The ABC’s Of Core Training For Runners
Improving the core is more than having a good looking six pack, the core muscles are linked to your posture.
When muscles are short and tight they pull joints into incorrect positions.
For example, in the diagram below the muscles in the back of the legs are overly strong and dominant.
This causes the pelvis to be pulled downwards, while the muscles of the abdominals are pulling up.
Figure 1. An examples of bad posture caused by tight muscles.
You can think of ideal postural alignment as being the perfect balance between all the muscles in the body.
The closer you are to ideal alignment the less likely you are to pick up a sports related injury, or suffer from lower back pain.
From a performance point of view good posture, and good muscle balance acts as a great platform to launch your training.
You wouldn’t race a car for twenty laps with a flat tyre for obvious reasons, so training the core is important for performance, injury prevention and spinal health.
- Improve your flexibility. No matter how much you work your abdominals you won’t achieve ideal postural alignment if your flexibility is poor. The key muscles to stretch are often the hamstrings (back of your legs), hip flexors and lower back (see figure 2). These muscles can become tight if you work at a desk all day.
- Strengthen the abdominals. The key muscles to strengthen are your Transverse abdominal muscles (TVA) and internal oblique’s. The TVA muscle is the deepest abdominal muscle. It is located underneath your superficial muscles and when activated it tightens around your waist into your back like a belt. This provides greater stability and support for your back (see figure 1).
- Train functionally. If you have never done core work before, or you have had a history of back problems it may be simpler to start on the floor, if you have trained the core before then get off the floor. The core muscles job is to help the spine and work with it, by performing big compound movements like a squat you will have weight going through your spine which will cause higher levels of stimulation for the core muscles. Also, you will be training the core in a functional way, a way that it is use to working day to day. We use our core when we bend to pick up objects from the floor, when we run, jump and twist. This is why it is better to train the core off the floor.
The ABC’s of Core Training For Runners Exercises
This exercise is great for engaging the core and developing leg power. Keep your stomach pulled in, and have your feet shoulder width apart. Lower your body to the floor until your knees are at 90 degrees. Maintain a straight back all the way through by keeping your chest raised. Use light weights to start with.
The lunge is similar to the running stance as you have one foot in front of the other and it engages the core. Keep your chest up, pull your tummy in and lower yourself till your knee is a few inches from the floor.
3. The Bridge.
This is great for working the buttocks, if these muscles aren’t functioning properly it places allot of stress on the back. Keep your feet close to your bottom, and hip width apart. Raise your bum as high as you can until your knees, hip and shoulder joints are in a straight line.
4. Russian twist
Great exercise for strengthening the muscles that rotate the trunk. Start with your body twisted, and feet pointing forward. Rotate your body till your chest is facing in the opposite direction you started from. Your hands must remain in front of your chest at all times.
5. Reverse wood chop
Start from a low position with your knees slightly bent. Grab hold of the pulley and rotate until you have pulled the pulley above your head. Keep your arms straight at all times.
Keep your hips, shoulders and ankle in line with each other. Keep your belly button pulled in and hold the position for one minute.
7. Side plank crunches
Hold your body weight on your elbow. Bring your hip down to the floor and push back up as high as you can.
How do you currently train the core? Do you currently look at your posture as a measure of core strength? Please feel free to comment or leave opinions.