Fire Up Your Core Before Your Next Run With This Quick Activation

Kiera Carter |

Your core is the stabilising centre of your body. It keeps you standing, as well as sprinting, and it can make or break your speed goals, or prevent (or contribute to!) an injury. So on the quest to improve your core strength and stability, you might consider adding lower ab workouts to your routine.

That’s why Lindsey Clayton, co-founder of the Brave Body project, designed this lower ab workout with runners in mind. But before we get to those lower ab exercises, it’s important to note, that there isn’t a specific way to isolate and train your lower abs—that’s actually a common misconception about your core.

“Your core is comprised of the rectus abdominis, which runs down the front of your body and creates that ‘six-pack’ effect; your obliques (side abs); your erector spinae, which runs up your back; and your transverse abdominis (the deep core muscles located under those six-pack muscles),” says Clayton. “When people point to the lower part of their stomach and say their ‘lower abs,’ they’re typically just referring to their rectus abdominis, and you can’t only work the lower part in isolation.”

But practicing these ab exercises can help you achieve the results you desire. That said, there are plenty of core exercises—both creative and classic—that engage your rectus abdominis, including your lower abs, and make you a stronger runner.

Your core is the stabilising center of your body. It keeps you standing, as well as sprinting, and it can make or break your speed goals

“While it’s important to work your whole core for a balanced body, there are certain exercises that utilise the lower part of the rectus abdominis,” Clayton says. “These ‘lower abs’ exercises are great for runners because they often involve driving your knee up towards your core, simulating the motion of running.” One example: mountain climbers.

How to use this list: Clayton suggests doing each exercise in the lower abs workout below for 30 to 45 seconds before every run as a warm-up, doing just one round. “This will fire up your muscles so they’re active when you need them most,” Clayton says. If you want to do them as a workout on their own, go for two or three rounds.

Clayton demonstrates each exercise so you can learn the proper form. You will need a mat and a set of sliders. Two hand towels or paper plates will work, too.

Downward Dog Split to Elbow Knee Hold

Why it works: This is a full-body exercise that mainly targets your deep core muscles. By practising this exercise in a lower ab workout, you will build a strong core which serves as a base for all runners, says Clayton.

How to do it: Start in a high plank position then send hips up and back into a downward dog position, pressing hands into the floor. Lift right leg straight into the air, then drive right knee to touch right elbow as you shift weight forward to hands and into a plank position. Return to downward dog with both feet and repeat with left leg. Continue alternating.

Side Plank With Reach-Through

Why it works: Hit your core from every angle in this rotational motion, which strengthens your rectus abdominis (top layer of abs), and your transverse abdominis (underlying core muscles), as well as your obliques (sides of your torso).

How to do it: Start in a side plank with left forearm on the floor, elbow under shoulder, feet, knees, and hips stacked, and hips lifted so the body forms one long, straight line. Extend right arm up to the ceiling. This is your starting position. Draw the right hand down and reach it below the left underarm as you curl your upper body forward so your shoulders are parallel to the floor. Return to starting position. Repeat for 30 seconds. Then switch sides.

Slider Plank to Pike

Why it works: To maximise results, avoid letting your stomach push out or back arch while performing this lower ab exercise, Clayton says. Instead, focus on pulling your abs up towards your spine to lift your hips. This is a challenging exercise that really fires up the core.

How to do it: On hardwood or tiled floor, place feet on two sliders (or towels) and get into a forearm plank position (elbows under shoulders, core, including glutes engaged). Using core, lift hips up to pike, sliding feet forward and pulling the belly button in toward the spine. Slide back to lower hips back to plank position. Repeat.

Slider Bear Plank

Why it works: This move can help runners build the ultimate core because it targets the transverse abdominis, obliques, and rectus abdominis. What’s more, Clayton says, by enhancing this exercise with sliders, runners can really fire up their primary stabilising muscles and strengthen their lower abs.

How to do it: On hardwood or tiled floor, place feet on two sliders and assume a high plank position (hands under shoulders, soft bend in elbows, core including glutes engaged). Pull feet in toward chest, bending knees until you’re in a bear plank, knees right below hips, but still lifted off the floor. Slowly push your feet back to the high plank. Repeat. To make it easier, move one leg at a time.

Hollow Hold to Knee Tuck

Why it works: This exercise will challenge a runner’s stability and balance while firing up those deep core and lower ab muscles. Again, avoid arching your back while practicing this move and think about hitting a nice, tall posture at the top.

How to do it: Start lying faceup on the mat. Lift head, shoulder blades, and feet off the floor as you extend arms straight out, down by sides. The neck should be relaxed, not strained. This is your hollow hold. Next, engage abs to lift chest toward legs as you bend knees in toward chest, shins parallel to the floor. Slowly lower back down to a hollow hold position and repeat.

Straight Leg Hip Lift

Why it works: This is another exercise that targets your deep core muscles, training you to use your core to lift your hips, says Clayton. You’ll definitely feel this one in your core, especially the lower abs.

How to do it: Lie faceup with feet flexed in the air so hips create a 90-degree angle. Extends arms down on the mat by sides. Use the core to pulse legs straight up towards the ceiling, lifting butt off the floor and pushing weight into hands. Think about stamping the bottom of your shoes on the ceiling and avoiding using momentum to swing your legs forward and up. Lower hips back to the floor. Repeat.

Diagonal Mountain Climber

Why it works: Practicing this move will help you strengthen more than those lower abs—it will also help improve running power, efficiency, and posture.

How to do it: Start in a high plank position with hands under shoulders, soft bend in elbows, and core and butt engaged. Draw right knee to left elbow. Return to high plank position. Draw left knee to right elbow. Return to plank position. Continue alternating. Increase speed for more cardio.


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