Core Workout to Fire Up Your Abs!

Core Workout to Fire Up Your Abs!

When I talk about core muscles most people immediately think of their abdominals (transverse abdominis, and internal and external obliques), but I also want you to include your pelvic floor muscles, your back muscles (multifidus, erector spinae, and longissimus thoracis), and the diaphragm when you think of your core.

Picture your core is similar to that of a soda can. If the soda can has a dent in the side of it and then you add a load to the can, what happens? It gets crushed or dented; in terms of your core, you could get hurt. It’s important to strengthen not only the abdominal muscles, but the rest of the muscles included in your core as well, for this reason. Luckily, when we engage or tense our abdominal muscles our other core muscles are also automatically engaged; however, it is important to do exercises that help strengthen all of them. Exercises that focus on strengthening many core muscles help your body learn to use them all together, and going back to the soda can analogy, this can help prevent an injury. 

Each of the exercises in the workout were chosen with a specific reason in mind. Here’s why I chose the ones I did:

Plank Row

  • A plank requires you to maintain a neutral spine by engaging all of your core muscles and calls upon your upper body muscles to hold you up. With this exercise it is important to think about keeping your shoulder blades along your back. Do not let them wing out and do not let your low back arch towards the ground. Keep your shoulders down (don’t let them sneak up by your ears). 
  • Planks can improve posture, strengthen your core, and are easily modifiable.
  • The rowing movement causes your body to have to resist twisting and really work to stabilize your spine and trunk as you perform the movement. As runners we are never in a static position, we are always moving. While an isometric plank is still very beneficial, adding in the row makes it more applicable to running specific sports.
  • Adding the row can also help with postural control, and works those back muscles I mentioned earlier, more than a tradition plank. 

Toe Touches

  • This exercise uses your transverse abdominis as the primary muscle group for the movement, with your obliques and quads being secondary muscle groups used.
  • If touching your toes is too difficult you can regress the exercise to touching your knees.
  • If it is too easy try starting with your arms over your head and then bringing them towards your feet, keeping your arms straight the whole time. 

Dead Bug

  • The goal of the dead bug is to maintain a neutral spine as you move your extremities. You should have a small amount of space between your lower back and the ground because your lower back has a natural concave curvature to it. When you raise your arms and legs in the air and start moving that space should not change. Your back should not lower towards the ground or arch more towards the ceiling during the exercise.
  • Keep in mind, if you are unable to breathe throughout this exercise you need to regress it. Holding your breath is not optimal for performance and is a sign we need to scale things back before progressing to a higher threshold exercise.
  • If you need to regress the deadbug bring your feet to the floor and do the exercise from there.
  • If you need to progress the exercise, lie in front of a wall so that the wall is above your head and press your hands into the wall above your head.

Banded Plank Pull Through

  • As you run, your body has a natural twist to it starting with the feet and working up the chain. As your feet, ankles, and hips turn one way, your upper body turns the opposite way. This is called counter rotation and ideally it keeps you running in a relatively smooth course. Making sure that your joints have optimal range of motion and stability to control your body through movement can help you run more efficiently and decrease your risk for injury. 
  • This exercise can strengthen your core muscles, the muscles involved with counter rotation, and posture. 
  • The goal while performing this exercise is to turn your upper back (thoracic spine) and keep your lower back (lumbar spine) and hips still. 
  • The wider your feet, the larger your base of support. Meaning if you are having a hard time keeping your hips from twisting widen your feet or drop to your knees to regress the exercise. Or if the exercise is too easy bring your feet closer together, this requires you to work hard not to twist in your hips.

Remember that all of these exercises should be performed with control in mind, don’t rush through them. Controlling each exercise and focusing on form is more beneficial for muscle strength gains and preventing injuries. Secondly, research shows that by thinking about what muscles you are using you will get a larger number of muscle fibers to fire. These three things are true not only for core exercises but any type of lifting workouts, and can even be applied to running. 

Download the Fire Up Your Abs Workout PDF, give it a try, and let us know how it went!

Happy Training,
Sierra - Tunnel Marathon Personal Trainer