Core Exercises and Weight Training for Runners

Core Exercises for Runners

The core is the foundation of the human body as it includes the traverse abdominis, erector spinae, and obliques (basically the front and back of your midsection). 

The core could be compared to the trunk of a tree as it helps keep one upright and supports every limb of the body. By doing core exercises and strengthening the core, a runner will help all of their limbs to work in unity which will increase overall stride efficiency. 

A strong core will also lead to better stability and balance which will help in injury prevention. If a runner is unstable, this can lead to muscular and skeletal imbalances, ultimately resulting in muscle or skeletal breakdown. 

Doing core exercises will overall help a runner have a strong foundation, become more efficient, and help in injury prevention.

Bird Dog

How to Do It:

Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees. Extend your right arm straight out in front of you, and your left leg straight behind you while maintaining a flat spine shape. Return to starting position. Now, extend your left arm straight out in front of you, and your right leg straight behind you. Return to starting position. Repeat.

Deadbug

How to Do It:

Lie down on your back and bring you legs up and bend knees to a 90 degree angle. Reach your arms straight up. Straighten your left leg to the floor and take your right arm to the floor above your head at the same time, while pressing your back flat to the floor. Return to starting position. Now, straighten your right leg to the floor and your left arm to the floor above your head. Return to starting position. Repeat.

Glute Bridge

How to Do It:

Lie down on your back with your knees bent. Bring your hips and glutes of the floor as high as you can while bracing your core. Return to starting position. Repeat.

Marching Glute Bridge

How to Do It:

Lie down on your back with your knees bent. Bring your hips and glutes of the floor as high as you can while bracing your core. Bring one foot off the ground 12-20 inches. Return that foot to the floor and alternate feet. Repeat.

Plank

How to Do It:

Lie down on your stomach and place your hands directly below your shoulder. Press up and away from the ground, coming on to your toes (or knees for modification). Keeping your neutral spine shape and bracing your core, hold position. Make sure your wrists are directly underneath your shoulders and spine stays neutral for the entire hold.

Side Plank

How to Do It:

Lie down on left side. Place the left elbow directly below the left shoulder and push up off the ground, bringing the entire body up as well. Weight should be anchored on your elbow and side of your left foot. Make sure the left elbow is stacked underneath your left shoulder and your hips are in line with your left shoulder as well. Hold position. Switch to the right side.

Mountain Climbers

How to Do It:

Lie down on your stomach and place your hands directly below your shoulder. Press up and away from the ground, coming on to your toes. Keeping your neutral spine shape and bracing your core, bring one knee up to your chest. Return to starting position. Bring your other knee up to your chest. Repeat.

Russian Twist

How to Do It:

Sit on the floor with your knees bent. Clasp hands together, and straighten your arms. Bring your clasped hands from side to side while engaging your core. Try to bring feet off the floor. Repeat.

Windshield Wiper

How to Do It:

Lie down on your back. Bring legs up off the floor, and slowly lower both of them to your right side, without touching the floor. Bring legs back up to center. Now, slowly lower them to your left side, without touching the floor. Return to the middle. Repeat.

Stability Ball Rollout

How to Do It:

Place forearms on a stability ball and walk feet (or knees for modification)  out so that your body is in a plank position. Using your core and arms, roll ball out straight in front of you about 6-8 inches, and then back towards you. Repeat.

Weight Training Exercises for Runners

Squat-to-Press

This movement works the glutes, hamstrings, deltoids, shoulders, and triceps. Building glute and hamstring strength will help you achieve more power in your stride. Working the deltoids, shoulders, and triceps will help one with their arm action and in return, become more efficient over a greater distance.

How to Do It:

Start with your legs about hip width apart, with your weight evenly distributed throughout your entire foot. Holding two dumbbells at your shoulders, bend your knees into a squat position, going as low as you can. As you drive up out of the squat, press the two dumbbells straight up. Repeat.

