9 Core Strength Exercises That Improve Running Form

Take a moment to assess yourself. Is your neck bent toward the screen? Are your shoulders hunched? If your first-grade teacher could see you now, would she tell you to sit up straight?

If you answered yes, you're not alone. Most of us tend to slump our heads forward and round our shoulders. When we stand—and run—we have even more problems: Runners often have strong quads and weaker hamstrings and glutes, and this imbalance can pull the pelvis forward to create a "butt out" look.

If your posture is faulty, your running suffers. Healthy posture, whether you're standing in line or racing a marathon, maximizes power in big muscles, like the gluteals and obliques, and allows your organs to work better—including the lungs. Being more upright opens the diaphragm and makes breathing easier.

One cause of bad posture is a lack of core strength. "But I do planks!" you say. Well, targeting just your abs—or even just your abs, hips, and glutes—isn't enough. "I consider all the muscles in the trunk the core," says Charlie Merrill, a Boulder, Colorado-based physical therapist. Santa Barbara author and creator of the Foundation Training program Eric Goodman, D.C., defines it as: "anything that connects to the pelvis—above or below it."

By addressing lower-body muscles—weak hamstrings and tight hip flexors, for instance—and upper-body muscles, like a tight chest and weak midback, we can train to have better posture. These nine key exercises target the "new core" to get you sitting, standing, and running in a healthier, more efficient way—one your first-grade teacher would be proud to see.

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