Get Core Strength Right for Running

Hey RMA crew!

Welcome to December! The silly season is here. I started early with my mother’s birthday. Have to up my distance this week to make up for the feast! Will had a great time with all the running mums at Sunny Coast. Made me contemplate a sea change. Been a big year! For this week I wanted to talk about core strength for running because these days a lot of people work on core strength by themselves or with their trainers which is excellent but it is important to start with the basics and make sure you get them right. Kind of like building good foundations for your house.

So core strength is pretty important for running because running is so repetetive. If you aren’t stable through back, hips, etc. then you’re going to lose speed, endurance and you WILL get injured. So where to start? First things first you want to understand your core and basically there are four layers of abdominal muscles. The deepest layer is a muscle called transversus abdominus or TA for short. This muscle is shaped like a corset and basically that’s what it does, it stabilises you. Research tells us that if we have any pain or lower back issues, this muscle turns off and it won’t come back on unless we retrain it. So to set it seems simple but technique is really important. First you want to find your neutral spine position. Lie on your back with knees bent, feet resting on the ground. Arch your back forward then back till it flattens on the ground. Then try to find the position mid way between these two positions (a slight natural curve in the lower back). Your shoulder blades are back and down in a good posture position and chin is slightly tucked.

From this position gently draw your stomach toward your backbone and hold for twenty seconds (gently…only about twenty percent). Try to keep the contraction low (below the belly button). If the upper muscles kick in too much this is usually your outer “six pack” layer that likes to overwork. If you want to check you are doing it properly you can push in gently about two centimetres in from the bony wings on the front of your hips. The muscle should bulge slightly at that point when you set it properly. If you are not sure you can get to a health professional to check it with real time ultrasound.

So this is your first step, set the deepest layer in lying. This stomach setting should become the basis of all your strength work exercises. So it’s often “inhale to prepare, set stomach and go”. Once you’ve mastered it with your core strength, you can incorporate it into your running technique. One of the exercises Will and I get people to do in our RIFREV sessions is to jog with stomach set, then half way along let stomach go. Put the computer away and do this now! Notice how as you let belly go, landing is noisier and heavier, you shift more onto heal striking and just feel more sluggish. Stomach is a real key! So core strength 101 guys. Work on it this week by yourself or with your trainer and I will add your progressions when we talk next.

Enjoy your runs everyone!

Paul Trevethan

Running Physio


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