance.

Simon Says
Complete or modify the following routine to strengthen your core and boost your athletic performance.

  • Plank or modified plank: Like the name implies, position your body like a plank or a board, stiff and straight from head to toe. Plant your feet and lift your upper body onto your elbows, similar to a push-up position. Hold for 20–60 seconds.
  • One arm plank: Without resting or repositioning from plank position, tuck one arm under your body. Make sure to keep your body stiff and straight. Hold for 10-30 seconds before switching arms.
  • Plank with leg lift: Without resting or repositioning from one-arm plank position, lower your arm and lift your leg off the ground and to the side. Hold for 10-30 seconds before switching legs.
  • Side plank: As fluidly as possible, shift your weight balance on one arm. Keep your body as straight as possible. Lift your opposing arm to the sky or ceiling. Hold for 10-30 seconds and then switch arms.
  • Return to plank: Hold proper plank form, making sure to keep your back erect and core engaged. Hold for as long as you can manage.

Adapt the routine to your abilities and needs. If you are new to core, build your strength by practicing standard plank and side plank. Once you build enough strength, try the one arm plank and plank with leg lift.

Be warned: you will feel sore! Take a rest day between each session. You may not achieve 3D abs, but you will get stronger and feel results on the run.

Written by Stephen Marcin.

RELATED Yoga for Runners: A strong core without  sit-ups