Strength training is getting more and more important in the running community as its importance is continuously highlighted. Runners benefit from many forms of exercise including core work. Whether it’s a marathon or a 5k you’re training for, you won’t regret adding core work to your workouts.
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So you’ve got your running training on point, your fitness and form are feeling good, but you still need to nail down a good core training routine? Well we have the 8 best core exercises runners can add into their training regime.
We all know strength training and core training is important for runners , but how can you add it into your routine? The key to strengthening your core as a runner is to add core exercises consistently into your training regime. The three best ways for runners to integrate core work into their training are:
For runners who aren’t ready to add a full weight training regime into their routine but still see the value of core work for their performance and training, doing it after your run can be an easy way to add it into your week. Check out the Post Run workout example we provide below.
Warm ups are a great way to build in extra volume on areas you’re looking to improve, this can include core exercise. Obviously adding core work into your warm ups will not provide enough stimulus to create a great deal of adaptation, but if your very short on time and just want to get 5 minutes of core work done a few times a week, then this can be a perfect way to improve your core.
Full body resistance training can be a great way to add core work into your training while simultaneously getting the performance and health benefits from other forms of strength training. The style of full body resistance training often involves core exercises either in bi-sets or tri-sets, however sometimes it can be left towards the end of the session.
Mixing running training and full body resistance training can be an excellent way to stay very healthy, especially if you’re targeting both you aerobic and anaerobic systems once a week with your running training.
Complete 3 rounds
Complete 3 rounds
Physical health is a complex topic, when it comes to how different types of movement effect physical health we are starting to grow more and more of an understanding of how different types of movement can impact the body.
Strength training and cardiovascular training both have such positive benefits for physical wellbeing, making it preferable to do both in conjunction with each other, therefore reaping the physiological benefits of both activities. At a deeper level, different types of cardiovascular training stress the system in such different ways that they benefit health in different ways. For example, Zone 2 cardiovascular training has been shown to improve brain health (1), whereas high intensity interval training has been shown to improves VO2 max (2) and reduces inflammation (3).
Obviously there will be overlap in benefits of these behaviours, but incorporating both into your training will be extremely beneficial for both health and performance. The impact of how different types of cardiovascular training impacts the body still needs a lot of investigation, but it’s clear that such different stressors would have different effects on physiology.
Grouping movement into one style and limiting yourself to this will prevent you from getting the most from your movement practice. That’s why if you’re a recreational runner, you’ll likely not need strength training or core training for improved performance, but for building a solid foundation of health it will be extremely beneficial.
The principle of specificity is easy forgotten due to its simplicity. The principle outlines that doing the behaviour specific the the goal will increase performance more so than doing any other behaviour. If you’re training for running, the behaviour that will improve your running performance the most will be running. That’s not to say that supplementary behaviour won’t be beneficial at all, buts its important not to get to lost in the weeds of other activities to improve performance, especially if your specific training lacks consistency.
The core muscles are a large group of muscles that link the upper and lower body. The main group of these muscles that runners need to put emphasis on are the hip stabiliser. As these are needed a great deal in running and are often exposed to high volume training and complex positions, especially if you do trail running.
Exercises that work on hip stabilisers are great to include in warm ups, this means that doing core work outside of running training isn’t a requirement to succeed in your running programme. Here are some great examples of hip stability core exercises that can be done in your running warm up.
The A-Stance reverse lunge is one of the best warm up and balance exercises that runners can use in their training programmes. It allows individuals to practice balancing on one foot, which is a crucial part of the running experience. If this exercise is challenging for your balance it is important that you put time into working the stability of both or hips and your knees. Exercises like this are a great way to both warm up and create adaptations at the same time, this means you can progress and save time as you don’t need to add extra elements into your training programme. The lunge aspect of the a-stance to reverse lunge is a good way to ensure stability and function of the knee in the squatting position, this can be very important for those who are doing trail running consistently.
The A-Stance pass through is another very challenging exercise that runners can use in their warm up to improve their hip and knee stability, though you will need access to a light kettlebell. This exercise puts more emphasis on knee and hip stability rather than knee flexion like the previous exercise. The exercise needs to be performed very slowly with control in order to get the desired adaptations, If you race through this exercise you will not be able to put enough emphasis on building a stable base with the knee and the hip. Take your time before you start any movement with the kettlebell to stabilise, then move fluidly with control.
The bent leg Copenhagen plank is part of a series of plank exercises that runners can use to strengthen their adductors. The adductors are a common injury point for runners so it is important that they are strengthened in the gym. As mentioned previously your best weapon against injury is appropriate training volume, but reinforcing the muscles that take thousands of repetitions during runs is also to your benefit.
Developing a well rounded core outside of your running training will never be detrimental, especially in terms of building a strong athletic base and improving health. Training economy ( the amount of time you have to train ) and training goals will dictate how much time you dedicate to both training the core musculature and strength training. If you’re not a professional runner, taking a generalist approach to developing a strong core is advised over just working on the elements of the core musculature the most important to running performance.
The relationship between running performance and strength training isn’t as well know as you might expect but there have been some performance improvements shown, especially in shorter distance events. It’s been shown that strength training 2-3 times a week (4) can provide benefits to the performance of middle and long distance runners. The frequency of your strength training should depend on your running goals. If your running 5 times a week and involved in the running season with competitive races, then you will likely train strength properties more frequently during your off season and lower the volume and intensity when in season.
Although it’s currently thought that strength training can have an impact on running performance, core training is currently thought to have little impact on running performance. (5) That’s not to say its not important for health, but for outright performance, it has little impact.
Try adding core training into your programme 1-2 times a week consistently to see active results. All exercises are provided with proposed sets and reps that you can use. Obviously, if the run your about to perform is very challenging, try avoiding doing your core work on this day.
Yes, having a strong robust core is great for runners. Your core musculature is what ties the body together and includes some crucial balancing muscles in the hip joints that will certainly help runners be more resilient but may not improve performance. That being said, there can be a large diminishing returns for runners who are doing a lot of core training, having good basic balancing ability is great, but adding too much core training volume really isn’t required for runners to be successful.
No. You can happily run a marathon or another race without doing any weight lifting what so ever, no core muscles or abdominal training required, but for health and longevity it might want to be something you consider.
Core training and strength training in general has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to prevent lower back pain. However, before you use any intervention other than good sleep and walking, consult with your physiotherapist for advice.
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This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.