The Importance of Core Strength for Runners
Core Strength For Runners
Will you be running a 5k, 10k, or 15k in the coming months? Want to improve your performance while keeping yourself safe from injury? Focus on your core strength.
What is Core Strength?
When you hear the word “core,” what do you think of? If you’re like most, you associate the core exclusively with the front of your stomach, commonly shortened as abs.
While the abdominals do make up a part of the core, it’s just one section of the whole. Your core refers to several key muscles that support your upper body and posture. Your core may be thought of as a 3-dimensional box or muscular compartment, and within it are the contents are the abdominal cavity, such as various organs involved with our gastrointestinal and genitourinary systems. Moreover, the systematic integration of the muscle groups comprising this biomechanical “box” is imperative to maintain the functional capacity of not only this local region but to also ensure that global movement patterns may be achieved with control and fluidity. Let’s take a look at the muscles that make up the core:
- Diaphragm: the top of the box, separates the compartments of the chest and abdomen
- Pelvic floor muscles: bottom on the box
- Rectus Abdominis (Abs): Front of stomach, superficial muscle
- Transversus Abdominis: Deep muscle tissue beneath the abs, and wraps around to the back
- External Oblique: Side of your body (on top of the ribs)
- Internal Oblique: Deep muscle tissue beneath the external oblique
- Erector spinae muscles and multifidi: superficial and deep low back muscles
While not technically a part of the core musculature, your glutes play an important role in stabilization and proper movement during running and that’s why we’ve included them.
Role of Core Strength in Running
Poor Performance: The traditional runner’s mindset for improving their performance was to run more often, however, integration of a weight training routine along with aerobic exercise (like running swimming or cycling) has shown to be very beneficial. Therefore, not only should a dedicated runner implement strength training (e.g., weightlifting) into their routine, but more specifically, core strength training. A weak core has been shown to impact performance negatively. A strong core will improve posture, stability, gait, and overall running ability. In other words, a strong core is going to improve your running performance and race pace. 
Injury Risk: Running with poor core strength can increase your risk of injury due to overcompensation issues. When one muscle group is weak and not pulling its weight, dominant muscle groups pick up the slack. This extra work will build up over time, significantly increasing the risk for strain and injury.
Post-Workout Recovery: Runners with a weak core often complain about lower back soreness and longer recovery times. By incorporating core strength exercises into your training program, you’ll find that the lower back soreness will be dramatically reduced, and it might disappear altogether. Your overall recovery time may also improve, assuming you are eating a well-balanced diet and stretching daily.
How to Improve Core Strength
Two great ways to increase your core strength are including core-focused exercises into your training routine and practicing proper posture daily.
Core Strength Exercises for Runners
Ideal exercises target each muscle group in the core, not just the abs or lower back, for example. Here is a core workout that you can start using today. We recommend performing this workout no less than two times per week, for 3 sets of 10 reps with 8-second holds:
- Dying bug
In addition, abdominal breathing exercises may be performed for approximately 5 minutes daily.
Practicing Better Posture
Posture is something that most of us don’t consciously think about, but it’s something that you should monitor daily to avoid complications associated with poor postures such as an increased risk of injury, soreness, and musculoskeletal distortions (e.g., text neck). Here are some tips for improving your posture:
Shoulders wide, Sit/stand tall: Note your posture as it is right now. If you’re sitting down, maybe your head is jutting forward, and your back is slouched. If you’re standing, are your shoulders rounded? Take a moment to adjust yourself by sitting or standing as tall as you can and make your shoulders wide while keeping your gaze facing straight ahead. This is what proper posture looks like.
Check-In: Throughout the day, make it a point to check-in with yourself on how your posture is. We recommend setting a timer on your phone every 45 to 60 minutes. Hearing this timer every hour will train your body to snap back into having a proper posture naturally.
Stand – Don’t Sit: Most of the workforce sits behind a desk. If this describes your career, we highly recommend making changes to get yourself standing more than you’re sitting. The best solution for this is to get a standing desk converter. This is something you can simply place on your current desk, and it can be adjusted to a sitting or standing level. If this isn’t possible, make it a point to stand up and take a brief walk around the office every hour.
Core Strength for Runners is Essential
Whether you do a yearly Turkey Trot, or you participate in several races per year, core strength is going to make a dramatic difference in how you feel and how you perform. What’s more, building core strength is an investment that pays you back many times over. Even if you aren’t a runner, core strength helps you to avoid muscle overcompensation, injury, and musculoskeletal distortions.
1. Sato K, Mokha M. Does core strength training influence running kinetics, lower-extremity stability, and 5000-M performance in runners? J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Jan;23(1):133-40. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31818eb0c5.