Featured image of post The Best Ab Exercises for Runners

The Best Ab Exercises for Runners

Strengthen your core for optimal running performance with our comprehensive guide to the best ab exercises. Discover bodyweight, weight-training, and functional movements that build core strength, improve stability, and enhance overall running efficiency.

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The Best Ab Exercises for Runners: A Comprehensive Guide to Core Strength


As runners, we often focus on building leg strength and endurance, but neglecting our core can lead to muscle imbalances, reduced running efficiency, and increased risk of injuries. A strong core is crucial for runners as it provides stability, supports proper posture, and enhances overall performance. This guide will delve into the best ab exercises for runners, covering bodyweight, weight-training, and functional movements that will strengthen your core and optimize your running experience.

Bodyweight Ab Exercises

Bodyweight ab exercises are a great way to build a strong foundation for core strength. They require minimal equipment and can be easily incorporated into any workout routine.

  • Plank Variations: Planks are a static hold exercise that engages multiple core muscles. High planks, side planks, and reverse planks target different muscle groups, ensuring comprehensive core development.
  • Russian Twists: Russian twists are a dynamic exercise that strengthens the obliques and improves rotational stability. They can be performed with or without a weight plate.
  • Mountain Climbers: Mountain climbers are a high-intensity exercise that combines cardio and core work. They engage the abs, thighs, and shoulders.
  • Leg Raises: Leg raises are an effective isolation exercise for the lower abs. They can be performed hanging from a bar or lying on the ground.
  • Crunches: Crunches are a classic ab exercise that targets the upper abs. They are best performed with proper form to avoid strain on the neck.

Weight-Training Ab Exercises

Weight-training ab exercises add resistance to bodyweight movements, allowing for progressive overload and increased muscle growth.

  • Ab Rollouts: Ab rollouts are a challenging exercise that targets the entire core. They require a stability ball or ab roller.
  • Cable Crunches: Cable crunches provide constant tension throughout the movement, maximizing muscle activation. They can be performed with a variety of handles.
  • Stability Ball Exercises: Stability ball exercises, such as Russian twists on the ball, add an element of instability, which forces the core to work harder for stabilization.
  • Weighted Planks: Weighted planks are a variation of the traditional plank exercise that adds weight to increase the intensity.
  • Leg Raises with Resistance Bands: Leg raises with resistance bands provide additional resistance to the lower abs, making them more challenging.

Functional Ab Exercises

Functional ab exercises mimic movements that occur during running, enhancing core strength in a sport-specific manner.

  • Burpees: Burpees are a full-body exercise that engages the core throughout the movement. They combine a squat, push-up, and jump.
  • Squats with Overhead Press: Squats with overhead press simultaneously work the legs, core, and shoulders. The core is responsible for stabilizing the body during the movement.
  • Deadlifts with Romanian Deadlifts: Deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts strengthen the lower back and hamstrings, while also engaging the core for stability.
  • Kettlebell Swings: Kettlebell swings are a dynamic exercise that improves core power and explosiveness.
  • Plyometric Exercises: Plyometric exercises, such as box jumps and jump squats, require rapid muscle contractions, which activate the core for stability and balance.

Upper Body Exercises for Core Stability

Although upper body exercises primarily target the arms and shoulders, they also contribute to core stability.

  • Pull-ups: Pull-ups engage the back, shoulders, and core. They strengthen the muscles that support the spine and pelvis.
  • Push-ups: Push-ups are a compound exercise that works the chest, triceps, and core. They help stabilize the body and improve posture.
  • Dips: Dips target the triceps and chest, while also engaging the core for stabilization.
  • Rows: Rows strengthen the back and shoulder muscles, which contribute to overall core stability.
  • Shoulder Presses: Shoulder presses work the shoulders and upper back, improving posture and core control.

Injury Prevention and Core Stability

A strong core plays a crucial role in injury prevention. By stabilizing the spine and pelvis, core muscles reduce the risk of lower back pain, hip injuries, and other running-related ailments.

Exercises that improve core stability include:

  • Plank Variations
  • Bird Dog: Bird dog is an exercise that stabilizes the spine and improves balance. It involves holding a plank position while extending the opposite arm and leg.
  • Dead Bug: Dead bug is an exercise that strengthens the deep core muscles that support the spine. It involves lying on the back and lowering the arms and legs while keeping the lower back pressed to the ground.
  • Anti-Rotation Press: Anti-rotation press is an exercise that trains the core muscles to resist rotation. It involves holding a weight in one hand and pressing it overhead while resisting rotation of the spine.

Training Considerations

  • Frequency and Intensity: Aim for 2-3 core workouts per week, with each session including 10-15 repetitions of each exercise. Gradually increase the intensity by adding weight or resistance.
  • Progression and Variations: As you progress, incorporate variations and challenges into your core exercises. For example, try holding planks for longer, performing Russian twists with a weight plate, or adding plyometric exercises to your routine.
  • Warm-up and Cool-down: Always warm up before core exercises with light cardio and dynamic stretches. Cool down afterwards with static stretches to improve flexibility and reduce muscle soreness.

Ab Exercises for Men and Women

While the general principles of core training apply to both men and women, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  • Men: Men tend to have more muscle mass in the upper body, so they may need to focus more on exercises that target the lower abs and obliques.
  • Women: Women often have a wider pelvis and a shorter torso, so they may benefit from exercises that focus on the upper abs and core stability.


Incorporating these ab exercises into your training regimen will significantly enhance your core strength, improve your running performance, and reduce the risk of injuries. Remember to train consistently, progress gradually, and prioritize proper form. By building a strong and stable core, you will unlock your full potential as a runner and enjoy the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle.

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