The core’s primary function is to brace and stabilize your spine. During endurance sports like running, cycling and swimming, your ability to keep your spine in a solid, braced position will have tremendous impacts on your speed and power. If that’s not enough to convince you to throw these moves into your next workout, bulletproofing your trunk (core), is a great way to keep injuries at bay and keep you going longer and faster.
Now, you probably know that you should be including core exercises into your training regimen. You probably even do a fair share of plank variations, sit ups and crunches. Here are our 3 favorite non-conventional ways to train the core for endurance athletes (and everyone else).
- Loaded Carry Variations
I’m a believer that simple always wins when it comes to strength training. It can’t get much simpler than this – carry heavy stuff around. There are dozens on variations, and array of all of them is best. I will explain our 3 favorite below.
First, why loaded carries? Because they cover a lot at once, they’re easy to learn and difficult to do. Loaded carries can improve your hip stability, core strength, improve shoulder stability and upper back strength and build your conditioning by mixing them into your strength workouts.
Farmer’s Carry – stand with two dumbbells or kettlebells, squeeze the handles, slightly pull shoulders back and maintain a slight bend in the elbow. Then, keeping upright and not letting the weight sway you around, walk. Try for 30 seconds in between a lower body strength movement or try to accumulate 3-5 minutes as a finisher for a workout.
Suitcase Carry – same rules as the farmer’s, except done unilaterally. Focus on not leaning away from the kettlebell and walking in a straight line. Keep the weight away from your body and don’t let it come in contact with your leg. Fighting this rotation builds your strength while running to resist the urge to rotate too much while fatigued.
Goblet Carry – A goblet carry is done by carrying the weight held on your chest. This variation is a favorite of mine for people who like to over arch their back while running. This exposes you and allows you to feel what a neutral spine is like while running. We cue athletes to crunch forward while maintaining a tall posture.
Speaking of over extending the back while running, dead bugs are a go to for people who over arch too much to find stability and teaches a way to find stability in a more neutral position. The carry over to running is that you learn to get more range of motion from your hips (where we want to it) and not so much through moving your spine (we want that to stay braced).
Dead bug’s are a great warm up exercise to get your core operating properly before training. We also program them into the end of a training session at a core finisher. Low reps are plenty here and the key is creating tension through your whole body. The more tension you have, the harder they are. Expressing the tension will have carry over to strength in other movements like deadlifts and squats.
- Anti-Rotation Press
I always think about training the core in “anti-movement.” What that means is that instead of focusing on training my abs to create movement, I want to train them to resist movement and other forces so I can always stay in a solid braced position.
The anti-rotation press is a great exercise to build that anti-rotation strength for more efficient running. Having anti-rotation strength can keep you from getting sloppy near the end of a run. This movement is typically done mixed into a strength set, 5-10 repetitions per side with a slight pause in the extended position.
Try mixing these core movements into your training program. Loaded carry variations can be done during or after each strength session. Dead bugs are great warm ups or done after any heavy work. Anti-rotation press is a good thing to mix in with your strength work. Make sure you are breathing! It’s easy to hold your breath while performing these movements but the breath is the key to stability and you don’t hold your breath while running or cycling!
If you want to learn more about movements like these, GAIN endurance, a weekly drop-in style class for endurance athletes is coming to GAIN Strength and Conditioning in August. This class is an addition to your current training plan to work on strength, mobility and conditioning.