THE ULTIMATE AB WORKOUT FOR RUNNERS
By John Hanc
Chances are you can't keep up with the mega talent on Team Running USA--but you can copy their core routine. Dennis Kline, the strength coach who designed the Mammoth Lakes group's program, adapted the routine on the following pages for everyday runners. The two workouts, Base Fitness and Dynamic Strength, work in concert. The base exercises develop muscular strength, endurance, and balance; the dynamic moves build power. Translation: You'll be able to run stronger and longer.
Like the elites, you'll alternate between these two routines. Follow the Base workout for four weeks, then the Dynamic routine for three. For phase two, return to the Base workout for a week, this time performing repetitions of each move instead of holding the positions. Then shift again to the Dynamic routine, continuing that three-week, one-week cycle. Do your core work three times a week. During peak training, drop to one or two days. Cut out the workouts entirely two weeks prior to a big race.
Lie in a push-up position with your forearms on the ground, keeping your body in a straight line, your elbows directly below your shoulders, and your abdominals pulled in (top, right). Hold. Shift to your side, keeping the elbow directly under your shoulder and both feet on the floor, top foot in front. Lift your hips until your body is in a straight line. For all variations, start with 30 seconds, build to 2.5 minutes.
Hold plank as you have been, but lower and lift into a side plank for four sets of six reps, holding each rep for a count of four. The plank was originally used to test lower-back strength, says Kline, and if you can hold it for two-plus minutes, your likelihood of having lower-back problems is low.
Develops abdominal and lower-back muscles that support and stabilize the middle of your body.
Start on your hands and knees, back flat. Raise an opposite leg and arm to hip and torso height. Hold for 10 seconds, build to 30.
Perform four sets of six reps, with each side, holding each rep for a count of two.
Strengthens the muscles along the spine, the upper back, and the glutes.
Start face down on a Roman chair with your legs hooked and lift your torso up until it's parallel to the ground; your back should be straight, not arched. Hold. Start with 45 seconds, build to three minutes. (The focus is on muscular endurance, not pure strength, so don't add additional weight.)
Do four sets of six reps.
Improves strength and muscular endurance of the erector spinae and other back extensors.
Swiss Hip Extension
Start sitting upright on a stability ball, then walk your legs forward so the ball travels up your spine until it reaches your shoulder blades. With your arms extended out to the sides, lift your hips up until your torso is parallel to the floor. Then lift one knee about 45 degrees, lower it, then lower hips toward the floor, and repeat on the other side for one set. "Don't be frustrated if you can't do this well at first," says Kline. Do three sets of five to seven reps, with two minutes rest between sets.
Same as above.
Mimics the running motion, but on an instable surface (the ball), engaging the hip flexors (psoas, iliacus) and extensors (the glutes) to work together with the abs and back to stabilize the body.
Holding a pair of moderately heavy dumbbells (about 10 pounds more than you'd use for biceps curls), take small steps forward for 10 seconds and backward for 10 seconds. Breathe naturally. Do three sets, with one minute rest between them.
The weights help activate the core to stabilize it as you walk, the same action you want to occur when you run.
Erect Lateral Bends
Place a pole or bar across your shoulders and hold with both hands. Keep your weight on your heels, your knees slightly bent, and tip your body to the side, taking the bar down toward your ankle without bending forward at the waist. Repeat on the other side. Try to keep a tempo of three seconds down (lowering the bar to the side), one second back up to a standing position. Do three sets of five reps on each side, with two minutes rest.
Builds muscular strength and endurance in the obliques and the quadratus lumborum (a deep back muscle).
Lie on your back, and raise a light dumbbell (about the weight you'd use for shoulder presses) with your right arm held above you. Then stand up, keeping your arm straight the entire time. Lower back down, finishing the move the way you started. "No matter how you stand up and get down, this recruits many of the core muscles," Kline says. Do three sets of five reps (with each arm), with two minutes rest between sets.
Gets the core and legs working together, because holding a weight above your head activates your entire core while your leg muscles are busy getting you up and down.
Hang from a pull-up bar, palms facing away from you. Without using momentum, use your core to curl your body up until your knees are between your arms (you'll be almost upside down). Hold a second, then lower slowly. If these are tough, drive one knee up to initiate the move, says Kline. Start with one to two reps, build to four, then add a second set, with 90-second rests in between.
Works total body flexion--the abdominals, hip flexors, latissimus dorsi (the back), and biceps.
Double Leg Hops
This is essentially a standing broad jump. From a standing position, jump as far as you can; use your arms to pull yourself up. When you land, jump again for a total of three without stopping. Do three sets, with two minutes rest in between.
Forces the hips to work in concert with the core muscles to stabilize the trunk from push-off to landing.