Core Activation, Mobility & Strength Exercises To Elevate Your Running Performance To The Next Level

Did you know that your TA is the deepest ab muscle? YES! Your TA (transverse abdominis) connects your pelvis, your abs, and your lower ribs. It is the part of your body that ties your upper and lower body together!

To activate a muscle, it’s essential to perform core activation drills before you work on strengthening your hips and your core. Otherwise, other muscles overcompensate, muscular imbalances can occur, and we’ll never fully experience our true running potential.

My top go-to activation drill for my core is static & dynamic beast holds.

This tight and compact position focuses your deep core activation. Just think INTERNAL SPANX!

Hold the drill as shown for 30-60 seconds for three rounds at a time, leaving minimal rest between all three rounds. You can perform this core activation drill daily or before your runs to maximize the benefits of doing them!

The benefits include:

  • Enhancing your ability to maintain good posture and running form
  • Learning how to eliminate overstriding while running
  • Maximizing your running speed with proper running mechanics
  • Improving your ability to move your significant joints thoroughly and adequately for life

Activating your core can change the way you move, literally.

After activating your core, you need to work on the surrounding major muscle groups that assist your daily movement and runs.

Here are my top 3 total body mobility drills for runners:

1) Knee hugs

Doing a knee-to-chest stretch can help elongate the lower back, relieving tension and pain.

To perform the knee-to-chest stretch:

  • Lie on the back on the floor.
  • Bend the knees, keeping both feet flat on the floor.
  • Use both hands to pull one knee toward the chest.
  • Hold the knee against the trunk for 5 seconds, keeping the abdominals tight and pressing the spine into the floor.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Repeat with the opposite leg.

2) Diaphragmatic breathing to work pelvic tilt

The pelvic tilt exercise can release tight back muscles and keep them flexible.

To perform this lower back flexibility exercise:

  • Lie back on the floor with knees bent and feet flat, keeping the arms by the sides.
  • Gently arch the lower back and push the stomach out.
  • Hold for 5 seconds, then relax.
  • Flatten the back and pull the belly button in toward the floor.
  • Hold for 5 seconds, then relax.
  • Increase the number of repetitions daily, building up to 30.

3) Rotational, alternating low-back drill

The lower back rotational stretch can help relieve tension in the lower back and trunk. It also gently works the core muscles to improve stability.

To perform the lower back rotational stretch:

  • Lie back on the floor with bent knees and feet flat on the ground.
  • Keeping the shoulders firmly on the floor, gently roll both bent knees over one side.
  • Hold the position for 5–10 seconds.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Gently roll the bent knees over to the opposite side, hold, and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat 2–3 times on each side twice a day.

After mobilizing most of your joints through the three drills performed above, you’re now ready to start working on balance and stability, in addition to strengthening these muscles as well.

Here are my top 3 beginner core exercises to perform daily after your activation and mobility core drills above:

1) Bridges

Bridges work a person’s glutes, which is the large muscle of the butt. People engage this muscle when they move their hips, particularly when they bend into a squat.The glute max is one of the essential muscles in the body, and keeping it strong can help support the lower back.

To perform a bridge:

  • Lie on the ground and bend the knees, placing the feet flat on the floor hip-width apart.
  • Press the feet into the floor, keeping the arms by the sides.
  • Raise the buttocks off the ground until the body forms straight from the shoulders to the knees.
  • Squeeze the buttocks with the shoulders remaining on the floor.
  • Lower the buttocks to the ground and rest for a few seconds.
  • Repeat 15 times and then rest for 1 minute.
  • Do three sets of 15 repetitions.

2) Supermans

A person needs strong back extensors to maintain good posture. Weak back extensors can reduce spinal and pelvic support, but a “Superman” exercise can help.

To perform a Superman:

  • Lie face down on the ground and stretch both arms out in front of the body, keeping the legs stretched out and flat on the floor.
  • Raise both the hands and feet, aiming to create a gap of about 6 inches between them and the floor.
  • Try to pull in the belly button, lifting it off the floor to engage the core muscles.
  • Keep the head straight and look at the floor to avoid neck injury.
  • Stretch the hands and feet outward as far as possible.
  • Hold the position for 2 seconds.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Repeat ten times.

3) Kettlebell carries (one hand at a time switching weight)

Carries train the lower and upper back, legs, shoulders, and deep stabilizers in your core. This exercise can also facilitate great form and work your grip strength, biceps, and triceps. Expect toned shoulders, legs, toned butt, better posture, and forearms. These generate balance by stabilizing your spine with a stronger core.

This multi-purpose exercise improves core strength, emphasizing oblique strength. This exercise develops stability in your lower back and spine. With stronger obliques, you increase your body’s efficiency to resist excessive rotation in your torso. You also develop the core strength ultimately to keep your torso aligned with your hips, as a ligament connects your obliques muscles to your pelvis. Your pelvis ties the upper and lower bodies together, moving in synchrony with strength and alignment from this drill.

  • Pick up one kettlebell with one hand, keeping both shoulder blades down and back with a contracted abdomen, tucking your tailbone under as far as possible. Do not pick up a weight with a rounded back!
  • Use your other arm and hold it out to the side as shown to counter-balance you as you walk around for 30-60 seconds with the weight in one hand.
  • Repeat for 30-60 seconds with the weight; on the other hand, switch the consequences immediately after each set.
  • Gently place the kettlebell down on the ground with proper form, the same way you picked it up off of the ground before completing this exercise.
  • Perform two sets a day, 5-6 days a week.

What You Should Now Know

Anyone experiencing lower back pain with these exercises should consult a physician. I am not one. Thank you in advance!

Performing drills and exercises in the proper sequence can improve your running performance. This will happen by enhancing your core efficiency by performing these drills shown consistently. This strength will translate to your runs as you continually do them in your training routine!

Disclaimer: I am not a Doctor, and this should not be considered medical advice. You should seek appropriate expertise from a Doctor for your situation. And please note, this post is directed towards runners looking to improve running form while running injury-free.

Please leave your comments, suggestions, and questions in the comments.

It’s time to keep you running happy® for good!

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