If you think your “core” is just your abs – you’re very wrong. It includes everything from your hips and glutes to your lower back and hamstrings. A good core routine will work all of these muscles to help you be a stronger runner.
I’ve been doing one core routine since my college days – simply called the Standard Core Routine - and it’s become a staple of my strength program. The periods where I’ve done three sets of this routine for 1 minute per exercise, three times a week, I’ve stayed healthy. I always seem to get hurt when I get lazy and stop doing it consistently.
A more detailed version of this routine – in high quality video – is included in Injury Prevention for Runners.
The Standard Core Routine consists of six exercises performed in a row with no rest in between – just transition right into the next movement. Each exercise is done for 45 seconds or a full minute depending on your strength and ability level.
- Modified Bicycle: lie on your back and hold one leg up in the air. Your thigh should be perpendicular to your body and your shin parallel to the ground. Hold your other leg 2-3 inches off the ground. Hold for several seconds and switch legs. Make sure your lower back is in a neutral position during the entire exercise. You can put one hand in the small of your back to gauge this: make sure your back neither presses down or lifts up from your hand.
- Plank: lie on your stomach and prop your weight on your forearms and toes. Keep a straight line from your head to your feet and hold this position for the entire exercise.
- Bridge: lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground. Lift your hips so there is a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Extend one leg straight out, hold for several seconds, then put it back down on the ground and repeat. Make sure your hips don’t dip or your butt sags to the ground.
- Side Plank: on your side, lift your body so your weight is on one forearms and the side of one foot. There should be a straight diagonal line from your head to your feet. I usually do 10 lateral leg raises during this exercise as an advanced form of the exercise.
- Modified Bird Dog: in a table position, lift your left arm so it’s parallel to the ground. At the same time, lift your right leg so your thigh is parallel to the ground and your shin is perpendicular. Your knee should be bent at 90 degrees and your glute muscle activated. Hold for several seconds and switch sides.
- Supine Leg Lift: lie on your back with your weight on your elbows and heels, lift your hips and keep a straight line from your toes to your shoulders. Lift one leg about 8 inches off the ground, hold for several seconds, and repeat with the opposite leg.
This routine can be done anywhere since there’s no equipment needed (besides your running watch) and you only need a very limited amount of space. I’ve found that it’s perfect for hotel rooms when you’re traveling and the only available space is between two beds in your room.
Here are a few tips to get you started with the Standard Core Routine:
- Don’t rest in between each exercise – transition to the next one immediately.
- Use the split function on your digital watch to time each exercise.
- Switch off doing right and left side planks during your first two sets. During the third set of exercises, you can either skip side planks all together, or add an extra exercise to make sure you do each side.
- Start with two sets of 45 seconds per exercise, with 1-2 minutes of recovery in between sets.
- After 2-3 weeks, increase your time on each exercise to a full minute. After another 2-3 weeks, increase to 3 sets.
- Always monitor your form and make sure you’re holding the proper posture. You’re getting less benefit if your form suffers.
This routine is a fantastic general strength routine and is perfect for core strength maintenance or to introduce beginners to a well-rounded core routine. You can do it after you run 2-4 times per week, but try to incorporate other types of routines into your strength program as well – like the ITB Rehab Routine.
This routine was taken from the Sports Medicine Institute.
If you always forget these exercises, join the SR Private List below and get a custom-made illustration of the entire routine (free).
- Solid to the Core: Simple Exercises to Increase Core Strength and Flexibility
- Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence
- Core Performance: The Revolutionary Workout Program to Transform Your Body and Your Life
Get the Strength Running PR Guide ebook and tips to run faster (without the injuries).