We say this a lot, but that’s because it’s so true: core strength is extremely important for runners. As three-time Ironman triathlon world champion Craig Alexander of Australia once said on The Physical Performance Show podcast, “You can’t fire a cannon off a canoe … You need a stable base of support to generate power and speed.” Alexander is a phenomenal triathlete, and he comes from a running background. On that same podcast, he says core is “in the forefront” of his mind when running, and he zeros in on just how necessary a strong core is for runners. Here are five exercises that make up Alexander’s go-to core routine, which he says he performs three to five times per week.
Swiss ball pushup sequence
Start in a pushup position, but with your feet resting on the Swiss ball. Perform a pushup, and on your way up, continue into pike position (rolling the ball a few inches toward your hands), then lower your pelvis back to the ground and roll the ball in so you can bend your knees. Finally, straighten your legs and roll your feet so they point from side to side. Repeat this series of moves 10 times. (We know this is a lot to take in, but don’t worry, Alexander runs through it in the above video so you can see exactly what to do.)
Supine Swiss ball sequence
Like before, you place your feet on the Swiss ball, but this time you lie on your back. Start by lifting your hips off the floor to get your “pelvis in that neutral alignment,” Alexander says. You can simply stick with this, but Alexander has a couple of progressions that branch from that move. First, he rolls the ball in on his heels, making sure to keep his pelvis in the air, then rolls it back out.
With the second progression, he lifts one foot off the ball and extends that leg into the air, holding it briefly, which he says is “sort of to simulate running,” in which “you’ve got one leg in stance phase and the other leg swinging through, and you really need to stabilize the pelvis horizontally.” Run through this sequence 10 times.
Swiss ball mountain climbers
In plank position, rest your elbows on the Swiss ball. Once you feel stable, bring one knee in and gently tap the ball before extending back out and repeating with the other leg. Perform this action 10 to 15 times per leg.
Hand to foot stability pass
Sticking with the Swiss ball, Alexander can be seen passing it between his hands and legs. Starting on your back with the ball in your hands, lift your arms and legs until they meet in the middle so your body forms a V. Here, place the ball between your feet and lower your limbs so you’re flat on the ground once again. Repeat this until you’ve exchanged the ball 10 to 15 times.
A classic in any sport (although one that many runners dread), Alexander continues his workout with pushups. “Any bodyweight exercises are good,” he says. “Ones where you need to keep your pelvis in that natural running alignment and all the muscles around need to brace to hold it in that position.” Regular pushups are fine, but if you want to follow Alexander’s routine to a T, he performs “explosive pushups,” which incorporate a quick drive upward and a small hop off the ground at the motion’s peak. Try for 10 to 20 pushups.