Rippled, powerful abdominal muscles are a trademark of serious weightlifters and the envy of owners of the flabbier variety. But ab workouts aren't just for gym rats -- these exercises offer tremendous potential benefits for runners, too.
Many runners do nothing but run to stay in shape, eschewing weights and even cross-training techniques such as bicycling or swimming. Ignore your abs, though, and you're ignoring keys to a longer, faster running life.
At any given point during a typical run, your body weight rests entirely on one leg or the other. That means the muscles in the core (abdominal) area of your body must remain contracted in order to help you keep your balance. A weak core means other muscles, like those in your back and neck, must pick up the slack, which can lead to aches, pains and even serious injury. At the very least, weak abs compromise your running performance, making you slower and causing you to tire faster.
You can dive into one of many classic abdominal exercise routines to improve your conditioning; however, to really get the best benefits from ab workouts, runners must use routines that mimic the stresses of running. That way, when you hit the road your abdominal muscles will already be acclimated to the challenges that running presents.
Before you begin a new ab workout routine, evaluate your goals and your overall health. If you have a history of issues with any sort of injuries, particularly to your back, you may want to consult your doctor before adding these kinds of exercises. Also understand that you'll need a certain amount of precision and good posture to avoid injury during ab workouts. If you're not sure how to perform a set, seek the help of an expert before you proceed.
Once you've set your training goals, you'll be happy to learn that you may need to do these kinds of workouts only two to three times per week (20 to 30 minutes for each workout) to yield big benefits. Another great thing about ab workouts is that they don't necessarily require a gym membership. Many of the best exercises can be done at home with no gizmos or weights whatsoever.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to starting is that there's no standard ab routine just for runners. Many running coaches have tweaked specific core conditioning programs for their fleet-footed, elite athletes, but ordinary runners without personal trainers must feel their way through an ab workout routine, monitor their results and decide what works best for their bodies. Keep reading to see some of the best exercises you can use to strengthen your core with your running interests in mind.