In my last post I answered a reader’s question regarding how to strength train efficiently throughout a running season. As this is a big question I had to write it in two parts and today’s post is all about combing core and strength training for runners.

In our bodies we have muscles that work together, in a sequence where one muscle will fire and then the next, and then the next. This research is fairly new and is led by a man named Tom Myers. If you want to know more beyond what I tell you, start here

I am going to give you the Coles notes on what are called your oblique slings. We have one on the front of our body and one on the back of the body, both of which cross over like a beauty sash would, or a seat belt. Imagine you have two seatbelts on (or two sashes) and they have created an “X” of support running across the front of your body and the back of the body. These are called your posterior (back) and anterior (front) slings.

If I haven’t lost you yet, I want you to try this. Get down into a push up position, this can be from your knees or your toes, and then take one hand and place it behind your back (yes, you are now supporting yourself with one hand). See if you can feel a muscle that is working under the armpit of your stabilizing arm and then connect that muscle to your ribcage, down through your belly button across to your opposite hip and then to your inner thigh. On the back side, see if you can feel a connection from your stabilizing shoulder blade to your opposite butt muscle. Those are your slings.

Now that we have that figured out, here are a few exercises to help improve the functions of your muscles, as well as the strength of your muscles, both of which will help you run more efficiently. There are so many exercises I could prescribe but here are three of my favourites that you can add into your routine you are already doing.

Runner’s lunge with a cable row
Here is a great exercise to build the strength of your running muscles while targeting your oblique slings.  Begin in a lunge position with your left foot back and right foot forward and an exercise band or cable in your left hand. Pull the cable towards you while at the same time driving your left knee up so you are now balancing on one leg. Slowly release your hand at the same speed as you place your leg behind you.  When pulling and pushing, focus on the connection between your pulling arm and stabilizing leg both through the front and the back of the body. Do 20 and then repeat on the other side.

Single leg dead lift with a dumbbell row
This exercise will work the same muscle patterns but in a different position. I love this one because it works hamstring flexibility and hip extension. Stand on one leg with a dumbbell in each hand. Slowly hinge your upper body towards the floor, lifting your left leg off the floor and towards the ceiling. When you have lowered yourself as low as you can (as soon as you feel the need to round your spine you have gone too far) row the weights up to your hip and back down before standing up tall. Repeat 20 times.  Keep your back straight, your core engaged and your shoulder blades snug along your spine.

Plank Row with a Rotation
Another one of my favourite exercises because it targets so many muscles systems in the body. Start in a high plank position with a dumbbell beside your left hand. Pick up the weight with your left hand without allowing your body to shift and row it towards the base of your ribs. Once it is there, rotate your body (from your feet all the way to your shoulders) and press the weight up to the ceiling leading with your elbow. Focus on feeling your ribs rotating through your stabilizing shoulder. Hold for 5 seconds and then bring the weight back to your ribs, as you rotate your body towards the floor and place the weight down. Repeat 4 times allowing a rest in between each set if you need it. 

Adding these few exercises into a routine of lunges, squats, pushups and planks will help make you stronger and faster while you are outside pounding away on the pavement.