Benefits of core training for runners

In the last few years, “the core” has become a buzzword in the exercise and fitness community. Our core is literally the center of our body and the central portion of our movements.

All of our body’s motions and force production involve a properly functioning core. Our core is not just our abdominals. It includes the thoracic and lumbar spine, abdominal muscles, back muscles, pelvic and hip girdle muscles (especially the gluteals) and the thigh muscles.

Benefits of Core Training

Core exercises should be a key component of any training program – especially a distance running program.

A correctly functioning core will yield proper biomechanics and force production, allowing:

Stability – including lumbar, pelvic, and lower limb stability
Power

Endurance

A weak core will yield dysfunctional biomechanics, and leads to increased strain elsewhere, contributing to:

Compensation and overuse movement patterns

Over-striding or under-striding with running 

Increased frontal plane movements (side to side movements) of the lumbar spine, pelvis and hips


These compensatory movement patterns will lead to overuse injuries and have been linked to various disorders common to runners, including:

Iliotibial band (IT Band) syndrome
Patellofemoral pain and dysfunction

Low back and Sacroiliac (SI joint) disorders 

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (shin splints)

Achilles tendinopathy

Plantar fasciitis

Core Training in Phases

A core-strengthening program should progress initially from “open-chain” (i.e. non-weight bearing) exercises toward “closed-chain” (weight bearing) exercises. The goal is to stimulate and train the muscles to function in a manner and position that they would normally be stressed.

In running, our bodies are erect, with weight bearing and landing on our legs, so the strengthening exercises should reproduce these positions and movement patterns. The exercises should also incorporate all planes of movement of the body to allow ideal muscle stimulation and development.

Some examples of core strengthening exercises for runners include:

Initial Phase
Bridges

Side-lying clam shells

Bird-dogs

Planks (prone planks and side-lying)

Closed-Chain and More Advanced
Side steps or walking with resistance band (band wrapped around ankles)

Hip hikes and/or single leg step-ups/step-downs

Squats

Lunges

Single leg squats (pistol squats)

Chops, reverse chops, lawnmower pulls with cable or resistance band

Progress from double leg to single leg


Advanced and Sport Specific
Multiple plane running – backwards, side step, cariocas, ladder drills, etc.

Plyometrics – jumping and landing drills

Focus on Mechanics

Proper mechanics is the key to injury prevention as well as improved athletic performance. Focus on good mechanics and consider consulting a personal trainer, physical therapist or other medical specialist to assist you with your exercise and strength program and progression.

Check out more running tips from Einstein/MossRehab experts at: http://jointeameinstein.com/category/tips-experts/


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