What Is The Core?
There are 29 core muscles in total. They are most easily defined as five groups of muscles:
- The abdominals, abs or six pack – think Peter Andre (in the Mysterious Girl video, not the Iceland ad, that’s a different type of six pack)
- The obliques – these are the muscles on the sides of your belly. Cricketers stretch, and sometimes sprain, these when they are bowling
- The lower back – that’s all of your back muscles below your rib cage and above your bum
- The glutes – your bum
- The hip flexors – these are the muscles that connect your hips to your upper leg
Why Have You Lumped All These Muscle Groups Together?
When you run your limbs work separately (if they worked as one, you’d be a kangaroo). However, your core muscles work in unison to allow you to breathe. They also perform the twisting motion to allow your legs to move – so we treat them as a team.
Why Is The Core Important To Running?
Having a strong core will help you avoid injuries. If you’ve got the inclination, you can research studies which have linked pretty much every common running injury to a weakness in the core. Have you ever improved your running, set some impressive PBs and then got injured? This may have been because your legs were running more quickly than your body was ready and able to deal with.
The core will also keep you balanced. If you’ve got any designs on trail running or cross country running then you will need to build up the core muscles to keep you upright on these surfaces. If you don’t improve the core, then your legs will usually do this job. However, asking your legs to perform this task will mean they stop doing the task of moving forward quickly and this will slow you down.
Right. I’m With You. So How Do I Strengthen My Core?
I’m very glad you asked. Lots of people make the mistake of thinking sit-ups will give them a strong core. This will only do part of the job. Remember how we talked about the core muscles being a team? Strengthening one part of the team will only get you so far, strengthening the whole team will bring you major success – just ask Pep Guardiola. Therefore when you chose a core workout programme it should include the following movements:
- Trunk flexion. This means bending your trunk forwards. Sit ups are ok for this one.
- Trunk rotation. This means rotating or twisting your trunk. If you do twist sit ups you’ll tick off trunk rotation and trunk flexion too.
- Trunk extension. This means bending your trunk backwards by doing exercises like back raises.
- Hip extension – extending your leg backwards from the hip. Search ‘donkey kick hip extension’.
- Hip flexion – bringing your knee up to your chest. Google ‘plank mountain climber’, or ‘floor sliding mountain climbers’ if you fancy something more fun and have access to laminate flooring.
By performing each of the five movements outlined above you’ll work each of the five muscle groups I outlined earlier and strengthen the whole core team. When we’re working on Core Strength as part of the We Run Virtual Running Club, the workouts prescribed by our Strength & Conditioning Coach will address all elements of core strength, helping you build a solid base. If you work 1-2-1 with a We Run Coach, they will also be able to help you come up with a routine to help improve your core strength.