More Important Core Strength Information For Runners
In our previous blog post, we started going over the importance of properly building core strength in order to be a better, safer and stronger runner. Well, we’re following up with another blog post (as promised!) that will wrap up our conversation about the importance of core strength. Today’s blog post will also include good exercise routines to strengthen your abdominal muscles and overall core that aren’t your conventional sit-ups. That being said, we have a fantastic way for you to simultaneously work out your core and run, and we have a hunch that you probably know where we’re going with this…
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Now, let’s get back to the ins and outs of proper core training.
Maintaining Your Curve
When you perform any type of core exercises, it’s extremely important that you maintain your lower back’s natural curve. This natural curve is also known as neutral spine and is usually lost when performing things like sit-ups and back extensions that people do in hopes of strengthening their core. Maintaining your lower back’s natural curve is a principle that applies to all exercises - core and full body - to minimize the stress placed on the spine.
The Axe Chop
A popular core exercise with elite athletes known as the ‘axe chop’ is a highly functional way to maintain a neutral spine in the standing position. The axe chop involves a forward step while quickly drawing a medicine ball from the ear to the opposite hip with an abrupt stop. This exercise is effective in strengthening and conditioning the core of the body because this halt requires an enormous amount of anti-rotation core stability to maintain a strong, neutral and supported spine.
With a functional approach like this exercise, a challenge for many athletes is to appreciate a new level of kinesthetic awareness. There is less of a ‘burn’ during functional exercises, and because most of us are taught that you need to hurt a little bit in order to work out hard and see results, it can be difficult to appreciate or understand the functional exercise approach right off the bat.
All Things Considered With Core Strength And Running
For one, core endurance is more important than core strength in regard to injury prevention with running. As such, this should be a major focus in your workout regimen. Another point to keep in mind with core strengthening is to use the “bracing” method that we covered in our last blog post - when you do it, make sure to breathe during the process. Lastly, instead of isolating abdominal muscles with partial sit-ups and back extensions, focus instead on training the core to function as an integrated stabilizing system.
Now, let’s take a brief look at a few functional exercises for core strength and endurance.
The Body Saw
Begin by going into a front elbow plank with your toes on a slippery surface. A towel on a hardwood floor usually works pretty well. Then, brace your abdominals to keep your spine neutral, and squeeze your legs together and squeeze your gluteal muscles at the same time. Move your body forward and back by pushing and pulling with your elbows. Maintain the lumbar curve throughout the movement, and go back and forth slowly for about 15 seconds.
Repeat this process 4 times to complete a minute-long set. Perform 3 to 5 sets three times a week to get the best results.
The Unilateral Carry
The unilateral carry is also known as a single-arm farmer’s carry, and it is a fantastic exercise to develop lumbar and pelvic stability. You’ll start with the exercise by walking with a heavy weight held in one hand, in which your lower back and abdominal muscles have to stabilize the lumbar spine and the pelvis. The gluteus medius and minimus muscles on the stance leg also have to contribute a lot of stability to the pelvis, which makes this exercise even more effective.
Walk around your house or the gym for about 30 seconds and repeat on the other side. Perform this exercise for 3 to 5 sets per side three times a week.
Bird Dog With Squares
The bird dog exercise is a classic core exercise that emphasizes lower back strength and balance. While your first few reps may seem awkward if you’ve never done them before, we promise that it’s a worthwhile exercise. To start, go on your hands and knees and brace with a neutral spine. Without moving your spine, reach out one leg and the opposite arm. Then, outline a square with each outstretched limb while maintaining the curve in your spine.
Return both your leg and arm to the starting position and repeat on either side. Perform 6 repetitions per side and perform 3 to 5 sets three times a week.
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