The Standard Core Routine – Video Demonstration

Core strength is vital to being a consistent, healthy runner. The muscles of your core are actively firing at all times to propel you forward so strengthening them is a worthwhile effort.

If you think your “core” is just your abs – you’re very wrong. But you are not alone. When most people think of training their core, they are often thinking about the front of their bodies.

If you notice the frequent complaints of back pain, that gives you an idea of how few people are truly training effectively. The book Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence is a great guide that dives deep into this topic.

The core includes everything from your hips and glutes to your lower back and hamstrings. You can see a visual representation to get a better idea of all the muscles that we’re talking about. A good core routine will work all of these muscles to help you be a stronger runner.

core exercises for runners

Luckily, there is nothing complicated about strengthening the core, you don’t even need a gym. I’m a big fan of doing  strength exercises from home with very little equipment.

Importance of Strengthening the Core

I can’t emphasize enough how critical the core is to you running form, mechanics, and ability to improve. Before you set out to do weighted barbell squats at the gym in hopes of strengthening your leg muscles to run faster hill sprints, consider the fundamentals.

The upper and lower body are linked by our core. This means that all the fun details that us runner love to explore, from cadence and foot strike to arm swings, are all an extension of the core. It is what allows us to maintain proper posture, stay balanced, and stabilize through the movements.

Because it is so important, I emphasize working on the core on its own, as well as in your warm-ups prior to running. This will help with both strength and injury prevention in the long run. You can read much more information on this and learn other routines in my free injury prevention series.

Standard Core Routine

I’ve been doing one core routine since my college days – simply called the Standard Core Routine – and it has 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.

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.

  1. 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.

  2. Prone 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.

  3. 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 and keep your butt form sagging to the ground.

  4. 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.

  5. Bird Dog

    From a table position, lift your left arm so it is 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 muscles activated. Hold for several seconds and switch sides.

  6. Supine Plank

    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 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.

Tips for the Standard Core Routine

To ensure that you are getting the most out of this workout, I suggest the following:

  • 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.

Myths about Training Your Core

I mentioned earlier that of the big misconceptions is that your core = abs. It’s not true, but this belief is probably what leads to myth #1 about training your core: I can get six pack abs if I train my core.

I’m sorry to report that this one also isn’t true. While core strength is really important to your running, it is not going to yield the chiseled appearance of abs. Nutrition and genetics are the main factors here.

The second myth to dispel is that increasing your core strength will make you a faster runner. Also not true, sadly. I discuss the details of this in my Q&A video, highlighting why you should still do your core exercises.

Standard Core Routine – PDF Download

While core training isn’t going to make you an Olympian, or even look like one, I hope you that you will still include this routine as a regular part of your weekly workouts! I know you will see benefits if you commit to doing it consistently and gradually challenging yourself with the exercises.

To make it easier for you, I’ve put together a PDF that includes photos and explanations for each one. You can download the free guide by signing up here.

You can post it on your fridge or simply refer to it from your phone. I hope you will find it useful!

Further Recommended Reading

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  1. I have been using this routine along with the ITB Rehab routine for a few months now and have really noticed a difference. My core feels stronger when I run and my form has improved as my core has strengthened. I feel lighter and more efficient while running which has to be a good thing.

    • So…you’re telling us it works? 🙂 Thanks Rob, it made a huge difference in my running and glad it has for you too.

    • Awesome. Jason did a great routine here, so it’s no wonder why you;re doing better.

      It’s great that the author actually uses functional core exercises, as opposed to the stereotypical “crunches” that are supposed to “give you 6-pack abs”.

      My belief is that the core is designed to transmit force, to produce it. We should keep core muscles tight isometrically while our shoulders, arms, hips, knees, etc. produce the force in relevant movements (e.g., deadlift, squat, overhead press).

      I actually did an article series on this myself at

      However, this post has hit the nail on the head.

  2. Perfect timing. I’ve done several of these exercises individually as rehab from an old disk injury and they’ve helped me avoid any serious setbacks the last couple of years. But lately my back has not been holding up (mostly because my core work has been less consistent, I’ll admit), so this looks like a nice routine for me to work with.

  3. Looks like stuff I need to do! The last exercise killed me – whatever muscles those are I am weak there! Recently have suffered lots of injuries – don’t cross train, only run, but know I need to add core work. Question: you say 2 sets of each exercise. Do I do the whole routine twice (1 set of each exercise) or two sets of each exercise and only go through routine 1x?

    • Hey Angie, I’m not surprised that the last exercise is hard for you. A lot of runners are weak in the posterior chain (back, hamstrings, glutes, etc). Go through the entire six exercises, take 1-2 minutes rest, and the repeat. Do it like a circuit. Enjoy!

