Best Core Exercise for Runners by by Katie

You’re an in-the-know runner, so you know that core strength is an essential part of the sport. (And if you didn’t already know that, well then now you do!)

But what are the best core exercises for runners? Well, it turns out the best core exercises for runners are also just the best core exercises in general. Meaning, the core exercises that have been determined as most effective at building core strength are the same ones that runners can benefit from the most.

P.S. For those of you that don’t know what “core strength” is, your core is made up mostly of your abdominal and back muscles, but it actually entails pretty much all of the muscles in your torso. For the most part, though, when people are talking about core strength, they’re referring to abdominal strength. Core is just a better term because it better encompasses all of the muscles instead of just the abs. In other words, the muscles at the “core” or center of your body.

The Benefits of Core Strength for Runners

Before we take a look at the best core exercises for runners, it’s important to understand why and how runners can benefit from core strength.

  • A strong core helps promote good posture while running. It helps you keep your torso upright with your shoulders back and down, which promotes efficient running and prevents you from slouching or hunching your shoulders (both of which make running less efficient).
  • A strong core helps to protect your back and spine. Yes, your legs are doing much of the work while you’re running, but lots of other smaller muscles are at work too, including your abdominal and back muscles, and their strength is reliant on protecting your spine as you pound the pavement and in everyday life.
  • Core strength is basically essential to all human movement. Think about it, your arms and legs are directly connected to your core, so it’s sort of like the foundation for the rest of your body.
  • Like I just said, your legs and hips are directly linked to your core and human movement is a kinetic chain, so a strong core also allows your hips, pelvis and lower back to all work together more efficiently while you run.
  • Core strength is especially important for distance runners who are more susceptible to injury as their form begins to break down at the end of a long workout or race. Again, a strong core helps you better maintain your posture when it gets to this point in a longer run.

Hopefully that helps to give you a better idea of why core strength is so important for runners (and actually just life in general), and also creates a slight sense of urgency to add some core exercises (like the ones below) to your cross training routine!

The Best Core Exercises for Runners

Alright, let’s get down to it — this is what you came here for!

Some of the following exercises are what have been determined as the “best” core-strengthening moves by Dr. Stuart McGill, director of the Spine Biomechanics Laboratory at the University of Waterloo, author of Ultimate Back Fitness and performance, and one of the most highly regarded experts when it comes to core strength and spine health.

McGill, who I once spoke with for a story on the subject of core strength, is not a fan of “sit-up” type exercises. He says that type of movement puts an unnecessary amount of pressure and torque on the spine that will eventually wear it down (when I spoke with him he gave the example of bending a wire coat hanger over and over again until it eventually breaks, it might take a while, but it happens at one point or another).

Here is a quick list of some of the best core exercises.

  • Bird-Dog
  • Burpee
  • Plank