Do more for your core
People think core strength is doing crunches and other quite stationary, stagnate exercises, but since the body moves in such a complicated manner, they don’t always carry over to correcting performance issues.
Here are three core strength exercises to try at home from Performance 101 personal trainer and coach, Nick Scott.
The Hip Bridge
This one’s a personal favourite. More often than not, the hamstrings, glutes and lower back switch off through sedentary lifestyles. You’ve got to learn to reactivate them through specific exercises, like the supine hip bridge. Lie on your back with your arms by your side and pre-activate your glutes by squeezing your butt. Then as you push your butt upwards, extend your hips by pushing against the ground and lifting up, while making sure that your core is activated as well. If you don’t activate your core you’ll hyperextend through the lower back. A lot of people don’t turn on their glutes so they arch their back and don’t get the benefits from the exercise. You need to maintain a neutral spine. Lift up and down once or twice every second if strengthening for running.
You can also do a metric hold where you lift one leg off the ground and try and balance your hips. When you lift one leg up, your hip automatically wants to drop, so you have to stabilise through the core. You can do single leg bridges as well, where you have one leg up off the ground and then lower your hips down and drive them back up again.
I’m big on lateral exercises like this one because you want to strengthen the muscles on the inside and the outside of your hips that stabilise the forces of going forward. Runners tend to be really overworked in those forwards and backwards muscles but really weak in their lateral muscles. If you can imagine stepping out and lunging to the side, instead of straight in front or behind, while keeping your hips square with your feet facing forward, that’s how it’s done. It’s basically thinking more three-dimensionally instead of one-dimensionally because that’s how the body is. It’s best to alternate sides and come back to the centre, or you might balance on one leg and actually jump out to the right or the left, which makes it more dynamic and definitely more advanced.
Single Leg Squat
This exercise is fundamental to any movement. You have to activate the core while keeping the hips and knees aligned. If your knee drops in as you’re squatting down, you’re not strong enough to withstand your body weight. You’d be amazed at how many people can’t do a single leg squat but still run 60 kilometres a week. For a runner, it’s critical that you can do a single leg squat. I’ll often not let my clients run until they can. If you can’t withstand those forces when you’re not moving, you’re certainly not going to be able to withstand them when you are.
Here’s how they’re done. Keep your core activated and maintain a tall posture while really getting the butt back. That’s big – getting your hips back so that your weight’s sitting into your heels. Really thinking about pushing your hips up from the ground when you stand is a good cue, too. Most people get a lot of burn through the quads when they do this exercise, which indicates they’re not activating their glutes. I try to teach people to listen to their body as to where they feel it. So if they feel it in their quads, they are probably overusing them. I’d recommend attempting between six and 10 reps with really good form. Once you get to 12 reps, there are plenty of ways to make it a little more challenging, like adding a weight or a bit of a hop.
Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.