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Core Workouts for Runners

Strength Training Guide | Fleet Feet

All Strength Training for Runners

Building a strong core will make you a more efficient runner, but it’s important to work your entire core.

The word “core” is often associated with abdominal muscles, but those washboard abs are only part of the muscle group that make up a runner’s core. Core muscles are any muscles that attach to the spine, from the shoulders all the way down to the hips.

Your core is important because it stabilizes every part of your body when you run. Those muscles improve your balance and help protect you from common running injuries while also keeping the rest of your body from fatiguing too quickly.

Here are some of our favorite core exercises*:

  1. Planks and Plank Walk-Ups
  2. Glute Bridges
  3. Bird Dog
  4. Bicycle Crunches
  5. Plank + Knee to Elbow
  6. Side Plank with a Twist
  7. Double Crunches
  8. Russian Twist
  9. Leg Lifts
  10. Single Leg Glute Bridge
  11. Hip Dips From Elbow Plank

*Start by doing one set of 10-20 reps for each exercise. Work your way up to more reps or sets as you get stronger.

[Looking for more strength training for runners? Check out our guide to leg workouts.]

1. Plank Walk-Ups

A runner demonstrates a plank walkup core workout

Stabilize and strengthen abs, back and shoulders

  • Begin in high plank position with wrists under your shoulders and a flat back.
  • Lower to your forearms, then push back up into a full plank. Continue this motion, and alternate which arm leads the motion. Keep your gaze slightly in front of your hands.

2. Glute Bridges

A runner demonstrates a glute bridge core workout

Improve hip mobility, strengthen glutes and lower back.

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep arms at your side with palms down.
  • Slowly lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Pause at the top to activate your glutes.
  • Keep your head relaxed on the ground and don’t crane your neck.

3. Bird Dog

A runner demonstrates the bird dog core workout

Improve thoracic mobility stability, strengthen your hips

  • Start on all fours, hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under hips.
  • Lift and extend your opposite arm and leg while keeping your back and pelvis stable.
  • Hold for a beat at the top of each extension to activate your core.
  • Alternate sides after each movement.

4. Bicycle Crunches

A runner demonstrates the bicycle crunch core workout

Strengthen abs and obliques

  • Lie on the floor with your lower back pressed down and hands behind your head with elbows out to the side.
  • Engage your abs, lift your head, and leading with the shoulder, bring your right elbow to meet your left knee as you point and extend your right leg.
  • Continually alternate sides.

5. Plank + Knee to Elbow

A runner demonstrates the plank with knee to elbow core workout

Strengthen abs and shoulders, improve hip mobility

  • Starting in a full plank position, engage your abs, lift your left knee, and bring it forward toward your left elbow.
  • Bring it back to the starting position and do the same on the right side, bringing right knee to right elbow.
  • To mix things up and make the movement more dynamic, you can move into a downward dog position after each movement.

6. Side Plank with a Twist

A runner demonstrates a side plank with a twist core workout

Strengthen abs, obliques, shoulders, glutes and quads

  • Get into a side plank position, with feet stacked together and your right forearm directly below your shoulder.
  • Extend the left arm directly above your head.
  • Lower the left arm and rotate your core to move your hand into the space between your side and the ground.
  • Let your gaze follow your hand as you move.
  • Repeat on each side.

7. Double Crunches

A runner demonstrates a double crunch core workout

Engage obliques, hip flexors, abs

  • Lie on your back with legs extended and arms overhead.
  • Contracting your abs, bend your knees and drive them toward your chest.
  • At the same time, slowly curl your upper body to touch your chest to your knees.
  • Return to the start position, raising arms overhead as you go.

8. Russian Twist

A runner demonstrates a Russian twist core exercise

Strengthen obliques, improve balance and support the spine

  • Sit on the floor and raise your legs with knees bent and feet together.
  • Lean back slightly with a straight back, and pull your belly button in toward your spine.
  • Rotate your torso from side to side without moving your legs.

9. Leg Lifts

A runner demonstrates the leg lifts core workout

Strengthen the abs, obliques, hip flexors

  • Lie on the floor with your legs together, straight and lifted in the air.
  • Keep your arms by your sides, palms down and pressed into the ground.
  • Press your lower back into the mat and inhale as you slowly lower your legs.
  • Exhale as you bring your legs back up, always keeping your low back pressed down, legs together and inner thighs engaged.

10. Single Leg Glute Bridge

A runner demonstrates a single leg glute bridge core exercise

Increase the intensity of the regular Glute Bridge.

Improve hip mobility, strengthen glutes and lower back.

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep arms at your side with palms down.
  • Raise one leg, keeping it your quad parallel to the other
  • Slowly lift your hips off the ground until the knee of your grounded leg forms a straight line with your hip and shoulder. Pause at the top to activate your glute.
  • Keep your head relaxed on the ground and don’t crane your neck.

11. Hip Dips from Elbow Plank

A runner demonstrates a plank with hip dips core workout

Strengthen abs, obliques, lower back

  • From an elbow plank position, slowly lower your right hip to hover just above the ground,
  • Return to start position.
  • Lower left hip, return to start.
  • Keep the head and neck relaxed, back flat, adn pull your belly button in toward the spine.

More Core Workouts