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Training: Core Stability

Core training or core stability is a term you have probably heard a lot. You know you should be doing core stability training, but do you know what it is? Do you know why?

A first key point to make very VERY clear is that core stability has very little to do with 6-pack abs. What I find most important when considering core stability and core strength is that we cannot have strong arms and legs without a strong core. We consider the legs more important for running, but this point is key to understand. If you only do one kind of strength training, core training should be it.

Its easy to do core training at home just using your own body weight, and a few simple pieces of equipment.

What is the core?

If you asked 100 people this question, perhaps 90 of them would point to their belly button, and the others would have a more extensive definition.

Core: The part of something that is central to its existence or character
Core: A complex series of muscles through the trunk of the human body. Everything except the arms and legs.

My core is really aceIn truth the core is involved in almost every movement of the human body. Whilst our legs for example would be a ‘prime mover’ when running, our core is not. We do not run whilst bending our torso, like in a sit-up, for example, but rather our torso remains solid and stable. The core acts as a stabiliser, and to transfer force.

A simple illustration of this can be when we pump our arms extra hard to run uphill. The core transfers this extra momentum to our legs so that we are able to overcome the opposing force of gravity and get up that hill.

The weaker our core, the less able it is to transfer forces effectively, thus energy gets wasted. Weakness in the core can also affect our posture whilst running, again, making our stride less efficient. The more efficient our running is, the faster we go for the same amount of energy.

The stabilisation role of the core can help to protect the spine – crucial for posture, and crucial to prevent injury in the lower back area. A stable core also helps to maintain running form making our run more efficient.

Once the core is good at stabilisation, we can start working on power transfer. When we consider running, our main power centres around the hips.
Whilst core training is easy to do at home, its also easy to do wrong, as you are often in positions where you cannot look in a mirror to correct yourself. It is worth considering personal training to check your technique.  Contact us here.

Core stability exercises:

Dead bug 

This works the Transverse Abdominis (TVA) – our deep core muscle that wraps around the abdomen like a corset. The point of this exercise is that the ball doesn’t move at all.  I use a small cuddly toy sat on top of the ball with my clients so that they can sense when the ball is moving and realise that they need to hold tighter.  It can be very difficult to engage the TVA if your previous core training has involved 100s of sit ups.

Power transfer is another important function of the core, as discussed earlier in this article, power transfer through the core helps us to run faster.  A great exercise to use this function of the core is the kettlebell swing.  It forces us to engage our entire posterior chain to get the kettlebell up in the air, and then, because of momentum, we have to engage our adductors and abdominals to resist the down swing so that we don’t end up like a pretzel!

To learn more about core training to make you a better runner, you can check out I Run Success Coaching HERE.

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Angela Isherwood

Angela Isherwood is the founder of I Run Success
She is a REPs Level 3 Personal Trainer, a Run England Running coach, and a multiple marathon runner. She is a London Marathon Good for Age runner, a Boston Marathon Qualifier, a parkrun Run Director and Trainer for Goodgym Colchester.

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