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3 Anti-Dead Bug Core Exercises for Runners: Run Better, Stronger, Faster

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

This is NOT your typical core strength circuit.

But you NEED it.

Because here's the REAL SECRET:

Your core is only as strong as your upper body.


You may be able to hold a 2minute plank and do a billion and one dead bugs

...and still have horrendous running form or get injured.

Because here's another knowledge bomb:

Excellent core and upper body strength is what sets apart the injury prone runners from the injury resistant runners.

The good news: 3 core exercises is all it takes. least 3 effective core exercises designed specifically for runners.

Story Time:

Have you ever felt like a wavy, wacky, inflatable tube-man you might see outside a car dealership?

I've had this unfortunate, exact experience while (attempting to) zip around the track on a speed day.

The result?

  • Really cruddy running form as I fatigued

  • aggravating an old, right groin injury

  • and feeling really, really uncoordinated because I could feel my running sequencing deteriorating (the ability to coordinate and control my upper body and lower body into the motion of running)

Whether you're looking for a new PR or maybe you want to up your prehab game to avoid having to cancel yet another marathon, it's time to get serious about your core exercises.

Let's jump in.

3 Core Exercises for Runners: the ones you didn't see coming


2-3 rounds // 2x a week

Elongated runner's lunge with halos

  • 6 clock wise + 6 counter clockwise

  • R and L leg

Elongated runner's lunge unilateral OH press

  • 12 reps on one side; switch leading leg to also switch arm

Runner's lunge row

  • 12 reps; switch leading leg to also switch arms

How Are These Core Exercises for Runners?

Elongated runner's lunge with halos

  • Can you see how this being in this lunge position looks like running?

  • the reason I LOVE this core exercise for runners is it challenges your core with movement; as you move the weight around your head, you'll feel the opposite side of your core working hard to hold you upright.

  • Your core has to work in a very similar way when you're kicking it into high gear during a race. By training your core with a weight basically overhead, you are injury-proofing your body against any high-speed or fatigue-induced injuries.

Elongated runner's lunge unilateral OH press

  • Same leg position, so same question: can you see how this puts you in a position that looks like running?

  • Your core is SO much more than than a 6 pack. It *genuinely* extends from your shoulders down into your hips.

  • Imagine the wavy, wacky, inflatable tube-man. The reason it's so flimsy is a complete lack of "core strength" and stability through it's entire torso! You do NOT want this to be you as you're pushing the last 5 miles of you marathon.

Runner's lunge row

  • starting to notice a pattern of positions looking like you're running?

  • Shoulder strength is the BIGGEST core secret runner's don't know about.

  • Without it, your shoulder hunch forward and collapse as you start to fatigue. Then your core follows and gets sloppy. And before you know it, you're shuffling instead of running tall.

  • By expanding your definition of "Core exercises for running" you open yourself up for faster times and fewer injuries.


No deadbugs in sight, right? ;)

Not that your basic planks or leg raises aren't effective exercises, or even "bad" exercises.

But I've seen too many runners put they're entire trust into a 30sec plank and then wonder why they keep getting injured and or why they struggle to push pass a certain mileage.

Running is a full body movement and your corresponding strength and core exercises should reflect that.

Need a little more convincing?

Some of my fastest, most effortless runs have been the day after a shoulder or chest strength day.

There was one particular run while I was still in physical therapy school. I had increased the weight on the lat pull down and the following day on my run, my lats (a large, expansive back muscle) were pretty tight...

but my running posture was golden and the miles just flew by.

All because I dared to train differently and chose to strengthen my core in an "un-traditional" way for a runner ;)

What do you say?

Ready to Dare to Train Differently?

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //

P.S. if you're looking for some more strength exercises, I've got you covered! click HERE for a FREE strength guide for runners :)

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