| Jul 01, 2014
What does core strength have to do with running? Where is your core? And the big question: to plank or not to plank?
If you’ve been reading recent running articles, you will know that strengthening your core is one of the keys to stronger running. You will also have been introduced to a range of core exercises including the ever popular ‘plank’. Then just as you’ve perfected your plank series you spy another blog which says you’ve been wasting your time and it’s all about ‘dynamic core’. Wondering just how you decipher all these messages and make it work for you?
The simple truth is that core strength is essential in running. It helps you to maintain the body alignment necessary for good running form. Core strengthening targets the muscles responsible for stabilising your back, pelvis and hips while you are running and this can also help you to avoid many common knee, hip and foot injuries.
So what exactly are your core muscles? Well, sadly they are not the abdominal muscles that will give you that great six pack! Your core muscles are made up of your deeper stabilising muscles which sit close to the spine and form a kind of ‘corset’ to support your spine. The key muscles involved are your tranversus abdominis (the deepest abdominal muscle) and the pelvic floor. For runners it is also important to include the muscles around your hips – the abductors, adductors and external rotators.
So now to the big question: Should you plank?
Planks are not particularly relevant to running as they are a very static core exercise. However, provided that you first learn to use your core muscles effectively and then to perform your plank correctly, it can add variety and challenge to your core workout. If you do want to plank, look out for some of the more dynamic variations which are targeted to running.
Dynamic core strengthening is the current buzz word for runners since you want your core to work while you are running not only while you are standing still. But as with the plank, many dynamic core exercises are advanced work and if you have not first learned to use your core at the most basic level, you risk using the wrong muscles and ultimately incurring injuries.
So the key message is ‘get your core working for you correctly and the rest will follow’. Pilates training is an excellent first step in getting acquainted with your core. With a stable core you will have better posture, you will be less likely to get injured and you will be a stronger runner!
Shena Dale, Physiotherapist – Dale Physiotherapy – Physiotherapy for runners by runners. www.facebook.com/dalephysio - Consultant Physio at Lime Physical Therapy