60-Second Guide: Core Stability

A strong core will make you fitter and faster, as well as minimising your risk of injury


Posted: 13 August 2008
by David Mitchell

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Put simply, good core stability is one of the most effective ways to prevent injuries and improve running efficiency. The groups of muscles that make up your core section provide essential support so strengthening your core should form the base on which the rest of your running is built.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced runner concentrating on your core will ensure you become both fitter and faster.

Where exactly is your core?

Your core section (commonly called your torso or trunk) is made up of more than 30 separate muscles across your back, stomach and hips. These are some of the key muscles you’ll be strengthening – and feeling – when you start working on your core stability:

  • Transversus Abdominis Think of this as an internal weight belt that wraps around your torso providing support and stability.

  • Rectus Abdominis Your "abs" are primarily responsible for flexing and curling your torso as well as providing core support and will give you that rippling 'six-pack' effect.

  • Spinal erectors These muscles strengthen and stabilise your spine for balance.

  • Obliques These are the muscles that rotate your mid-section and support you when twisting and bending.

  • Hip flexors and rotators Key players in stabilising your running as they pull and lift the thigh muscles with each stride.

Why is building core strength important?

Chances are that – like most runners – you have overlooked your core stability in favour of piling on the miles, believing that running is the only way to become a better runner. However, quality core strengthening sessions offer many benefits:

  1. Better posture, which in turn will lead to a more consistent technique.

  2. Improved efficiency allowing you to run for longer, faster and tackle hills with confidence.

  3. Increased stability, which will help reduce stress on individual muscles that can lead to injury.

  4. Improved balance – this will help you to run well off-road when it’s uneven underfoot.

How can I improve my core strength?

Forget pushing heavy weights in the gym – you can benefit from as little as 15 minutes of core stability work if you manage to do a selection of exercises regularly. Exercises you can do at home are ideal for rest days too when your body needs time to recover.

Remember: results won’t be instantaneous. Aim instead for slow and steady progress – you’re more likely to see long-term improvements than if you push your body too hard to begin with.

Why not give some of these core-strengthening methods a go?

Floor exercises
Floor exercises are one of the easiest and most effective ways of improving your core strength, and you can do them anywhere, alone and without any extra equipment.

Cross training
If you already enjoy mixing your running with other sports such as kickboxing, swimming or racquet sports, then these will help improve your stability. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that you might also increase your risk of injury as well.

Pilates
Pilates will increase your stability and the health of your joints by improving your mobility and support from the core muscles.

Gym work
If you have access to a personal trainer at the gym, they should be happy to show you how target specific muscle groups and suggest useful exercises, such as squats and back extensions.

Still after more advice? Here are five informative articles to print and read later...
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