A strong foundation of muscular balance and core stability is essential for middle and long distance runners. Weakness or lack of sufficient co-ordination in core musculature can lead to less efficient movements, compensatory movement patterns, strain, over-use and injury.
The core musculature is composed of 29 pairs of muscles that support the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex.
Making sure that we work on our back, abdominal, hip and glute strength not only allows us to be more fluid and efficient but it allows us to be stronger and more able to stand up to the rigors of running.
These muscles help us stand upright, transfer energy, and distribute the stress of bearing weight on two legs.
Runners need a strong “kinetic chain”—that interconnection of muscles and joints from your lower legs up through your core and all the way up to your shoulders. When one part of that chain is faulty or weak when you’re running, the rest will crumble.
But if you focus on keeping that foundation in your core strong, you’re setting yourself up for great benefits in your running, like staying upright when fatigue sets in (or form falters) and staying injury-free over the long haul.
Let’s think of one simple premise!
Any muscle that has an effect on pelvic position dynamically as we move therefore the lumbar spine as we move can be considered a core muscle.
-Muscles of the lower back
We want to move away from the fact that when core is mentioned, abs come to mind-crunches, sit ups.
It is these sort of exercises we need to move past.
We must work quite hard on our posterior chain muscles:
-Lower back, mid back and up
When we fatigue, we go from being nice and upright to more slouched over flexed form. These are the muscles that need to work to keep us upright.
In the latter stages of a long run, the strength endurance of our posterior chain is being challenged.
Rotation and counter rotation going on between pelvis and torso during running gait and lengthening through the obliques.
It is important to focus on exercises that are done vertically to strengthen the muscles that directly support running motion.
The ability to adequately stabilize your trunk can make all the difference when you are out on the road logging miles
*Single leg stance with hip abduction
*Woodchops with medicine ball
This exercise is a resistive diagonal pattern of the trunk that demands a high level of lumbo-pelvic stability and combines upper and lower chain integratin as the ball is moved in a diagonal pattern across the body.
The more we can be running-like in our movements also, the better.
Form trumps everything when it comes to exercises
*Side Planks hold the most benefit for runners as it really challenges the lateral aspect, lateral stability in comparison to the front plank which again only use this over used anterior part of body.
It is an ideal exercise to train the quadratus lumborum.
It builds core strength in a way that targets one of the common weak links in distance runners; lateral strength in the hips and torso.
We are often pretty strong in the sagittal plane – back and forth movements – but disproportionately weak or unstable in the frontal plane – side to side movements – particularly around the core and hip region.
Side Plank and its progressions. The side plank serves as a great teaching tool for a host of health benefits:
trunk stability, shoulder stability and hip stability.
A more stable core is better able to transfer energy between your lower and upper body.
It is important for us to chose exercises that will provide maximum benefit for our efforts.
Also, rather than working your obliques by bending laterally with dumbbell side bends, your muscles isometrically contract to prevent your spine from bending sideways, also known as anti-lateral flexion.
Progressions should be made to increase the full body stability demand when the basic side plank becomes easy. Start off with bent knee side plank initially.
1. Side plank
2. Dumbell side plank
3. Side plank with top knee drive
4. Side plank with top leg lift
5. Star Plank
6. Dumbell Star Plank
*Single leg Bridge:
Muscle regions targeted:
Bridging is a fundamental core stability and gluteal-strengthening exercise. The goal here is to increase the ability to extend the hip using glute max as the primary mover and also to extend at the hip while maintaining a stable pelvis and torso.
The lumbar spine should be held in neutral at all times.
Stability ball Stir the pot
Core exercise challenges the core in anti-extension, anti-rotation and anti-lateral flexion.
A challenging variation that incorporates upper body rowing an anti-rotation strength being more dynamic in nature means athletes must learn to have better control.
Michelle Greaney, Optimal Fitness Tralee, Strength and Conditioning, Athletics Ireland Level 2 Endurance Running Coach