5 elite core moves for runners

Like almost all modern elite runners, US Olympian and 2009 World Championships 1500m medallist Shannon Rowbury and her peers consider strength work to be an integral part of training. By doing exercises that strengthen the core and improve midsection mobility, they can better hold up to the stresses of running and their form is less likely to deteriorate as they tire. Non-elite runners can get even more benefits from this kind of exercise. That’s because many of us spend our days sitting and otherwise rarely move through wide ranges of motion. As a result, when we run, we do so with tight muscles or poor form, which increases injury risk. By doing these moves, which Rowbury incorporates into her routine, two or three times a week, you can undo many of these negative effects. 

Donkey kicks

Start on all fours, with your knees and palms on the ground. Using your glute muscles and hamstrings, drive one leg backward and upward, keeping your foot flexed and your knee at a 90-degree angle. Do 10 reps on that leg, then switch legs and repeat. 

Leg whips

Start on all fours, with your knees and palms on the ground. Raise one leg out to the side, knee bent, so that your thigh is parallel to the ground. Then whip that foot toward your shoulder. The movement should be only in your lower leg – the thigh should stay both parallel and stationary. Do 10 reps on that leg, then switch legs and do 10 on the other. 

Bicycle abs

Lie on your back with your hands behind your head, your thighs vertical and your calves parallel to the ground. Crunch your abs to bring your left elbow to touch to your right knee, while extending your left leg. Then alternate. Start with 30 seconds of the exercise. As you become more familiar with it, increase to one minute. 

Scissor kicks

Lie on your back and lift your hips up by supporting your lower back with your hands. Keep your back straight. Now scissor your legs, ensuring they go behind your head as well as away from you. Start with 30 seconds, then increase to a minute as you become better at it. 

Leg lifts

Lie on your back with your legs lifted at a 90-degree angle to the ground. Push your back to the ground. Lower your legs down to just above the ground, hold for two seconds, then return to the starting position. Start with 10 reps and then increase to 20 over time. 

Back extensions

Lie on your stomach with your hands behind your head. Using your lower back, lift your upper torso, keeping your thighs on the ground. Hold for two seconds, then return to the starting position and repeat. Start with 10 reps then, as you improve, increase to 20.