  4. Thanks for posting, I never understood the supine leg lift but now I’ll add it to the routine. I honestly don’t feel much doing the bird dogs so I’ve usually skipped those, but I add a locust pose as I feel it helps with the glutes and lower back. I do love the leg-out on the bridges, a nice twist on a classic exercise, complements standard and abductor/adductor bridges nicely. The lateral leg raises during the side planks are a nice addition too – I honestly think side planks are one of the best exercises out there for runners, especially those who are bow-legged like me (helps reduce hip twist when running).

    • The key to the bird dogs is to contract your glutes, then it’s a great exercise. I’m a little bow legged myself and the side planks are great. The key is variety so mix it up and keep trying new variations of exercises. Hope these help Greg.

  5. Increased efficiency and staving off the aches and pains that plague most runners is great. But I can’t lie, how I pull off the winter tights and warm weather split shorts is a motivating factor. Being fast is ideal, but failing that, I want to at least look fast. (Shallow, yes.)

  6. Do you repeat the side plank on each side?

    • Good question Pete – I’m going to update the post to answer this question. Yes, I do a left side plank during the first set and a right side plank during the second set. If I’m doing 3 sets, I’ll include another side plank after the supine leg raises (so 7 exercises total during the 3rd set).

  7. would doing this 3 times a week be too much for a 14year old

    • Shane – first I’d recommend that you talk to your coach about any core / strength exercises you’re doing. But in broad terms, body weight exercises like this routine can be done 3 times a week for a 14 year old provided your form is good. Again, talk to your coach.

  8. Done this routine tonight and it lets me see how weak my core is and why I probably suffer from low back, hip and ITB problems. 45 minutes was impossible for the plank, side plank and supine leg lift. Will stick with it hoping to see the aches and pains disappear.

  9. The SMI document says to take a 15 second break between exercises? May I ask why you’ve suggested transitioning immediately? Also, would 3 days a week be enough or should we be looking to increase that?

    • Hi Jay, the simple answer is that it doesn’t matter much. The transition itself will take you about 5 seconds, but you could wait 10 more seconds. Ultimately, I don’t think that long of a rest is necessary because runners don’t need it (the exercises aren’t THAT challenging) and it makes the routine take longer.

  10. You’re definitely right when you say the supine leg lifts are hard for runners…as soon as I lift a leg, my butt drops right to the ground! That’s obviously an area I need to work on! Is there a progression for the supine leg lift? Perhaps I should just start with holding the position and working on lifting my legs after I become stronger? This is a great routine! I can do everything else…but those supines are killer!

  11. So with the side planks – one side per circuit?

  12. Tim Huthsteiner says:

    Hi Jason, thank you so much for this article! I started training for my first marathon 5 months ago and have 2 months until the race. From the sounds of it, I’m not the only one who’s neglected core training. Up until now my entire routine has been nothing but running. I’ve been having a persistent pain inside my left hip that I only seem to notice after I’m done running. Hopefully these routines help alleviate that problem.

    Here’s my question. I’m having a lot of difficulty with planks, especially side planks. I’m lucky if I can hold a side plank for 15-20 seconds. Is there something I can do that is similar but slightly easier? My core is so weak I think I need to work up to the planks.



  1. […] for Standard Core routine which I came across at on my quest for different hip strengthening […]

  2. […] Strength Workouts I’m very partial to Jason Fitzgerald’s Strength Running. Jason’s blog resonates with me, and his focus on getting stronger has really helped me to realize its importance. I use a modified version of his Core and IT Band Rehab. I mostly focus on core right now, but the ITB routine is also very nice. Check out his core workout. […]

  3. […] try out these runner-specific core routines: the ITB Rehab Routine and the Standard Core Routine. Both of these circuits have helped me stay injury-free for the past three […]

  4. […] Routine from this guy on Strength Running […]

  5. […] about the importance for our runners to do all the “little things”. This includes core work, drills, strength training, stretching, proper warm-up and warm-down, good nutrition, adequate […]

  6. […] like interval workouts, hill sprints, or core exercises, minimalism is a tool to help you accomplish a specific training goal. I wouldn’t run […]

  7. […] me realize I need to do more upper body workout. Currently, my cross training consists of a core workout  and IT band rehab but nothing really upper body. When I was just starting to get into racing […]

  8. […] of my exercises I got from Jason Fitzgerald at Strength Running, specifically from this particular video. (I added on pushups and clamshells and lateral leg lifts.) If you don’t know his site, you […]

  9. […] up the strength work. Really what I’m talking about is The Standard Core Routine I found at Strength Running, and the Lunge Matrix I found at Coach Jay Johnson’s site. I […]

  10. […] many reps I should be doing some things for (especially the plank lift). Next week I’ll try this one. I’ve done it before, but it was a long time ago. I think I will like the simplicity of […]

  11. […] in “fat burn” mode (it basically meant constant high level of resistance), followed by this core routine, followed by foam rolling. I much preferred the core routine this week, as it was much […]

  12. […] me of stretches recommended for IT band problems. for the strength portion, I plan on resorting to a core workout that requires no […]