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The 3 *actually* BEST CORE Exercises for Runners

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

ALL runners know we need it.

And most of us hate it.

Because why is core work so *yawn* …

And it's always endless articles suggesting "just do planks!"

Let me make a bet with you.

I believe you, as a runner, are more likely to:

  1. Actually do your core work

  2. And enjoy it (as much as you can)

…if it looks like running and you can SEE without own eyes and FEEL with your body HOW it help you run better, faster, stronger.

Ready to take my wager?

Let's jump in.

8 MINS OR LESS: the 3 *actually* Best Core Exercises for Runners

Core Circuit:

3 rounds; 30 sec each // rest as needed

Hip swivels in a high plank

High plank with HK to contra elbow

Sprinter plank

What Makes these THE BEST?

Easy, they literally look like running.

Think about it: we know cross training is important.

(this means more than simply strength training; this means doing OTHER activities too-yoga, skiing, volleyball, pickleball, whatever!)

And we know other sports can pack a cardio punch too.

But nothing prepares for you a marathon like actually running your long 20+ miler.


Because you need to teach your body HOW to run and handle that load for that amount of time. You are literally preparing your body for the big day.

The same principle applies to ANY of your strength work, and that includes core work.

This is what sets me on my physical therapy + runner soap box:

  • random core exercises strung together and packaged to runners promising crazy awesome results when in reality, it's just what's trendy right now on fitness-IG.

3 Core Exercises: the Method Behind the Madness

Hip swivels in high plank:

  • bringing one knee up into that high knee position places you in a single leg stance (which is running)

  • although both arms are on the floor, you are now in a running/sprinting-into-the-ground position

  • you will feel core activation here (obviously) but more importantly, you'll also work your posterior chain (aka your BACK core). This includes glutes, hamstrings, calves etc

  • BONUS: you work on hip mobility of the back straight leg

High plank with knee to opposite elbow:

  • this one is an oldie but a goodie. You probably already do this one too

  • but now, can you see and feel how this looks like running, especially as your knee touches your opposite elbow?

  • this particular exercise targets your obliques which help create core stability but also act as a loaded spring helping you run faster.

  • you're literally training your core in a way that looks like running so your body can access that strength while you're running

Sprinter's Plank

  • word of advice: go slow at first with this one if you need to and build up your speed

  • as you increase your speed, you build explosive power and train your body's core but more importantly, sequencing (aka training your brain and body to move into and out of the movements of running FAST)

  • while as runners we always want to fun fast, we hardly ever train our bodies to handle the LOAD and the movement of running fast. Injuries happen here; I speak from experience

  • this one challenges your core in 2 different directions (in the sagittal plane and the transverse plane if we're getting really nerdy)

  • this one also literally looks like you're coming out of the blocks, so added benefit-you look cool while you look like your running during your core workout


Your core work doesn't have to take forever.

It just needs to be consistent.

And you need to target the MUST HAVES for RUNNERS when it comes to core work.

Personally: I like a 10min circuit and I do that a couple times a week.

(Mostly because I know I'm too lazy to do a 5 min one every day of the week).

It's all about what works for you, which exercises target your specific weaknesses, and how you fit these into your already busy life.

And just to throw a wrench in here:

  • if you find there's a specific core exercises that when you use it consistently you feel better, run better, and don't get injured but it doesn't look like running, THAT’S OK.

Case in point:

  • my body responds best to up-down planks.

  • think low plank starting on your elbows and transition to planking on your hands and back down again. For 30 secs).

  • It doesn't look like running *exactly* and it's evil and exhausting, but it works on specific weaknesses I have to keep a constant eye on.

You are the expert of your body.

Dare to Train Differently and take what serves you; leave what doesn’t!

And if you have any specific core exercise questions, drop them in the comments!

And until next time, running fit fam…

Dare to Train Differently,

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //

P.S. want to check out some more strength exercises designed specifically for runners so you can run faster, better, stronger, and skip the injuries? Grab your FREE strength guide here!

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