Running speed is a combination of stride length and stride frequency. A strong core helps runners maximize running efficiency by creating a stable foundation to develop these skills. Just as importantly, a strong core helps absorb the impact of striking the ground, reducing stress on the body that’s responsible for many common running injuries.
Simply doing a few crunches is not enough; an effective core workout trains the muscles of the upper and lower body to work together to provide stability for the spine and pelvis while the legs and arms are working to create the forward motion of the running stride.
Prepare your body for the running gait with this exercise, which forces the opposite arm and leg to work together.
STEP 1: On an exercise mat or floor, position your knees directly under your hips and your hands directly under your shoulders. Brace your core and contract your abdominal muscles to position your spine in a neutral position to avoid any excessive sagging or arching.
STEP 2: Simultaneously extend the right arm and left leg, maintaining a stable spine. Keeping abdominals contracted, contract the glute and thigh muscles until the arm and leg forming a straight, even line from fingers to toes. Lower and repeat on the opposite side.
Do 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions on each side.
This exercise strengthens the transverses abdominus, the muscle that wraps around the pelvis and spine, supporting the legs to do more work.
STEP 1: Lie on your stomach with your elbows directly under your shoulders, palms down and fingers forward. Contract your quadriceps to extend your legs and pull toes in towards your shins, while contracting your core to stiffen your torso. Keep your hips and shoulders level to avoid arching your low back.
STEP 2: Slowly lift your entire torso off the floor or mat, maintaining a stiff torso and legs. Keep your hips and shoulders level to avoid any arching in your low back. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
These exercises come courtesy of Pete McCall, MS, CSCS, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise (ACE). McCall has been featured in the Washington Post,
the New York Times, the Washington Times, Personal Fitness Professional, Club Life and Self.
Outside of his work responsibilities, he serves on the content review committee for ptonthenet.com, a Web site dedicated to educating fitness professionals worldwide. These exercises and many more can be found in the ACE exercise library, available at acefitness.org.