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Strengthen Your Stride: Essential Deep Core Exercises for Runners

I'm going to out myself.

I've been TERRIBLE about doing my core exercises for running in the past.


I figured out this ONE key element.

And then everything changed.

Story time:

When I first started running, I was taught core for runners looked like planks.

And side planks.

And a million variations of crunches.

...and ZZZZzzzzzzz.

No, thank you. Gradually, core work became more fun (even enjoyable) once I realized the missing element: to make my core work LOOK like running.

Complete game changer that made me *actually* care about my core strength

Add ANOTHER layer on top things: "deep core"

NO, this is not a pilates blog.

Nor will it become one.

This is going to be a down-and-dirty, honest core blog.

And you gotta be brave to keep going. ;)

Let's go.



3 sets each // HEAVY weights as needed

Bear crawl with alternating leg taps

  • 1 x 20 reps (L is 1, R is 2, etc)

Egg Rolls/Hollow body with 1 leg extended, 1 HK (high knee) (optional arms OH)

  • 2 x 10 (10 R leg extended // 10 L leg extended)

HEAVY OH weighted HK marches

  • 10 marches X HEAVY weight



"Deep core" is just a fancy way of saying transverse abdominus and pelvic floor (gasp!)

MY GUYS: before you click away and think this blog is for mama's only...


Every single HUMAN has a pelvic floor.

Which means, every single runner needs that deep core strength and stability.

Which translates to: you need to be able to

1. activate and then

2. strengthen your transverse abdominus and

3. be willing to practice this contraction and strengthen it.

WHY DO YOU CARE about this deep core?

  1. A common misconception is that your core is only your abs, specfiically your 6 pack muscle.

  2. When in reality, your (argueably) most important core muscle is that transverse abdominus which wraps around your entire middle like corset.

  3. If this muscle is not strong, I don't care how much speed work you do; you're going to flop around like a wavy, wacky, inflatable tube man.

HOW DO YOU activate this deep core?

  • lie on your back with your knees bent OR try it out in the bear crawl postion below.

  • Think about squeezing and actively trying to bring your hips bones together. You'll see in the video that I have my fingers hooked/wrapping inside my hips bones. I'm feeling for that contraction. It feels like a muscle hops or springs up against your finger tips.

  • Patience, grasshopper. Patience and practice.

Bear Crawl with alternating leg taps

  • I know what you're thinking: "NOT MORE BEAR CRAWLS!" I'm sorry I woke up and chose violence today.

  • THE SECRET: a bear crawl is a great core stabilization exercises that involves your upper body push strength and stability, regardless of whether you can feel your transverse abdominus engage or not (so you'll still benefit from it!).

  • This exercise begins to look like running once you incorporate the alternate toe taps. Especially with your TA (Transverse abdominus) engaged, you are asking your body to resist rotation caused by gravity. Gravity wants to spin your hip towards the ground as you take the leg back. Your core, upper body, and remaining leg fight against that rotation. Being able to resist and control this is what earns you the right to run FAST.

Egg Rolls/Hollow body with 1 leg extended, 1 HK (high knee) (optional arms OH)

  • Call this exercise what you want: but HAVE FUN!

  • TOP TRICK: momentum is your friend here and so is a nice thick mat underneath you. This exercise becomes a little more advanced (especially with the TA hold while you do this), but that's no excuse NOT to try.

  • Your core works hard here to keep that rounded shape that allows you to roll back and forth. Bringing one knee to your chest while keeping the other straight mitigates how much your back muscles are allowed to try to take over, in addition to teaching your core how to stay strong in a position that looks like running.

  • Bonus Points: get the kids involved and throwing a ball back and forth (the real reaons for the arms overhead ;) )

HEAVY Weight OH Marches

  • HEAVY means your arms should be on fire and you want to stop.

  • MUST DO: Don't just lift weights overhead. You MUST BE ACTIVELY trying to punch those weights into the ceiling...the entire time. You won't want to. Because it's hard. And that's how you know you're doing it right.

  • What this does: when you actively press that weight overhead and keep your biceps close to your ears, you engage your core (obliques + TA) in a new way. By adding the marching, you now enter a single leg position with contralateral (opposite) hip flexion...which is running.

  • Training your core here is another way to help you earn the RIGHT to run FAST!


If you're still here...You're a brave, dedicated runner.

And you deserve a round of applause.

Core work does not have to be a snooze fest.

And deep core + pelvic floor strength isn't "just a female thing".

(side note: did you know there are PT's who specialize in women's AND men's pelvic floor health? Different PT's for different needs :) )

If you want to earn the right to run fast, you first have to build the foundation to handle it.

Obviously, aerobically; you have to run fast to get fast.

But also, muscularly.

Because without a strong core foundation, you can still be super speedy.

But also super quick to win all the running injuries.

But not you; because you stuck around till the end. ;)

Until next time running fit fam,

Dare to Train Differently,

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //

P.S. looking for more strength exericses that look like running? I got you covered with my FREE strength guide for runners :)

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