Improve Your Running: The 8 Essential Core Exercises For Runners

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.

8 min read
Sean's profile
Written by
Sean Klein
Published on
11/03/22
Last updated
22/08/22
In This Resource
  • How Do I Strengthen My Core For Running?
  • 1. Pre Or Post Running Core Work
  • 2. A Full Body Resistance Training Programme
  • 5 Minute Core Workout For Runners
  • Beginner Core Workout For Runnners
  • Benefits of Hybrid Training
  • Runners Need To Run
  • The Core Muscles Runners Need
  • Effect of Strength and Core Training on Running Performance
  • More Exercises For Runners
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • How Much Core Work Should A Runner Do?
  • Are Cores Good For Runners?
  • Is Core Training Required To Run A Marathon?
  • Will Core Training Help My Lower Back?

So you’ve got your running training on point, your fitness and form are feeling good, but 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.

How Do I Strengthen My Core For Running?

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 two best ways for runners to integrate core work into their training are:

1. Pre Or Post Running Core Work

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 before or after your run can be an easy way to add it into your week. Check out the Pre-Post Run workout example we provide below.

2. A Full Body Resistance Training Programme

This 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.

5 Minute Core Workout For Runners

Complete 3 rounds

1. Hollow Hold

Hold for 30 seconds

2. Cross Chop

Complete 6 repetitions

3. A-Stance Pass Through

Complete 3 repetitions

Beginner Core Workout For Runnners

Complete 3 rounds

1. Deadbugs with Pause

Complete 12 repetitions

2. Half Kneeling Banded Diagonal Chop

Complete 6 repetitions

3. Side Plank Kneeling Leg Raise

Complete 6 repetitions

Benefits of Hybrid Training

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 , which high intensity interval training improves VO2 ma x and reduces inflammation .

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.

Runners Need To Run

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 Runners Need

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.

That being said, 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.

Effect of Strength and Core Training on Running Performance

The relationship between running performance and strength training isn’t as well know as you might expect. Running performance included all distances and its very likely that strength training would have different effects on performance for different distances.

It’s been shown that strength training 2-3 times a week 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 though that strength training can have an impact on running performance, core training is currently thought to have little impact on running performance. That’s not to say its not important for health, but for outright performance, it has little impact.

More Exercises For Runners

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Core Work Should A Runner Do?

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.

Are Cores Good For Runners?

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.

Is Core Training Required To Run A Marathon?

No. You can happily run a marathon or other 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.

Will Core Training Help My Lower Back?

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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