Lateral Squat

Adding a multi-directional movement, such as the lateral squat, into a runner’s strength plan is highly beneficial as runner’s only move in one direction while running, causing the same muscles to be used over and over again. Lateral squats help strengthen the core, adductors, and glutes.

How to Do It:

Widen your stance to at least shoulder width, and if you can, slightly wider than shoulder width. Bend one knee into a squat, and lean to one side, until the opposite leg is completely straight. Come back up to your starting position and alternate sides. Repeat.

Single Leg Step Up

This movement really targets the glute muscles and help runner’s to create more force in their stride. In addition, single leg exercises can also help in building stability, and the more stable a runner is, the more efficient they will be over a greater distance.

How to Do It:

Find a stair or box about 12-20 inches high. Place one foot on the step, and use your glute to drive up on the step. Lower down, keeping your foot on the stair or box, and slightly tap the ground with your other foot, being careful to not use that foot to drive up again. Repeat.

Reverse Lunges

Reverse lunges cause runners to move in the opposite direction than they are used to, giving some of the overused muscles that propel a runner forward a break. Reverse lunges work the quadriceps, glutes, and soleus muscles which all work together to produce a running stride. 

How to Do It:

Evenly distribute your weight throughout one of your feet. Step back with the opposite side foot until the knee is slightly hovering above the ground. Step back up. Repeat.

Stability Ball Hamstring Curl

This exercise is excellent for runners. Stability ball hamstring curls help build core and hamstring strength. The hamstrings help generate force, power, and are the driving force force in acceleration.

How to Do It:

Lie down placing both feet on top of a stability ball. Bridge your hips up off the floor and use your hamstrings to curl the ball toward your glutes. Extend the ball away from you back to the starting position. Repeat.

Banded Knee Drive

This movement is key for hip flexors. Hip flexors help lift the knee and are therefore a key part of a runner’s movement. By having strong hip flexors, a runner’s body will be more efficient at lifting the knee throughout each stride.

How to Do It:

Stand straight placing an exercise band around both feet. Shift your weight to one side, and drive your opposite knee up to about a 90-degree angle. Place the leg back down to the starting position. Repeat.

Hammer Curl

Hammer curls are targeting the bicep femoris muscle. When a runner gets tired, their arms start to swing across their body and as a result they become less efficient. By strengthening the bicep femoris muscles, runners can more effectively swing their arms straight through upon fatigue, making them more efficient.

How to Do It:

Holding a dumbbell in each arm, start with your arms straight by your sides. Keeping your elbows tight to your sides, use your biceps to curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders. Lower back down to the starting position. Repeat.

Tricep Extension

This movement helps to strengthen the tricep brachii muscles. Much like strengthening the bicep femoris muscles, working the triceps will help a runner’s arm action, therefore aiding in more efficient running mechanics.

How to Do It:

Grab one dumbbell, and place it behind your head with your palms facing toward your head, and your elbows bent. Slightly bend the knees and brace the core. Using your triceps, lift the dumbbell up over your head until your arms are straight. Lower down to starting position. Repeat.

Stability Ball Push-Up

This exercise is a different spin on the classic push-up, but still targets the triceps, deltoids, pectoralis majors, and core. All of these muscles aid in maintaining good posture by strengthening the muscles that keep one upright. The stability ball also helps a runner to build balance and work on the tiny stabilizer muscles throughout the body.

How to Do It:

Place two hands on a stability ball and step out into a plank position (or onto your knees for a modification). Bending your elbows, lower your body down toward the ball as far as you can comfortably go. Press back up to the starting position. Repeat.

Single Arm Row

The main muscle worked in a single arm row is the latissimus dorsi. This is the largest muscle in the upper body and helps keep one upright, while also aiding in one’s breathing. The latissimus dorsi helps expand the rib cage upon inhalation, thus helping a runner to receive oxygen. 

How to Do It:

Come into a tabletop position by placing one knee and the same side hand on a bench with the opposite leg on the ground and the opposite arm straight, holding a dumbbell. Using your shoulder blade, row the dumbbell up to your chest. Straighten your arm to the starting position. Repeat.

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