Core strength for runners: 3 basic exercises to get faster

bodyweight strength

Adding some simple core-strength exercises to your routine might not result in an immediate six-pack, but it will make you a stronger, more stable and injury-resistant runner. New to core strength? We’re here to help–here are a few basic exercises and the reasons why, as a runner, you should add these to your training routine.

Why core strength?

Adding some core mobility and strength to your weekly routine comes with a multitude of benefits that carry over to running. You’ll improve your posture: a strong core helps maintain proper alignment, preventing you from slouching or leaning forward while running. A stable core provides a solid foundation for your limbs to work efficiently. This stability is particularly important on trails or when navigating uneven terrain.

A strong core can reduce the risk of common running injuries like lower back pain, IT band syndrome, and knee issues. Your core supports the spine and pelvis, and strengthening it reduces the impact on the joints. Finally, you’ll increase your power and speed. A strong core results in more powerful and efficient strides. While a well-rounded strength routine is something to work up to, adding a few simple core exercises post-easy run will give you a speed and stability boost.


Traditional planks and side planks help strengthen the entire core, including the abdominal muscles and obliques.

  1. Start in a push-up position with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your body in a straight line from head to heels, feet should be hip-width apart.
  2. Tighten your abdominal muscles and squeeze your glutes. This will help maintain a neutral spine throughout the exercise.
  3. Hold this position, keeping your body in a straight line. Start with 20-30 seconds and gradually increase the time as you gain strength.
  4. Modify: to make the standard plank less challenging, you can perform the exercise on your elbows instead of your hands. Rest on your forearms, and the rest of the steps remain the same. You can also drop your knees to the mat for support.

Russian twists

This exercise targets the obliques and improves rotational strength, which is beneficial for maintaining stability during running.

  1. Sit on the ground with knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lean back slightly while keeping your back straight, with your torso at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
  2. Tighten your abdominal muscles, engaging your core to stabilize your spine and maintain a neutral posture. Bring your hands together in front of your chest, and try holding a weight or medicine ball to add resistance.
  3. Slowly rotate your torso to one side, bringing your hands or the weight beside your hip. Keep hips and lower body stationary–the movement should come from your upper body. Slowly twist back to the starting position. and repeat the twist on the opposite side. Start with 10-15 repetitions per side and gradually increase the number as you become more comfortable.

bicycle crunches

These target the rectus abdominis and obliques while also engaging the hip flexors–all muscles that play a significant role in maintaining stability and balance while running.

  1. Lie on your back on a mat or a comfortable surface. Place your hands behind your head, keeping elbows wide open, and lift both legs off the ground with knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
  2. Tighten your abdominal muscles to engage your core and keep your spine stable.
  3. Simultaneously perform a crunch and a rotation. Bring your right elbow towards your left knee while straightening your right leg. At the same time, rotate your torso to the left. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement on the other side, bringing your left elbow toward your right knee while straightening your left leg and rotating your torso to the right.
  4. Continue to alternate sides in a fluid and controlled motion, resembling a pedaling motion like riding a bicycle. Aim for 10-15 repetitions per side to start with and gradually increase as your core strength improves.

When it comes to core training, consistency is key. Start by including core exercises in your routine two to three times a week, and prioritize form over the number of reps. Make sure you are including adequate rest and recovery if you are adding strength to an already intense running routine.

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