Strength training is essential to being a strong runner - keeping the muscles and joints strong and healthy will not only minimize the risk of injury, but it will improve your race times by making you a more efficient runner.
The goal of strengthening your core for running should be focused on the Transverse Abdominus, or deep core muscles that help to stabilize your hips and make your leg muscles more efficient as you propel yourself forward. Having a strong TVA will also help to take the pressure off your lower leg muscles, and help avoid injury.
Double Heel Taps
Lie down on your back on a yoga mat or the floor with your knees bent at 90-degree angle with feet hip distance apart and a neutral spine. Inhale as your raise one bent knee (knee is roughly bent at a 90 degree angle) towards your chest, up above your pelvis. Exhale, pull the abs in, lowering the leg to the floor and tapping your heel (knee is still bent) then switch the two legs, inhaling as you raise the second leg and exhaling as you lower it back to the ground.
Progress this exercise by raising and lowering both legs at once. Once you’ve mastered these, you can add an unstable surface, such as a foam roller placed lengthwise along your spine, with your head on the roller and hips at the end. Repeat for 10 reps and 2 sets.
Lie on your stomach, exhale pull your belly button to your spine, and push your body up, creating a straight line between your heel and your shoulder. Hold 30 to 60 seconds, try to relax shoulders and use abs. Start with 10 to 30 seconds / and build up to 60 seconds (plus), do this 1 to 2x.
Lying down, rotate to one side. Stacking your elbow underneath your shoulder and stacking one leg on top of the other, push up using your oblique muscles on the side closest to the floor. Stack the top arm lengthwise along your body. Hold for 15 seconds to begin, then switch sides, working your way up to holding for 45 seconds to one minute per side.
Running is a full body movement! While the majority of the movement comes from your core, glutes and legs, having a strong upper body will make your running more efficient. In particular, strengthening your lats, triceps and biceps will make for more upright running and ability to engage your core properly.
Using a cable machine, stand in an athletic stance, upright position, tall neutral spine. Set the weight stacks to a weight where you can do 8-15 reps with excellent form and technique. If it starts to feel easy, then you can increase the weight a little bit. Pull arms backwards, but initiate from your back, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Push shoulders low. Draw naval to spine as you exhale. Inhale as you extend your arm. Repeat for 2 sets.
Start by positioning yourself on the floor with your face down, your palms on the floor shoulder-width apart, and the balls of your feet touching the ground. When you're ready to start, push yourself up, keeping your body in a straight line and your elbows pointed to your toes. Squeeze your glutes and pull your belly button toward your spine, which should be in a neutral position. Lower yourself back down. Start with 5 reps, then work your way up to 2 sets of 10. You can regress this exercise by dropping to your knees.
Starting in a standing position, put one foot backward; rise up onto the ball of the rear foot. Distribute weight evenly throughout your lower body. Lower body straight downward, keeping the knee stacked above the ankle (not in front of it) and should stacked over your hips. Inhale on the way down, exhale on the way up. As you push through the front heel, activate the front glute, as the main “agonist” or prime mover. Do not lurch forward, on the way up, nor allow knee to glide forward beyond front toe. Repeat for 10 reps on each leg for 2 sets.
Find a stable platform or box. With your hands at your sides and feet pointed straight ahead about hip distance apart, simply “step-up” onto the box with the right foot. Keep the right heel planted on the platform. Lift your body up onto the platform by pushing into the right heel and engaging the right glute. Try not to use your left foot to push yourself upward. Place the left foot next to the right foot on the box. Keep your upper body upright do not let your knee go past your ankle when elevating yourself up onto the box. Step down with the right foot and follow with the left back to the starting position. Repeat for 10 reps on each leg for 2 sets. If it starts to feel easy, add a dumbbell in each hand.
Lie on floor, knees bent, feet on floor, hip distance apart. Exhale, pull bellybutton to spine. Push hips up towards the ceiling, squeezing your butt muscles and pulling in your abs. Hold 30-60 seconds, then follow with 10-20 thrusters, moving the hips up and down. Pull your abs in, while squeezing your glutes. Progress this exercise by bringing your feet together, and squeezing your knees together. Exhale, pull bellybutton to spine, push your hips up. Squeeze inner thighs and butt muscles. Let abs fall in. Wait 10 seconds then lift one leg – hold for 5 to 30 seconds per leg.
Choose a looped resistance band with the right strength for your level. Band colors indicate the level of resistance and progress, from yellow (easy) to green (moderate) to blue (hard) to black (hardest). Most athletes are able to start with the green band and progress over time. Keeping the band flat, place the band just above each ankle and wrapped around both legs. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. The band should be taut, but not overstretched. Slightly bending your knees into a half squat position to activate your glute medius and keeping your feet in line with your shoulders to evenly distribute your weight, shift your weight over one leg and take a step sideways with the other leg. Move this leg in and out, sideways, for 8 to 10 repetitions in one direction. Try to keep your hips stable, and maintain a low, forward facing posture with a straight back. Keep your hips level during the movement. With this exercise, it helps to maintain a low, forward-facing posture. Your back should be straight, not rounded. Switch direction and do 8-10 reps in the other direction. Repeat for 2 sets, and progress to a heavier band once it starts to feel easy.
Start in a standing position with your feet approximately hips width apart. Engage your core, and pack your shoulder blades back so you’re standing with good posture. Raise both arms above head, and sit back into your heels as though you’re sitting back into a chair. Pause for 2-3 seconds at the bottom, then pushing through your heels again to engage your glutes, return to a standing position, squeezing the glutes at the top. Make sure you are keeping your knees stacked above the ankles, don’t let your knees come in front of your toes. To regress this exercise, use a chair or bench behind you as a guide. Alternatively, you can place a stability ball behind your lower back against a wall, to ensure you are sitting back into your heels, then progress the exercise from there.