Core Stability, What is it?
Core stability, why do runners need a good core? Mention core work to most people, and they think of crunchers/sit ups and planks. How do we define our core? These should be easy questions to answer as core stability is everywhere, from GAA training to pilates to boot camps. However defining what your core is and how it works is more difficult than you might think. The most common location of the core encompasses from your sternum down to creases under your buttocks. Therefore supposedly, all the muscles in this area make up your core.
Now, how does a static plank help me in the last 100m of a 5/10k or a marathon. In my opinion very little. What it is supposed to do is, add strength to all your “core muscles” so you can maintain your optimal running form as you fatigue. What it does is, it strengthens all the muscles of your “core” while in a plank position. How in the world is it supposed to aid you in a marathon if your run on two legs like most of us and not on all fours!
Our muscles work differently with different movements, positions, energy requirements. So if your planking until every fibre of your body is shaking like a leaf, you may need to change up what you are doing.
I like to incorporate some form of strength/resistance training rather core work into my routine. The difference is in the detail, application and context. Resistance training that mimics your sport as closely as it can is likely to be of more benefit than meaningless core work. When was the last time you went on a run with a large inflatable ball? Never! That’s right, so why is it many athletes can be seen in gyms around the country balancing on these balls while doing dumbbell flys, etc? Its crazy! Well maybe not all crazy. Maybe at the beginning of a basic strength programme, there may be a call for some of these static exercises as they do require muscle contractions and hence strength gains. But in no way near enough to aid your marathon training.
Mimic Your Sport
If you do some kind of strength/core/resistance training, make sure it mimics what you do in your sport. If you run do lunges, reverse lunges, split squats, skip, step ups etc. Make it more testing by interspersing them into your intervals. You need to constantly change what you are doing to see more gains. If you do no strength training, then start!
For a more on core exercises check out the blog from Running Physio