Strengthen Your Core!
Build core strength to guard against injury and boost your power. – By Paul Hobrough
The issue: A weak core
It’s a curse of modern living that most positions you find yourself in during the day do not benefit your core muscles. Sitting at a desk, driving, standing around chatting – for most of us there are very few moments when we have perfect posture and engaged abdominal muscles.
How it affects your form
A weak core reduces you ability to utilise the strength you’ve developed in training, because you lose the connection between the central body mass and the extremities. It’s like using a door with a broken hinge – it doesn’t move very efficiently and those parts that are working are overstressed and likely to break.
A lack of core strength will also compromise your ability to maintain level hips, affecting your knee control and increasing your risk of developing a wide range of injuries, such as runner’s knee, shin splints, calf tears and high hamstring tendinopathy. In fact, a weak and ineffective core may be the root cause of just about every running-related injury.
Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your fingertips over the bony outcrops on the front of your pelvis, then slide them an inch inward and an inch downward. Now cough and you’ll be able to feel the muscles that travel diagonally toward your groin on each side. These are your transverse abdominus (TA) muscles. Tighten them by imagining you’re going to the toilet and then stopping the flow.
With these muscles engaged, draw in your belly button toward your spine and slightly flatten your lower back toward the floor. Keeping your fingertips over the TAs on both sides, slowly ‘march’ your legs up (about three inches) and down, while feeling for any loss of tension or shift in tension between left and right. If you can manage 25 leg lifts on each side with perfectly tensed TAs, you have core strength. If not, you need to do some work.
Start by performing the test above. Aim for three sets of 25 reps each day. Then move on to the moves below.
1. Runner’s side plank
Lie on your right side and prop up your upper body using your right arm. Engage your core and raise your hips until you body forms a line from ankles to shoulder. Flex at the hip and lift your lower leg, in a ‘running’ motion. Hold for five seconds. Repeat 10 times on each leg, then do the move on the other side.
2. Stability ball bridge
Lie on your back, legs raised, heels resting on a stability ball. Lift your hips, maintaining a straight line from shoulders to feet. Try to lift one leg off the ball and keep your balance. Do three sets of 25 daily. To make the move more difficult, fold your arms. Build this move and the side plank into your daily routine.