Strengthen the Entire Core with Fun and Unique Exercises

Have you become bored with core exercises and find you don’t do them as often as you should? I’ve been plagued by the same challenge and have recently found a viable solution that I’m actually sticking to and seeing results.

A strong core is essential to peak running performance and involves more than just the abs.  The deep core muscles are especially important to good form and can make you more efficient.  In addition to stabilizing your body, a strong core can protect runners from pain as many injuries can be traced back to a weak core. The best core exercises are ultimately the ones you will consistently do which is much easier when you find ones you enjoy.

If you are a runner, you likely enjoy running and may only want to run.  Many, like myself, know a stronger core would benefit their running, but still lack the motivation to be consistent.  Read on if you need some additional motivation to keep to a regular program or want some new ideas to spice up your current routine.

Benefits of a strong core

A strong core is key to running well and preventing injury.  It helps you maintain good running form especially when fatigue sets in.  It also can help you run more efficiently by keeping the torso stabilized allowing key muscles groups to work together more smoothly.  

A lot of back pain in runners can be blamed on a weak core.  Studies confirm that weak core muscles increase the risk of developing lower back pain in runners Biomechanical consequences of running with deep core muscle weakness – ScienceDirect.

Why the plank

Building a strong core requires more than just some sit-ups.  Incorporating plank exercises is probably the best exercise you can do for your entire core.

Planks are a great exercise that targets the deep core muscles that sit-ups and crunches alone don’t seem to engage.  Besides planks being great for targeting the core, they also work just about every major muscle group needed for running. 

The plank is a great exercise as it targets several parts of the body at the same time (abs, glutes, shoulders, back, and hip flexors).  That’s a huge bang for your investment of time which should motivate you to incorporate them into a routine.  

The benefits of the plank are great for more than just running too.  The singer Cher, revealed that she does planks every day in an interview a few years back with People magazine.  She was 71 at the time and still looked better than most 20 year olds. Cher Workout Plank | Women’s Health (

How to make the plank more fun

You can make planks more interesting by doing different variations.  There are more than you think and you’re bound to find a few that you want to try.  Check out the article here for 47 Crazy-Fun Plank Variations for a Killer Core (

You can keep it simple by sticking to ones you like or add some spice by changing it up – you decide.  It’s motivating to see progress as you will gradually be able to increase the time spent in each plank position so don’t forget to time yourself doing them.

I prefer the forearm plank as it seems to have the most benefits for targeting the core.  The straight arm planks put more emphasis on the upper body and is harder on your wrists. 

There are a lot of great Youtube videos to help you perform the plank with good form which is essential.  While correct form is important, keep in mind that the only way you will really benefit is to actually DO them.  Again, finding a system or program that will work for you is key.

What I’ve found to be successful is doing my planks in bed at night before I go to bed.  The soft surface is perfect on my forearms, and I don’t have to pull out any “special” equipment.  I also find that I fall asleep faster and usually sleep better when done before bed.   

Other Core Exercises Needed

According to the Mayo Clinic, isometric exercises (static) alone won’t help improve your speed or athletic performance.  They are good for maintaining muscle as they can be performed anywhere and are especially helpful in recovery from an injury.  However, they aren’t the best exercises for building muscles.  Isometric exercises: Good for strength training? – Mayo Clinic

I’ve been doing planks consistently for years, but it wasn’t until I added in another core program that focuses on movement that I saw the biggest difference.  I’ve found a great program that I not only enjoy, but I’m seeing progress in my weekly routine that excites me.  Full disclosure – I don’t think I’ve ever been excited about a strength training program. 

There are different kinds of core exercises that may work better for you than others.  There are those that can be done in a gym if you need the extra motivation of people around.  If you prefer a gym, it may be best to have a trainer help you use the equipment properly to specifically target your core.

You can also do body weight core exercises at home.  Compound exercises such as crunches, sit-ups, flutter kicks, mountain climbers, and push-ups are just a few of the many exercises that target the core without any special equipment.

Another option may be a 20-30 minute structured program of core exercises such as a Pilates or some other core class.  Many can be found on YouTube, at your local gym, or purchased online.

A unique way to strengthen the core   

Arm balances, balance poses, or other challenging core positions like the L sit are all great exercises to make core exercises more fun.  There are lots of great beginner videos with exercises that help you work toward the goal of nailing the desired core position.

Seeing progress towards accomplishing a pose you’ve been wanting to try will make the core exercises much more interesting and fun.  In addition, you have the added benefit of a new skill beyond doing endless repetitions of the same exercisers. 

There are also quite a few programs you can purchase that are designed to develop a great core.  Online tutorials and programs either free or purchased may be just the answer you are looking for.  I first found my inspiration from watching videos of body movements and positions that I thought looked really cool.  There is bound to be one that will work for you too.

Key Takeaways

A strong core is necessary to improving your running performance.  Not only can it help you run smoother and more efficiently, but it will also help prevent pain and injuries.  A strong core stabilizes the body and includes many muscles that are needed for running well.

Be sure to include plank exercises in your weekly program. There are so many variations to try that you’re not likely to be bored and may even find a few you enjoy.

Besides planks, movement exercises will really round out your workout and ensure you have a strong core.  There are a lot of options with these exercises too.  Try out a new program that you find engaging such as some balancing or difficult position poses you can show off to friends or on your social media. 

Running better may be the ultimate goal but trying fun ways to build a stronger core can make the process more enjoyable and you are more likely to stick with it.

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