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5 Runner Core Exercises

Unleash Your Potential: Essential Runner Core Exercises for Peak Performance

exercises and drills improving running economy running skills strength training Feb 28, 2024

I created a core workout below as part of a compilation of quick, 20-minute or less, workouts featured in Runner’s World

This quote is from a runner who, after just ONE session with me, put these concepts into practice before her next run: 

“My gate felt more spacious and had a lot more power to it as well as hip movement. I didn't get any lateral knee pain!!! Back felt great and I was going quite a bit faster as it just felt better.”


What is a strong core for runners?

A strong core is the foundation of running efficiency. While you run, a strong core will help improve your posture to reduce muscle imbalances and minimize stress on the joints. It also kicks up your stability, so you can maintain power and speed. Plus, a strong core helps transfer power from the upper body to the lower body and vice versa…

With a strong core, runners can maintain proper running form for longer periods. This contributes to improved endurance as efficient biomechanics reduce fatigue and allow runners to sustain their pace.

AND the core is a lot more than just your abs!

The core canister includes the pelvic floor, diaphragm, back stabilizers and abs. They work most efficiently when the diaphragm and pelvic floor are well aligned (stacked). The first two exercises below help with the alignment of your core canister (pelvic floor, diaphragm, and abs) so that they can work together most efficiently.

The core is the whole lumbo-pelvic-hip complex. The abs on the top have to work with the hamstrings and adductors on the bottom to create stability. The second two exercises practice that connection. 

Finally, the core is dynamic, we can’t just be bracing the whole time. With each step you are rotating are catching your center of mass over your stance leg. The core (pelvic floor included) needs to be able to respond to this dynamic movement. The last exercise works on that skill.


Give this runner core workout a try:


This workout could stand alone or you use it as a really solid warm up for your run or larger strength session by connecting to all of your core before the larger demands of the workout.


You will need a wall to put your feet on, a mat or pillow to cushion your knees, and a dumbbell.

Work through the first two sets of exercises in pairs. Move directly from the first exercise to the second. Then rest for 1 minute before your second set. Do 2 sets of 8 - 10 reps (or breaths). (All Runner Core Exercises are listed with written instructions below workout!)


Pair  1

All 4s Pelvic Tilts

Nordic Bear Walkout with Wall Reference


Pair 2

Long Lever Bridge with Tricep Extension

Copenhagen Plank With Cross-Connect


For this last exercise, focus on making it dynamic. Give yourself ample time to rest between sets and sides. Do 2 sets of 6 - 8 reps per side.

Step to Fake Chop & Catch



I’ve included cuing for each exercise below and here is a playlist of all the exercises.

Runner Core Exercise 1: All 4s Pelvic Tilts

Set up in the all 4s position with the balls of your feet on the wall. Stack your shoulders over your hands and ground into your hands without locking out your elbows. Begin moving through an anterior pelvic tilt (drop your belly and tilt the pelvic forward creating an arch in your low back) and a posterior pelvic tilt (pull up on the wall with your feet to engage your hamstrings and use the hamstrings not squeezing the glutes to tuck your pelvis back under). You can play with a few different breathing strategies here (see the video for the full breakdown) – inhale with the tuck to release the low back/sacrum (if you tend to live in more of a pelvic tilt), inhale with the arch to release the back of the pelvic floor and find length in your glutes (if you tend to clench your glutes and shove your hips forward), OR exhale as you transition and inhale in both positions for a little of both.


Runner Core Exercise 2: Bear to Nordic Plank Walkout with Wall Reference

Set up in the all 4s position with the balls of your feet on the wall. Stack your shoulders over your hands and ground into your hands without locking out your elbows. Pull up on the wall with your feet to engage your hamstrings and use the hamstrings not squeezing the glutes to tuck your pelvis under to find your stack (ribs over pelvis). Exhale long and slow to reinforce that stack. On the next exhale, walk your hands forward as far as you can go without losing the stack. Inhale as you walk them back in and repeat.


Runner Core Exercise 3: Long Lever Bridge with Tricep Extension

Lay on your back by a wall so that you can put your feet up onto the wall with a larger than 90-degree angle in your knee. Hold a weight in the same hand as the foot on the wall. Set up with a good bridge on the wall first – good 360-degree inhale. Exhale, engage, bring ribs down, pull down on the wall with your feet. Use the proximal hamstrings to tuck your bottom and bridge up slightly from there. On the next exhale, slowly lower the weight over your head and get heavy in your heel. Inhale, bring the weight back up and come up onto the ball of your foot. Repeat moving with your breath.


Runner Core Exercise 4: Copenhagen Plank With Cross-Connect

Set up in a side plank with knees bent and the whole lower leg on an elevated surface. Start with the lower knee on the ground for support. Press into the top leg to engage the adductor and slowly take your weight out of the bottom leg. If you feel comfortable you can lift the bottom leg off the ground and draw the knee up toward your opposite elbow for the cross-connect. Only go as far as you feel comfortable. This is hard! Hold and breathe.


Runner Core Exercise 5: Step to Fake Chop & Catch

Hold a weight or medicine ball out in front of you (for an extra challenge you can hold it over head). Come up onto the balls of your feet. Think “get long.” Let the weight fall to the outside of one leg as you step back slightly with the other. Catch the weight at the outside of that leg as you land in a bit of a kickstand hinge – knees over toes, sternum over knee.


Try this out for yourself, afterwards check out my Runners Lab Masterclass to see how this fits in with a full training strategy! If you love everything about running and want to become a smarter, stronger, and faster runner; Join the waiting list for the women's running academy

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