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The Best Core Stability Exercises For Runners

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Photo by Logan Weaver (opens in new tab) on Unsplash (opens in new tab)

Practising yoga regularly brings many benefits for runners. The most established is that stretching your muscles improves your mobility and flexibility – but another benefit you might not expect is a big increase in your core strength.

We’re not talking eye-popping abs but the kind of deep core strength that makes your every movement more stable and controlled. It’s ideal for reducing the risk of injury from running and improving your posture.

Below you’ll find a series of yoga poses from Christine Felstead (opens in new tab), a runner and yoga teacher who specialises in improving athletic performance. The moves will benefit all sorts of athletes in all sorts of ways, starting with helping you to loosen up.

“Whether you run, cycle or swim it’s common to experience tightness,” says Felstead. “Muscles tighten from repetitive use and if not addressed this can lead to longer-term aches and pains, cause muscle imbalances, restrict mobility and ultimately lead to serious injury.

“The yoga poses I’ve outlined here are beneficial for all athletes, regardless of your sport, because they target the key muscle groups needed for fluid movements while improving overall strength and balance.”

How To Use These Exercises

“I suggest doing the poses four to five times a week and doing five reps of each pose, moving straight from one pose to the next,” says Felstead. “The best time to do them is straight after your run, cycle or swim because you’ll already be warmed up. Always breathe rhythmically through your nose while doing yoga because this will help to focus your mind and release tension in the body.

“You may find the poses hard at first but stick at it and you’ll soon feel the benefits. Instead of a ‘no pain, no gain’ philosophy, listen to your body and perform each move slowly, once on each side and hold for 10 breaths. If you feel any discomfort, stop.”

1 Downward-facing dog to child’s pose

Stretches: hamstrings, calves, achilles, spine
Strengthens: adductors, quads, triceps, biceps
Improves: range of motion of the shoulder joint

Get into a V-shape with your hands and feet on the floor and your hips raised. Hold this position, then lower your knees to the floor. Lean forwards, resting your head on the floor, and stretch your arms out behind you.

2 High lunge

Stretches: hip flexors
Strengthens: hip flexors, hamstrings, calves
Improves: range of motion of the spine

From your final child’s pose, return to downward-facing dog, then bring your right foot forwards. Keep your front knee over your ankle while straightening your back leg. Raise your arms overhead. Hold, then return to downward-facing dog and alternate sides.

3 Cow face pose

Stretches: triceps
Strengthens: rotator cuffs
Improves: range of motion of the shoulders and hips

Sit with your legs crossed so one knee is stacked on top of the other and your feet rest on the floor on either side, close to your bum. Extend your right arm up and bend it at the elbow to bring your hand behind your head, then slide your hand down your back. Bend your left arm and slide it up your back until you can interlock the fingers of both hands. Hold for five to ten breaths, then swap sides.

4 Supine hamstring stretch

Stretches: hamstrings, adductors, iliotibial band
Strengthens: quads, adductors
Improves: range of motion of the legs

Lie on your back, raise your right leg and place a resistance band or strap around your foot. Pull your leg towards your face, keeping it straight. Extend your leg to the right. Repeat the move with your left leg.

5 Half frog

Stretches: quads
Strengthens: obliques, lats
Improves: range of motion of the legs

Lie on your front, bend your right leg, and reach back with your right hand to take hold of your foot. Press down on the top of your foot to bring it towards your bum, keeping your hips on the floor. Press your left forearm into the floor, lift your chest and hold.

6 Standing pigeon

Stretches: glutes
Strengthens: calves, hamstrings, ankles
Improves: balance

Stand with your feet together and place the outside of your right ankle on your left leg just above the knee, while curling your foot. Bend your left knee and lower as close to the floor as possible, then relax the muscles around your right hip joint. Hold the position. Repeat on the other side.

Nick Hutchings worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Nick worked as digital editor from 2008 to 2011, head of content until 2014, and finally editor-in-chief until 2015.