A group of runners together in a park.

11 Best Core Exercises for Runners

Do you suffer from frequent running injuries? Maybe you feel like your running performance isn’t improving. Or perhaps you’re just trying to determine where your running regimen could be lacking.

Many beginner and experienced runners neglect to include core exercises in their running regimen, not realizing the full extent of the related consequences.

To help you be the best runner you can be, we’ll explain why a strong core is vital for runners and provide a list of 11 of the best core exercises for runners to help you get started.

Why is a strong core important for runners?

A group of runners in a park next to a lake.

Strength and core exercises will help improve your running performance and prevent injuries. If you’re wondering how, let’s back up and explain what your core is first.

When you think about your “core” muscles, you probably only think of your abdominals. However, your core consists of other muscles too! It includes your glutes, hips, hamstrings, lower back, and obliques. These muscles all work together to stabilize your body and keep you balanced while running, especially over rough terrain.

The best core exercises for runners target these various muscle groups and strengthen them over time. As a result, your posture improves, and you’re better able to maintain proper running form over long periods.

With better posture and form, you’ll be a more efficient runner, suffer fewer injuries, and improve your stamina.

What equipment do I need?

A runner tying their shoes about to run on a track.

When you’re ready to get started, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t need much. For most of the core exercises listed below, you’ll just need a yoga mat or comfortable floor surface and your body. That’s it! No fancy workout equipment is required here.

11 best core exercises for runners

Before you begin with the following core exercises, make sure you warm up properly.

1. Forearm plank

A lady doing a foreman plank in her living room on a yoga mat.
  • Lie flat on the ground on your front side.
  • When you’re ready, lift yourself off the ground and onto your forearms. Ensure your arms and toes are the only contact points to the floor.
  • Hold your body straight from your head to your toes, ensuring your lower back doesn’t sag back toward the ground.
  • Hold the position for 30 seconds before returning to the starting position.
  • Repeat.

2. Side plank

Two people doing side planks on a yoga mat on a roof top.
  • Lie on your side.
  • Lift your body, so your body weight is all on one forearm and the side of one foot.
  • Hold your body firm, forming a diagonal line from the top of your head to the base of your feet.
  • Hold the position for 30 seconds before returning to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side.

3. Lying leg raise

A woman doing a lying leg raise on her yoga mat on a golf course.
  • Lie flat on the floor on your back.
  • Place your hands flat on the ground beside you. (You can also place them underneath your glutes to make this exercise a little easier.)
  • Keep your legs straight and lift them up above your head to a 90-degree angle.
  • Slowly lower them back down to the starting position to complete one rep. Instead of touching them back down to the ground, keep them hovering about two to three inches above the ground.
  • Repeat.

4. Bridge

A man doing the bridge in a gym.
  • Lie on the floor on your back with your knees up and feet touching the ground.
  • Lift your hips straight up off the ground, forming a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  • Hold for three seconds, making sure your hips don’t dip back down toward the ground.
  • Slowly lower your hips back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat.

5. Hollow body hold

A woman doing the hallow body pose on a beach.
  • Lie flat on the ground on your back.
  • Extend your arms straight up over your head, keeping them flat on the ground.
  • While keeping your legs and arms straight, raise them both above the floor simultaneously until you’re balancing on your glutes.
  • Hold the position for three to five seconds while activating your core before gently releasing and returning back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat.

6. Alternating single-leg raise

Man doing alternating single-leg raise at the gym.
  • Lie flat on the floor on your back with your hands and palms facing down beside you.
  • Raise both of your legs until they’re perpendicular to the floor.
  • Keeping your right leg straight in the raised position, slowly lower your left leg until your heel touches the floor, ensuring it stays straight.
  • Hold the position briefly before lifting your left leg back up to meet your right leg at the top.
  • Repeat, alternating legs.

7. Ankle taps

Man doing ankle taps on the ground.
  • Lie down on your back on the floor with your knees up as if you were about to do a sit-up.
  • Raise your shoulder blades off the floor, performing a partial crunch.
  • Using your right arm, reach down to tap your right ankle. While bringing your right arm back, reach down with your left arm to tap your left ankle.
  • Repeat this movement for a set amount of time without allowing your shoulder blades to touch the floor.

8. Superman

A woman doing the superman stretch in her living room.
  • Lie flat on your front on a yoga mat.
  • Bring your arms out in front of you, bending them slightly at your elbow.
  • Slowly raise your arms, chest, and legs off the ground simultaneously. Only your belly should be touching the ground.
  • Hold the position for a moment before returning your whole body to the mat.
  • Repeat.

9. Modified bird dog

A woman doing the modified bird dog on a yoga mat.
  • Start in a table position, with your hands and knees on the ground or mat.
  • Lift your right arm up, so it’s parallel to the ground. At the same time, lift your left leg, bending it at a 90-degree angle until your thigh is parallel to the floor and your shin is perpendicular.
  • Hold the position for a moment before returning to the starting position.
  • Alternate your arms and legs and repeat.

10. Clam shells

A woman doing the calm shells stretch in her living room on her yoga mat.
  • Lie on one side with your knees together.
  • Bend your knees at 90 degrees and keep your thighs about 45 degrees away from your body.
  • Open your legs like a clamshell and close them again, but don’t allow your pelvis to move or rock throughout the motion. Keep your movements slow and controlled.
  • Repeat.

11. Pistol squats

A man doing the pistol squats on the walkway next to the beach.
  • Start by standing up straight with your arms at your sides.
  • Keeping your right leg straight, slowly extend it up and off the ground in front of you.
  • Using your arms to balance, slowly bend down into a squat. Keep your bent knee pointed straight in front of you and ensure it stays behind your toes.
  • Slowly raise your body back up into a standing position and bring your extended leg back down to the floor.
  • Repeat.

Key Takeaways:

To improve your running performance, you have to practice running. But core exercises are just as important for runners! With this list of the best core exercises for runners, you can strengthen your abdominals, glutes, hips, hamstrings, lower back, and obliques to improve your running form, prevent injuries, and enhance your performance.

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