Your core muscles, which include your abs, glutes, hips and lower back, work together to hold your torso solid when you run. They also keep energy from being wasted, prevent a litany of injuries and power your stride.
One of the best ways to strengthen your core is by performing plank exercises.
Having good technique is not just the best way to plank, it’s the only way to plank, if you want the full benefits of your effort and to avoid injury.
Use these best practices as you work through the plank variations below:
- Squeeze your glutes to stabilize the bottom half of your body.
- Avoid locking your knees by keeping them slightly bent.
- Avoid collapsing your lower back.
- Actively contract your shoulder blades (latissimus muscles) to pack the shoulders down in relation to your torso.
- Tighten your abdominals by drawing your belly button toward your spine.
- Lengthen your spine by lifting your head away from your shoulders.
- Position your feet at least hip-width apart, unless otherwise stated.
- Perform planks with your knees on the floor for easier variations.
Planks can be performed before, during and after your run or in the middle of the aisle of a busy supermarket (use your judgment!). There’s no reason not to get them in. They are quick and effective and will help you become the best runner you can be.
Here are seven different variations to add to your weekly training:
Lie down facing the floor. Place your palms directly under your shoulders with your forearms on the ground. Push up onto your forearms, while lifting your hips. Keep your head, back and feet in a straight line. Keep your neck neutral by looking at the floor about one foot in front of your hands to achieve basic plank position.
Basic Plank With a Leg Raise
Start in basic plank position. Slowly raise one leg 5-8 inches off the floor. Count to two before returning to basic plank position. Slowly raise your other leg 5-8 inches off the floor. Count to two before returning to basic plank position.
Start in basic plank position with your forearms on the floor. Raise one leg and the opposite arm simultaneously. Hold your abdominal muscles tight. Keep your back and shoulders level with the floor to avoid twisting. This plank is especially good for the multifidus muscles that run along the spine.
Up and Down Plank
Start in basic plank position with your forearms on the floor. Straighten both arms simultaneously by pushing against the floor. Avoid locking your arms at your elbow. Lower yourself slowly on to one forearm while slightly bending the other arm. Lower yourself slowly on to the other forearm to return to basic plank position.
Start in basic plank position with your forearms on the floor. Slowly rock back and forth by moving your head toward and away from your hands. The further forward and backward you rock, the more challenging the exercise becomes.
Start in basic plank position with your forearms on the floor. Draw one knee toward your elbow as far as you can without twisting or moving your upper torso. Push your heel back toward the starting position. Avoid allowing your foot to touch the floor before drawing your knee towards your elbow again. Repeat by drawing the other knee towards your elbow.
Side Plank With a Twist
Lie on your side with your knees straight. Push up on your elbow and forearm. Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your head to your ankles. Extend your arm to the ceiling. Bring your arm down under your body, twisting your upper body as you reach behind you. Hold the twist for two seconds, then rotate back to the starting position.
About the Author:
Lisa Hamilton is a 1:16 half marathoner, 2:43 marathoner and the heart and soul behind the site The Conscious Runner (ConsciousRunner.com). With a focus on conscious running, Lisa helps runners meet their goals and feel great while doing it.