With warmer weather around the corner and our spring and summer race dates in our calendars, runners across the country are ready to make the most of the season ahead. A part of making the most of our race season is working on our personal bests. To improve our PB’s as runners we must consider our core as more than just our abs. A comprehensive core program for runners needs to include the hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and obliques. Here are four exercises that will help you get the most of your training program and help you crush those personal bests!

1 Single-Leg Deadlift
8-10 each leg

Deadlifts are an effective exercise to build hamstring and lower back strength. Opting for a single-leg variation offers an added challenge while improving balance and mobility at the same time.

  • Start standing tall with feet hip-width apart, weights in hands, and arms down by your side.
  • Hinge forward from your hips and allow one leg to lift behind you as your chest moves towards the ground in front of you.
  • Your planted, standing leg is your working leg. Focus on driving through your heel and feel your hamstring extend and contract as you hinge forward and up.

Pro Tip: Focus on keeping both hip bones parallel as you perform this exercise. We tend to allow the hip on our lifted leg to rotate upwards instead of down and parallel.

2 Plank with Toe Tap
16-20 alternating right and left

Building endurance and strong form in your plank is a phenomenal way to improve overall abdominal strength. Adding an alternating toe tap will help to build strength in your stride, obliques, and upper body.

  • Start in a forearm plank, palms rooted underneath your shoulders, spine neutral, and legs extended long behind you.
  • Ensure you have your navel engaged with your spine and that your legs are active.
  • From here add the alternating toe tap. Tap your right foot behind your left wrist.
  • Reach your right foot back to meet your left foot, arriving back in your full-arm plank. Repeat on other side. Left foot to right wrist and back again to plank.

Pro Tip: In your plank, try spreading your fingers and palms wide. Utilize the tiny muscles in your palms to strengthen your foundation under your shoulders. This will help keep your spine in alignment and improve the overall effectiveness of this exercise.

3 Side Plank
8-12 on each side

Side planks are known for building full abdominal strength, lower-back strength, and pelvic strength – aka the container. A strong core will help you run more efficiently: longer distances and faster paces with less effort and more comfort in your body.

  • To start, plant your right palm down on the floor and extend your legs out to the side. Stack your feet together to form your side-plank position. You can drop your bottom knee if you’d like more support in this position.
  • You can either hold this position and increase the length of each set or continue to add on the progression.
    From your side plank, lift your left arm straight up and lift your left leg up as well.
  • Work from feet stacked and progress to a single-leg lift.

Pro Tip: Work on keeping your body in one long straight line with your hips lifted and your ribs pulled in. For an added challenge, look up to your top arm as you lift your top leg.

4 Single-Leg Hip Thrust
10-15 on each leg

Isolated glute work is a great way to ensure that our hip flexors don’t end up doing all the work. Common running injuries can sometimes stem from weak glutes, and/or improper firing of the glutes. This exercise will help balance strength in each hip and improve overall performance of your running form and technique.

  • Start on your back, knees bent, arms down by your sides. Plant your palms on the floor for added support. Extend one leg out and allow this leg and your hips to hover a few inches above the floor.
  • Drive your planted foot into the floor and squeeze your glute. As you press into your heel, raise your hips and extended leg into a full bridge position. Squeeze your glute at the top of the range of motion.
  • With control, lower back down to the starting position and repeat.

Pro Tip: When you press into your bridge, try pressing into the outside edge of your planted foot. This will help to recruit more glute tissue.

5 Bird Dog
10-15 each side
This exercise is an excellent option for strengthening your rectus and transverse abdominal muscles, as well as getting in a little glute action too!

  • Start on the floor in a tabletop position. Ensure your palms are directly under your shoulders and your knees are under your hips.
  • Extend your right leg back behind you, and your left arm in front of you. Engage your leg behind and focus on contracting your glute, hamstring, and back. Work on keeping your hips and shoulder square, and your extended limbs parallel to the ground.
  • Draw your right knee and left elbow together in a crunch position. Feel your abs engage in this part of the range of motion. Extend and repeat again.

Pro Tip: To make this exercise more dynamic, change the direction of your extensions. Reach your right arm out to the right corner and left leg to the back left corner. 

Photography by Graham McKerrell
Clothing provided by Bäre Activewear

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