Why Core Strength Is Important For Runners
Running is, no doubt, a full body workout. While most think of the experience as just a primary form of cardiovascular experience - which, to a degree, it absolutely is - running uses muscles all over the body that include more than just the thighs and calves. In short, this sets the stage for highlighting the importance of core strength for runners. All around strength training is also very important to train and run successfully without injury, but we’re going to highlight core strength in today’s blog post.
Build Your Core Strength With The Real Runner
So why are we highlighting core strength? Well, The Real Runner promotes core strength in the body as you use our high-intensity cardio workout machine. By holding the plank position, an effective way to build core strength that has proven to outperform traditional crunches, you’ll be getting nothing short of a full body workout that emphasizes core strength. To learn more about how The Real Runner actually works and how it can revolutionize your fitness game, check it out here.
Let’s take a look at why core strength matters for runners.
What Happens When You’re Running Hard Matters
Depending on your form, strength, and experience with running, a lot of things can be going on as you’re putting the pedal to the metal. Are your arms failing all over the place, or is your trunk excessively rotating? Are you biomechanics breaking down?
On the other hand, are your arms pumping like pistons going back and forth with your legs, powerfully propelling you forward with strong, stable pelvis? All of the efficient mechanics that we’ve just mentioned above can be attributed to properly stabilized and integrated core strength.
How You Strengthen Your Core Matters
Doing core strengthening exercises is great, but are you making the best use of that time and working out efficiently? While many runners are aware of the importance of good core strength - and many of them do know that good core strength goes way beyond the visual appeal of six-pack abs - they’re still not exercising their core correctly (or ‘core’-ectly, should we say - we’re sorry about that one, but we just had to make that joke). These traditional core exercises include things like sit-ups (crunches) and back extensions, but they do not prove to be very helpful in building core strength.
It is unfortunate to say, but many of these core-strengthening exercises and their associated variations can result in excessive compressive and shear forces on the spine, which can lead to significant spinal injury. Additionally, these exercises just don’t do very much to actually improve the function of the core itself, which is to prevent excessive torso rotation, transfer force and stabilize the spine.
Core stability requires the involvement and correct coordination of a number of team players in the body - in fact, the core is much more than just the abdominal muscles. Other muscles that play an important role in core function include the transverse and rectus abdominus, internal and external obliques, pelvic floor muscles, multifidi and paraspinals, and the diaphragm.
When it comes to pure respiration, the diaphragm is actually the body’s most important muscle. The diaphragm also happens to be an integral core stabilizer. You see, when the diaphragm is properly positioned, correct breathing patterns are better facilitated and your core function is improved, resulting in a more economical stride. The ideal posture for diaphragmatic function occurs when the lower back is neutral, the pelvis is level and the chest isn’t sticking out or hunched over.
Your Muscular And Nervous Systems
Developing effective communication between the nervous system and the muscular system is another important aspect of proper core conditioning for runners. Think of the relationship between your nervous system and the rest of your muscles as something like a phone conversation. With a better connection, the exchange of information becomes more and more efficient. This will result in improved movement with greater strength, power, and endurance.
All things considered, the less energy wasted by the body trying to control movement, the more energy there is available for running fast.
What Is Abdominal Bracing?
Long-time Olympic runners claim that stride frequency and efficiency is improved by optimal neuromuscular core function, as we touched on above. These elite athletes also encourage the neuromuscular exercise of abdominal bracing, which involves simultaneously co-activating all of the muscles that surround the spine. The purpose of this is to teach the body how to prepare for stabilization when you’re actually in motion. For instance, if you’re jostled in a race, or you lose your footing on a trail run, your core brace should automatically engage as a reflex, stiffening your spine and improving your ability to quickly reposition.
How To Train For And Integrate Core Bracing
First off, bracing should be performed during all core and whole-body strength and stability training. To practice bracing, pretend that you’re about to be punched in the stomach (we know that this is an unsettling thought but bear with us). If you pretend hard enough, you should be able to stimulate all of the muscles to tighten around the spine - the trick, however, is to be able to do this without holding your breath.
Training your body to brace itself independent of breathing is, while easier said than done, essential for optimal exercise execution and performance in sport. This brace will also help “groove” this supportive pattern so that, over time, it will activate with an unconscious effort.
Stay Tuned For More Core Strength Training Knowledge
Using The Real Runner is enough of a core strengthening workout on its own, but it's important to know some of the biomechanics. We’ll follow up with another blog post about core strength training, but until then, shop our high-intensity exercise machine here.