My Top 5 Core Exercises

Core and ab exercises are crucial in running. For me when my core is weak, my hip levels tend to be off, my lower back has it's famous spasm party, and my running efficiency starts to falter. Back in college I truly learned the importance that core had on my body, I was never big on doing core and abs in high school, and it just didn't make sense to me why I had to do it for running. When I got to college, and workout intensities went up, my body started to show that my core was far weaker than it should have been for a division 1 athlete. In my sophomore year I started to have back issues, my athletic training staff and I went to work on a structured core routine. 6 days in the training room, 3 days in the weight room, and a whole lot of massages is what kept me going that year. 

So I thought I would tell you 5 of my favorite core/ab exercises. Hope these help to strengthen your core and give you more variety to your now ab routine. 

Reverse crunch on bench:

COURTSEY OF LEANITUP.COM

COURTSEY OF LEANITUP.COM

This one has to be my favorite. Sit on a bench with your legs slightly over the end and elevated. Stick your hands behind your head, tighten your core, and powerfully contract your lower abs — lift your hips off the bench and pull them into your chest. If you are weaker you can do this on the floor to make it easier or hold onto the bench so you don't move. 

Plank variations: elbow plank & hip swivel:

courtesy of fitsugar.com

courtesy of fitsugar.com

I used to hate planks but have slowly started to love them. The hip swivel one I have a very love hate relationship with, and honestly I don't know if hip swivel is what they are properly called. I saw them, came up with a name, and  started doing them. For planks make sure your really contracting your core(suck your belly button in, BUT BREATHE). Hip swivel is basically they same as planks, but what you want to do is tap your hip to the ground by moving them side to side. Make sure to keep that back straight. 

Bracing:

This one is a little hard to explain, and there is no picture for it, but it is hands down the key factor to helping keep my core strong. Like I told you I used to have a lot of lower back problems, and my athletic trainers taught me how to brace. Now basically what you are doing is contracting the core muscles only and holding for a 5 sec count. Your core muscles are located in your pelvis region and lower back region. IF you are doing it correctly you will actually feel those muscles contract. So, yes you aren't just tightening your abs; try to pull your belly button down as far as possible and you should be able to feel your lower back contract. Don't worry the front is contracting as well while you are doing this. Just remember to breathe.

Swiss ball crunches:

courtesy of womenshealthandfitness.com

courtesy of womenshealthandfitness.com

Have fun with this one. I used to never be able to stay on the ball but with time it became easier. Lie on the ball, positioning it under the lower back. Place your arms behind your head.Contract your abs to lift your torso off the ball, pause, then lower yourself back down, getting a stretch in the abs.