Ab Strength and Running

This is the fourth blog post in a series about how each major muscle group in your body plays a roll in your running. Strength throughout our body has the benefit of increasing our efficiency as runners and reducing the risk of injury. Your abdominals are part of a bigger system called your core. The muscles that make up your core run from the bottom of your rib cage to mid thigh. I want to address each section individually because the exercises for each are different. Those that are the same, I’ll note that they contribute to the others and not repeat them in the other core posts.
Abdominal strength is important in our daily lives and for our running. Abs and lower back work together to maintain our posture and reduce the risk of injury and chronic back pain in our overall life. As a runner, your abdominal muscles, including obiques, lower and upper abs, stabilize your body and reduce rotation of the upper body, which can throw off your alignment from your hips down to your toes.
Our running form is what makes us more efficient runners by reducing the energy output for every step we take. This is going to increase your speed and ability to run longer distance, thus helping both short distance (half marathon and lower) along with longer distance runners (marathon and up). We all know that between 65 and 80% of runners end up injured each year. This can be injuries that require a week off or months off. There are a lot of factors that go into how injuries occur and what you can do to reduce the risk of them and strength training is a big part of it.
Your abdominals don’t run the same risk of getting big and bulky as your legs, shoulders and arms do. The exercises here will keep your abs tight, lean and strong rather than building them out. While you are performing these, focus on pulling your belly button through to your back. These can be performed in a superset with three sets of the repetition range. You need to keep your back pretty flat on the ground when performing abdominal exercises. There should be no more space than your hand between your lower back and the floor.
  1. Twisting crunch with or without weighted ball or dumbbell 3x 50- 100.
  2. Modified bicycle 3x 20-100 (half each side)
  3. Leg lowers with or without a weighted ball between your feet or knees10-15
  4. Planks 3x 30-90 seconds
  5. Window wipers 3x 10-20 each side.
How To:
  1. Twisting crunch: sit down on the floor with your knees up. Lift your legs to a 90 degree angle and cross your ankles, if this is too hard start with them on the floor. Switch legs on the crossed ankles half way through. Hold a weighted ball or dumbbell and twist to touch it to the ground on each side at your hip. If the weight is too much, start without.
  2. Modified bicycle: lay on your back pull one leg up with your knee bent at a 90 degree angle. Your hip and the same leg should be at 90 as well. Hold your other leg out straight about 2-3 inches off the floor. You can set your hands on your stomach to make it harder or on the floor next to you for added stability. Hold that position for 3-5 second and then switch.
  3. Leg lowers: Lay on your back with your legs up at 90 degrees with your hips. Hold a weighted ball between your feet (harder) or knees and lower your legs until they are 2-3 inches off the floor. Bring them back up until the are at 90 degrees with your hips.
  4. Planks: get on your hands and knees. Stretch your legs out behind you, staying up on your toes. Keep your body lifted off the floor and straight as a board. You can lower yourself to your forearms or lift opposite arm and leg to make this more difficult.
  5. Window wipers: Lay on your back. Hold your legs up at a 90 degree angle with your hips. Lower your legs toward the ground at your side keeping them straight. Don’t touch the ground with your feet. Keep them 2-3 inches off the floor.
I know these posts might seem overwhelming to some. Don’t freak out on me. I’m going to make this simple when we get through each section. Start working these into your training as soon as you can, even before we complete this series, so you can start reducing your risk of injury sooner and give you body time to start building.

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