Why do You Need Core Strength for Running?
The human body is gifted with the ability to adapt to physical training, and it can make fairly large-scale adaptations in a short period of time to the stresses of training placed upon it. However, there is a problem with the body if these stresses are added too quickly or carelessly.
In training there is a puzzling phenomenon that occurs in which physiological fitness precedes structural readiness. In running, this means that the body’s engine (heart, lungs, etc) is ready to go fast before the frame (body) can usually handle it. This is witnessed by the numerous injuries each year in which an athlete is building their training and feels good one day so pushes a little harder than they should and suddenly has a nagging structural injury.
This is sometimes followed by a trip to a physical therapist who diagnoses the problem and usually gives some exercises to help strengthen the core where a deficiency has been detected.
Core-strength is needed in training because it can help break this cycle and doing this type of training (core-strength) along with the normal running can serve as preventative training or “pre-hab” if you will. You still may get injured but this will greatly decrease those chances.
The strengthening of the core muscles or stabilizers will also greatly aid an athlete in developing better running posture, increasing muscle power and also increasing flexibility, all of which lead to running faster.
Ignoring core-strength in a training program may work in the short-term but is a recipe for long-term disaster and some may even call it irresponsible.
At the 2006 USATF Distance Podium Summit in Las Vegas, Terrence Mahon (Mammoth Lake Track Club) had this to say about core-strength. “I believe that a lack of core-strength and flexibility can create long term motor skills problems as the body continually adapts to find the path of least resistance and turns away from proper running mechanics.” Mahon’s point being that over-looking this over time will cause the body to adapt in a negative fashion that will most likely lead to injury.
How to Incorporate Core Training?
The underlying fear of most coaches or athletes when looking at how to improve core strength is “how do I do it?” This is much simpler than it can first appear. At our program and with the post-collegiate athletes I work with, we include core strengthening as part of our warm-up and cool-down. The warm-up portion is at most a five-minute period of exercises called the Lunge Matrix and a series of dynamic leg movements calls Mytrle Wall Drills. A cool down could typically include a few different routines comprised of exercises geared at hitting the muscles within the core.
Circuit training at times in the season will also fall into this category. Some other great exercises that are great for hitting the “core” muscles are push-ups, body planks and army crawls. Ten to fifteen minutes of core-strengthening work each day is enough for most runners to see large improvements over time. And again, this increased core-strength will lend itself to increased running economy and muscle power which will lead to faster times.
A great resource that is very helpful for these kinds of routines is the video library. These videos will provide footage from great coaches and athletes that will give you a large array of video routines that are great for increasing core strength, flexibility, racing and training abilities.
By Guest Author John Peter
John Peter is a Level 2 USATF Certified Coach in Sprints and Hurdles. He is in his 8th year coaching High School Cross Country and Track and Field in Northern Minnesota. In this role he has helped guide 15 athletes to the state meet where 8 have earned all-state honors. He competed in college for Minnesota State University-Moorhead. He has also coached post-collegiate athletes to sub-2:30 performances in the marathon. In his free time he likes to hang out with his wife and kids and he also likes to ride his bike.