Core exercises for runners

Apr 4, 2020

A strong core can go a long way to improving your running form and preventing injuries. It’s important for runners to include functional exercises that mimic the movements your body makes while running.

The following exercises are very effective and can be done together as a core workout, or you can select a few and add them to the end of your other strength sessions. If doing them together, it’s recommended to do the exercises in a circuit.

It’s recommended to keep your core strength training to no more than 30 minutes at a time, as your core will begin tiring after this time.

Alternating leg crunch

Works upper and lower abs and hip flexors

  • Lie on your back on a mat with your knees bent
  • Bring your right leg all the way up while twisting the left side of your body and bringing your left elbow to touch your right knee.
  • Remember to breathe out on your way up and breathe in on your way down.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.
  • Complete 20 reps. Repeat on the opposite side.
  • Start with 3 sets, progressing to 4 sets

alternating leg crunch


Works abs, back, arms

  • Start by lying on your stomach.
  • Lift your body off the floor placing you weight on your forearms and toes.
  • Ensure that your elbows are in line with your shoulder.
  • Your back must be straight (parallel with the floor), not dipped and not lifted too high.

However if you have back problems, you can lift your back slightly.

  • Your head should be facing the floor.
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds to one minute.
  • Repeat 3 to 4 times.

For beginners

  • Follow the same as the above but place your knees on the floor

Plank - correct form

Mistakes made while doing a plank

  • Do not lift your head and look forward look forward. This will put pressure on the discs in your back.
  • Do not lift your back too high either.
  • Do not drop your back. Many people do this when they get tired.

Plank - incorrect form

The following exercises can be done using a function cable row machine at the gym or by using a band attached to a railing.

Lunge with one arm row

Works glutes, quads, core and legs

  • Stand with your back to the machine/railing, holding the cable/band in your right hand.
  • Step forward with your left leg while pushing your right arm forward, focusing on your core.
  • Make sure your body faces forward throughout the exercise and doesn’t twist. Land with a flat foot.
  • Complete 20 reps and repeat on the opposite side.
  • Do 3 sets, progressing to 4.

Lunge and one arm row

Reverse lunge with one arm row

Works core, glute, quads, shoulders and arms

  • Standing facing the machine/railing, feet slightly apart and hold the cable/band in your right hand.
  • Your left arm should be stretched forward. This will help give your body direction and keep you straight.
  • Lunge backward with your right leg, stretching your right arm forward and bringing your left arm back.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Complete 20 reps and repeat on the other side.
  • Do 3 sets, progressing to 4.

Reverse lunge with one arm row

Side lunge with band row

Works core, quads and arms

  • Stand with the machine/railing on your righthand side.
  • Legs together, both arms straight to the side and holding the cable/band.
  • Step to the side, making sure that both feet are facing forward.
  • Keeping your arms straight, twist with your shoulders to the opposite side, focusing on your core.
  • Return to the starting position. It’s important to note that your hips need to be straight throughout the exercise.
  • Complete 20 reps and repeat on the other side.
  • Do 3 sets, progressing to 4.

Side lunge with band row

Exercises prepared by Tumelo Mosia

Tumelo is a certified personal trainer, working out of the Virgin Active in Randburg, Johannesburg. He specialises in sports specific conditioning, weight loss and general toning. Tumelo is also an avid runner who has achieved numerous sub-3 marathons and is a silver Comrades medallist. Read  more about Tumelo

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