Whether running for fun, fitness, or to be fast, efficiency is key. Having a strong core plays an important part in translating the power of the legs to propelling the entire body forward through space. The deep abs, made up of the transversus abdominis (TVA) and internal obliques, are the keystone for core stabilization. Unfortunately, running bio-mechanics expert Michael Fredericson, Ph.D, found that about 90 percent of runners have weak abs leading to faulty running patterns. Having weak abs can easily translate into "running funny" with too long or too short of steps, or a pelvis that swings from side to side.
The deep abs stabilize the pelvis by keeping it in a neutral position, so that the back of the legs can push your entire body forward, rather than just wasting power just stretching the low abs. A strong core can help make your running more efficient as well as faster. When the weak low abs work in tandem with the spinal muscles these muscles support the torso and give you more endurance too.
Due to our modern and sedentary lifestyle, many folks have weak deep abs because sitting all day leads to slouching, which deactivates the deeps abs. To learn how to reactivate your TVA right now
- Sit up straight (since I just said we all slouch too much you had to know that one was coming). Put your hands on your low ribs and inhale, feeling them expand (flare out to the sides). Don't raise your shoulders though (it might take a few times for you to get the hang of this).
- Try to keep your low ribs wide as you exhale by pulling your navel to your spine while keeping your spine still. Think of pushing the air out of your lungs with the action of pulling the deeps abs toward the spine. Repeat for a while until it starts to feel "normal."
- Keep practicing this action and not only will you start to strengthen your deep abs, you will increase your ability to breathe deeply by opening up the space between your side and back ribs.
Now every time you do any abdominal exercise you want to focus on the deep abs being active. Warm up your abs before you run, jog, walk, use the stair stepper or elliptical. Exercise mindfully and focus on your pelvic stability and keep checking in with your form. The payoff for paying attention? Stabilizing the pelvis during running and other physical activities will help you stay injury free.