Fundamental Core Work – Ab Moves for Strong Runners

When getting started with new clients, I always like to ask what they’d like to see in their training program. By far, the most popular answer is “core work,” and I’m always happy to see it. Your core strength (and endurance) is always be the limiting factor in your athletic performance . When you start running longer or faster, you’ll notice that its your hips and abs that fatigue first, causing weird changes in your gait (and maybe even pain). Plus, from the lifting perspective, those legs can undoubtedly squat a lot more than your torso can hold upright.

So core work it is.

Last week I posted a video with a quick drill that will help you find what a “strong tight core” actually feels like. If you missed it, spend 2 minutes on this and give the drill a shot:

And like I mentioned, once you can feel a good position, you next have to work on having the endurance to maintain it over the course of miles. Incorporating some specific exercises each week will help you get there.

While “core work” is usually thought of as just ab exercises, most coaches think of the core as the entire midsection, down to the tops of the legs. This of course includes the abdominals and obliques, plus the transverse abdominis (sometimes called your “deep abs”), but also your spinal erectors, lats, and all of the muscles in your hips and glutes. That’s a huge area! And you’ll need to train it in a variety of ways.

Let’s take it one piece at a time, starting with the “core work” most people are here for – the movements to work your abs.

I like to split abdominal training moves into three groups:

Planks/Prone Movements – a movement where you are supporting your bodyweight with your hands and feet, facing the ground. Can be static (holding a position) or dynamic (moving your legs or arms while keeping your midsection stationary).

Hollow Body/Supine Movements – a movement where you’re lying on your back. Can also be static or dynamic.

Anti-Rotational Movements – a movement where you are resisting an outside force that is trying to cause your torso to rotate. Can also be static or dynamic, and can be done standing, lying, or prone.

Want to put together a good supplemental workout as a runner? Pick 1 of each type, do 3-5 sets of each two times per week, and reap the benefits. 

There are TONS of movements that fall under each category.

Here are a few of my most-used combinations, using nothing more than your bodyweight, a band, and any household object that’s relatively heavy.

For the Beginner:

  • Elevated Plank – Start at a :20 hold, work up to :60
  • Alternating Dead Bugs – Start with 5 per side, work up to 12
  • Standing Pallof Press – Start with 8 per side, work up to 15

For the Intermediate:

  • Bear Ab Hold – Start at a :20 hold, work up to :60
  • Wall Abs – Start with 5 per side, work up to 12
  • Plank Pull-Thrus – Start with 8 per side, work up to 15

For the Advanced:

  • Weighted Plank – Start with 10lbs, work up to 45+!
  • Hollow Body Hold – Start with a :20 hold, work up to :45, and get your feet to just hovering off the ground
  • Lying Pallof Press – Start with 5 per side, work up to 12

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