Runners are always told to strengthen their core. It’s good advice, but many people still assume “core” is synonymous with “abs,” implying that whatever tightens your belly will also make you a stronger runner. The truth is that most traditional core exercises - think planks and situps - don’t translate into the kind of stability needed to fully power your running or protect you from injury.
“The inability to use the deep core muscles is a contributing factor to running injuries. Runners need a better strategy to create stability that supports the demands of running.” says Julie Wiebe, a physical therapist in Los Angeles who specializes in working with athletes.
And that, Wiebe says, is accomplished by getting to the core of your core. Most standard ab exercises emphasize superficial muscles, such as the rectus abdominis (think six-pack abs). While these outer muscles certainly play a role in running, stability starts with a deeper group of muscles often referred to as the “inner core”—the diaphragm, pelvic floor, multifidus, and transversus abdominis (the only ab muscle in the bunch).
Wiebe likes to calls it “the anticipatory core” because these muscles have the ability to turn on and stabilize the body before you even take a step.
“Multiple studies have shown that in a simple arm movement, these core muscles activate before the shoulder muscles that create the movement. These deep muscles have the unique capacity to turn on before movement to control the center of the body.” Wiebe says.
She says studies also show that anticipatory contractions occur in the pelvic floor before heel strike in running. If you’re not engaging your inner core, the outer core lacks a firm foundation to function to its fullest, and you’ll lack the stability to power your running. The result? Greater potential for injury and decreased performance.
Women are more likely to have difficulty activating their inner core muscles, in part because the female pelvic floor is more prone to dysfunction (due to anatomy and poor posture habits or as a result of pregnancy). But men can have issues with this system, too. In both genders, pelvic floor issues can manifest elsewhere in the body, causing pain in the lower back, hip, or knee.
So how do you get your inner core functioning properly? It starts with breathing. When you inhale using your diaphragm (allowing your rib cage to open to the sides and belly to expand) rather than just breathing using your chest, your pelvic floor and transverse abdominis muscles lengthen. When you exhale, your pelvic floor and transverse abdominis recoil. This generates deep tension in your torso - good tension that anchors your core and creates stability when you run.
Wiebe’s strategy starts here, with exercises that teach you how to engage your inner core. Practicing them as regularly as possible will teach your body to actively recruit these muscles and connect them with the outer core, which will eventually carry over to your running. See the exercises below.
2) Ski Jump
3) Towel Pull
4) Weight Shift
5) Reverse Jumping Jack
Sports Action is your one-stop athletic store. Featuring the best selection of footwear, apparel and accessories. Shop now with Free 2-Day Shipping at sportsactionstore.com!
Source: Runner's World (www.runnersworld.com)