As I’m sure you know, runners are always told that they need to strengthen their core, hips and glutes in order to be better runners, remain uninjured, run faster, etc. I, for one, have been telling you that for years. And for years I’ve been hearing back from runners that, yes, they knew that, but no, they haven’t been incorporating those exercises into their workouts. So here is my gift to you. Your Essential Core, Hip and Glute Routine designed specifically for runners.
What’s so Important about the Core, Hips, and Glutes?
A general total body strengthening program is essential, but why the focus on the core, hips, and glutes? Runners need a strong core to help with balance, stability, and posture. It helps improve form and overall control. A strong core helps your hips, pelvis, back, and abdominals work together.
Strong hips and glutes are vital for good running form. Weak or imbalanced hip muscles can cause an uneven stride, one that moves from side to side, causing even more imbalance and potential injury or inflammation. The same goes for our gluteal muscles, which already tend to be under-activated due to our lifestyle/workstyle of mostly sitting. Your glutes provide power for your running. When they are weak or don’t fire, other muscles take over causing potential low back or knee pain.
Why a Core, Hip and Glute Routine (and not a workout)?
While a workout implies series of exercises done two or three times a week, this core, hip and glute routine is meant to be done more frequently, preferably before and/or after each run. Thinking of it as a routine, just like your stretching and foam rolling (you’re doing that, right?) will help add this short series of exercises more consistently.
You don’t need weights for this core, hip and glute routine, so it is easy to get it done wherever you are. A band is a useful tool, but it’s not required. Complete one-two sets of each exercise. While you can do this core, hip and glute routine before or after your workout, I’d suggest that you do the first three exercises before your workout, to wake up those glutes and help you engage them during your workout.
Your Essential Core, Hip and Glute Routine
Remember to perform the first three exercises before your run. This will help fire up your glutes and help them work properly to power you through your workout. The rest can be done either before or afterward. This is not an intense workout. It is a strengthening routine that will help you be a better runner and remain uninjured. Think of it as “pre-hab.”
While two sets would be ideal, I’d be happy to see you complete one time through this core, hip and glute routine. I want to make it so easy for you that it becomes a habit.
Engagement is Key
Read this before you start! Engaging your muscles as you work them is vital and can mean the difference between creating strong muscles and just going through the motions. To engage your core first pull in your belly button, then brace your abdominals as if preparing for a punch. Make sure that you don’t hold your breath and keep this abdominal engagement through all of the exercises.
For the hip and glute exercises, the easiest way to think about it is by first squeezing your glutes. Play with this a little just to get the feeling. Squeeze both cheeks. Alternate. Note what it feels like when your glutes are engaged. Then, when you start the exercises, be sure to strive for that engagement.
Now you’re ready. Complete one set of 15 repetitions for each exercise. Go-getters can do a second set. Click on the photos for a better view.
Standing Angled Leg Lift
Stand tall with your weight on your left leg. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes. Keeping your right knee straight, lift it behind you at a slight angle (think 4:00-5:00 on a clock). Repeat on the other side.
Monster Walk (if you have a band)
Stand with a theraband or other band around your thighs. Engage your core and squat down slightly (about a quarter squat). Squeeze your glutes and take a step to the right. You want to feel the resistance, but don’t step so widely that you lose your form. Step your left foot about halfway toward the right. Step again to the right. Continue for your repetitions, making sure to maintain your quarter squat. Repeat in the other direction.
Lying Side Leg Lift (if you don’t have a band)
Lie down on your left side with your hips and legs stacked (your bottom leg can bend if that’s more comfortable). Engage your core, glutes, and quadriceps and lift right leg as high as you can without losing your form. Lower. Repeat for repetitions, then do the other side.
Start on all fours, making sure your shoulders are above your wrists, hips above your knees. Engage your core, squeeze your glutes, and lift your right leg until your thigh is parallel to the ground. Your knee should remain bent. Lower, then repeat. Complete on the other side.
Start on your hands and knees, core and glutes engaged. Keeping your knee bent, lift your right leg to the side. Lower. Complete your set and repeat with the other leg.
Lie on your left side with your legs stacked and your knees bent to about 90 degrees. Engage your abs and glutes. Keeping your feet together, lift your right leg (like a clamshell). Lower. Complete your set and repeat with the other leg. (If you have that band you can use it around your thighs for extra resistance.)
Bridge with Extension
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Engage your core and glutes and lift your hips until your weight rests on your upper back and feet. From there, extend your right leg until it is in alignment with your upper body. Lower your leg, lower your hips, then repeat with the other leg. Continue to alternate for repetitions.
Plank with Alternating Leg Lift
In a forearm plank position, making sure your core and glutes are engaged, lift your right leg, hold for two seconds, then lower, repeat on the other side. (note: you should be able to hold a static plank for at least 30 seconds before adding leg lifts.)
Side Plank with Leg Lift/Swing
Start from a side plank, weigh on left arm, legs stacked. Engage your core and glutes. Lift your hips. Your right arm can be on the ground in front of you, on your top hip, or held in the air, depending on your experience and strength. Hold this position and lift your right leg several inches. Keep it elevated while you move it forward, then back, holding each position about two seconds. (note: this is a challenging exercise so take it step by step. First be able to hold a side plank for 30 seconds. Then try adding the leg lift only. Then you can add the forward and back with your leg.) Perform one or two repetitions. Repeat on the other side.
Standing, engage your core and glutes. Take a step out with your right leg. Keeping your foot facing foward, bend your right knee and sit back into a squat. Your left leg will be straight. Give your glutes an extra squeeze, then push up strongly back to the starting position. Complete the repetitions with your right leg, then switch sides.
One Leg Squat (Pistol Squat)
Stand with your weight on your right leg. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes. Sit back into a squat on your right leg, making sure to keep your leg in alignment (don’t allow your knee to bend in or out). Your left leg will extend straight in front. Do your repetitions, then repeat on the other side. (note: if you have a hard time extending your leg in front, you can hold it up slightly behind you or hold onto something for extra balance. I like using the TRX.)
One Leg Deadlift
Stand with your weight on your right leg. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes. Bend over from your hips, keeping your body in alignment as you extend your left leg straight behind you. Don’t round your back. Give your glutes an extra squeeze as you return to standing. Do all the repetitions on one side, then repeat on the other.
Lunge with a Twist
Stand with your arms out to your side. Step forward into a lunge with your right leg. Rotate your torso to the right. Return to your starting position. Alternate sides for repetitions.
Be consistent with these 12 exercises until you have formed a habit. This core, hip and glute routine will help you run better and prevent injury.
And Now It’s Time for the Running Coaches’ Corner!
My weekly linkups! Please stop by and check out all of the great recipes, workouts, and information that all these awesome bloggers share every week!
Meatless Monday with Sarah and Deborah
Meatless Monday with Annmarie and Dixya
Tuesdays on the Run with Marcia, Erika, and Patty
Inspire Me Monday with Janice
Wild Workout Wednesday with Annmarie, Jen, and Nicole
The Plant-Based Potluck Party with Deborah
The Running Coaches’ Corner with Rachel, Suz, Lora Marie, and Me!
Friday 5 2.0 with Rachel and Lacey and Meranda