Just how important is core strength for runners? Very. With running season gearing up, it’s important to note the proper techniques while training for a race.
An individual’s core provides stability for the entire body. More stability leads to less of a risk for injury. Core muscles activate before any physical movement can actually happen. Those with stronger core muscles are likely to create stronger, more precise movements, leading to better overall athletic performance.
Development of core muscles all starts with breathing. While running and exercising, you should practice breathing deeply into your diaphragm, instead of practicing short breaths through your chest. Correctly breathing through your diaphragm will cause your belly to extend. This increases muscle tension, which leads to a strengthened core.
“Crunches” work out your outer abdominal muscles, and therefore will not do the trick in strengthening inner core muscles. You need exercises that will build strength deep in your core. Practice the five core strengthening exercises listed below regularly to ensure heightened athletic performance and increased core strength.
Squat with Pulldown: Attach a band overhead. Hold both handles. Step back so you feel tension in the band when arms are outstretched. Keeping arms straight, inhale as you lower into a squat. Exhale and lift your pelvic floor. Continue to exhale as you return to standing while pulling the handles to your hips. Inhale and again squat, returning your arms to the starting position. Repeat five to 10 times.
Ski Jump: Stand with neutral posture. Lean forward from your ankles and shift your weight to your forefoot. Feel your rib cage glide forward. Your pelvic floor should remain untucked. Exhale and inhale. Repeat a few times.
Towel Pull: Stand with neutral posture, and place your right foot on a towel. Inhale and feel your belly rise and pelvic floor soften as you slide your right foot out. Exhale and lift your pelvic floor. As you continue to exhale, pull the towel back. Repeat five to 10 times on each side.
Weight Shift: Begin on all fours. Inhale and feel your belly expand and pelvic floor soften. Exhale as you lift your pelvic floor. Continue to exhale as you rock forward, sending your shoulders past your wrists. If you get an exaggeration of the curve in your lower back, you’ve gone too far. Reset with an inhale. Repeat five to 10 times.
Reverse Jumping Jack: Stand with feet wide and arms over-head, forming an X. Inhale; feel your belly rise and pelvic floor soften. Exhale as you lift your pelvic floor. Continue to exhale; jump your feet together and lower your arms. Step back out; repeat five to 10 times. Progress to full-speed jacks.
For more information and to see demonstrations of these exercises, click here.