Core training for runners - Staying still to move forwards

Today, I'd like to discuss the 3 types of movement that are imperative to running related trunk (core) strength. Before I get into specific exercises, let's take a look at why the trunk is so important to us whilst running. It essentially acts as a conductor for the force generated by the legs. If it's strong and stable then the lower limbs have an ideal base to push off the ground and run efficiently. However, if the trunk is weak and unstable, the potential force production will not be reached and energy that could've been used to propel you forward will be lost elsewhere.

The challenge here is that there are natural forces such as gravity and momentum which act upon the upper body during running and are actually working against us rather than for us. Firstly, when moving forward, the trunk instinctively will want to flex (bend forward) which we obviously don't want. Also, as each foot hits the floor, the upper body will naturally want to rotate and bend sideways. Again this would be detrimental to efficiency.

Our aim is to counteract these forces so that we run with an upright, rigid torso that barely moves. The pelvis and shoulder girdle should also remain stable throughout giving the legs the best opportunity to do their work. From a training point of view, this can be accomplished by performing 3 types of exercises:

  • Anti rotation
  • Anti flexion/extension
  • Anti side flexion

Below, you'll find one example of each of these. If you're not already, I'd recommend including at least one of the following in your strength workout. As always, start at a low intensity, see where you are and build from there.


Anti rotation

Anti rotation reaches - N.B. To regress this exercise, it can be performed with the hands placed on a raised object like a bench, and rather than reaching for the shoulders, you could reach for the elbows. For a demonstration video please click here.

Anti rotation reaches.JPG

Coaching points:

  • Set up with narrow hands and wide feet
  • Keep hips as still as possible
  • Breathe in and engage abs just before you reach 
  • Reach in a slow and controlled manner


Anti flexion/extension

Front plank - NB. To regress this exercise, it can be performed with knees touching the ground. This is a hold exercise and form should look like the below.

Front plank.JPG

Coaching points:

  • Place elbows underneath the shoulders with feet slightly wider than hips
  • Engage trunk muscles so the spine is stiffened
  • Keep the back straight and don't let the hips drop
  • Engaging the glutes will keep the pelvis neutral


Anti side flexion

Side plank - NB. To regress this exercise, it can be performed with knees touching the ground with knees bent. This is a hold exercise and form should look like the below.

Side plank.JPG

Coaching points:

  • Place elbow directly below the shoulder
  • Try to keep hips up throughout
  • Ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and head should be aligned


By Marc Brown