Tuesday, March 15, 2016

3 Core Strengthening Tips for Runners & More

Developing a strong core is critical for runners (and others as well) not only to maintain stability and balance, but to prevent injuries too. Unfortunately, some runners do not realize the importance of incorporating core strengthening exercises into their routine and they think that having strong legs is enough.

If you want to improve your performance as a runner (or just in general), here are some tips on how to strengthen your core:

(Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)
1.  Before running, make sure you warm up to stretch out your lower back. If your lower back is tight, it will prevent the core muscles from firing properly. Some people encounter reciprocal inhibition and this occurs when a particular muscle group is tight.

Naturally, when one muscle group is tight, it prevents your other muscles from doing their job properly. Warming up prepares your mind and body for a demanding activity but it will also allows you to achieve peak performance. To warm up your lower back, do some spinal twists and forward bends.

2. Practice hip bridges and pelvic tilts to strengthen your core. These two exercises are very easy to do and they are perfect for beginners and people with back problems. They help isolate and strengthen the glutes and hamstrings as well as train your body to engage them when needed.

The hip bridge also improves core and spinal stability. To do this exercise, lie flat on the floor, lift your pelvis and hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds. Do 10 repetitions. If you want it to be more challenging, you can lift up on your toes alternately as if you are marching. For pelvic tilts, get down on your hands and knees and then raise your lower back to the ceiling, while tilting the front of your pelvis towards the floor. Then straighten your back and tilt your pelvis up. Move smoothly and concentrate on using your abs when you flex your pelvis up and forward. Do 10 to 20 reps.

(Image courtesy of phasinphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)
3. Another way to strengthen your core muscles is to do plank exercises. Aside from a flat stomach, planks will help improve your posture. Despite the simplicity of the exercise, doing a ten-minute plank outweighs the benefits of doing abdominal crunches for an hour! (Plus it's much better for your back.)

Start by getting in the push up position. Your forearms and toes should support your weight and make sure your elbows are lined up directly under your shoulders. Keep your neck neutral by looking down on the floor. This prevents placing too much strain on your neck.

Hold the plank for at least 30 seconds, breathing slowly and deeply, and take a 5-second break in between repetitions. Once your core gets stronger, you can hold the position for as long as 1 minute or more.

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