It can be fun to work your core because you get to experience that satisfying after-burn in your torso—but having a strong mid-section is actually important to your overall strength (even including how well you move). “It helps you be a better runner, a faster runner, and a better athlete overall,” says Nike Master Trainer and run coach Traci Copeland, who is bringing us a runner core workout that’ll actually benefit every type of fitness fan.
“Your core is essential for everything that you do, because it helps to stabilize your pelvis, your hips, and your lower back, so you have to have core strength to keep you nice and lifted,” says Copeland in this week’s episode of Good Moves. One of the best parts about training your abs muscles is that you are usually strengthening other muscles as you do so. “The great thing about your core is that you’re not just training it by itself—it’s usually being trained along with your hip flexors, or your abductors,” says Copeland, nodding to just two examples.
Ready to strengthen your abs (and your hips, your legs, and your arms)? Keep scrolling for Copeland’s workout, which you can do wherever you are—all you’ll need is a mat and a dumbbell (though you can do it without a weight).
Try this circuit of core exercises for runners
Cycle through three rounds of the moves below, and do each move for 30 seconds.
Rainbow: Seated on the mat, take your hands behind your hips, knees bent, and feet lifted off of the ground. Lift your legs up and around, moving them side to side in a rainbow shape. If you’re feeling up for a challenge, you can straighten your legs, or you can keep them slightly bent if you want to pace yourself. Keep your lower abs pulled in as you move back and forth.
Side plank with leg lift—right: Come onto your forearm, making it parallel to the front of your mat. Stack your feet as you place your body in a straight line, stack your feet, and lift your top arm all the way up. Once you’re stable, keep your core engaged as you lift that top leg up and down. Make sure you’re not sagging in the bottom hip, and keep your hips completely stacked. If the leg lift is too much, you can do an isometric hold in the side plank. For added intensity, you can hold a weight in your top hand.
Switch to do a side plank on the other side.
Flutter kick: Lying on your back, put your hands behind your head and lift your legs off of the ground. Keep your lower abs connected, then kick both legs up one after the other towards the sky. If you feel an arch in the lower back, you can bring your hands underneath your glutes. Keep your neck lifted.
Forearm plank + side step: Come onto your forearms into a forearm plank, elbows underneath your shoulders and back straight. Tap your right leg out to the right, bring it in, then tap your left leg out, and switch. Make sure your hips aren’t too high or low, and keep extra pressure off of your lower back.
Weighted wood chop—right: In a seated position with your legs in front of you, grab a dumbbell and twist to your right hip, then explode it overhead to your left side on a diagonal. Keep your abs drawn in and bring the weight slowly down, then explode back up. If the weight is too intense, you can do the exercise without it.
Switch sides, doing a weighted wood chop on the left. Then go through the entire cycle two more times.