10 Minute Core and Strength Routine for Trail Runners

Tayte Pollmann’s articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. You can follow Tayte’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For this week’s trail running training tip, I’d like to share a 10 minute running-specific core and strength routine I developed for the Active at Altitude Spring Trail Running Camp held this past May 14-19, 2019. For a recap of the camp you can read this article I wrote last month.

Being consistent with core and strength exercises is one of the best ways for runners to prevent injuries and improve their running efficiency. I perform many of these exercises daily and they can be completed with little to no equipment in almost any environment.

Butterfly (30 seconds) – Benefits: Opens hips and lower back. Try this exercise with your feet closer and farther away from you. You may feel more of a stretch in your hips when your feet are close and in your lower back as you move your feet farther away.

Single Squat with Leg Lift (30 seconds) – Benefits: Develops power in your glutes. Focus on pushing off from your mid foot and raising the opposite leg to full extension.

Knee to Chest (30 seconds) – Benefits: Increases stride length. Raise your leg as high as possible without straining. Stay balanced through the exercise.

Figure 4 Walk + calf raise (30 seconds) – Benefits: Improves hip mobility, coordination and toe off strength. Focus on raising with your calves and opening your hips. This one may take some practice!

Stability Disk Leg Lift (30 seconds each leg) – Benefits: Activates glutes, hamstrings and calves. Place your hand on the side of your glute to make sure it is firing. You should feel constant tension in the glute throughout the full range of this exercise. Keep your back leg straight as it extends.

Stability Disk Circles (30 seconds each leg) – Benefits: Increases range of motion in your ankles. Create both small and wide circles. Keep your motions controlled and move slowly.

A-Skips (30 seconds) – Benefits: Increases energy transfer through your legs. Drive from your glute toward the ground. Propel your body upward as your foot hits the ground. These are the most explosive exercise in the routine. Avoid A-Skips if you have any muscular imbalances or weaknesses.

Plank With Leg Lift (30 seconds) – Benefits: Improves core stability and strength. This is one of the best plank modifications for runners. Raise your leg as high as possible while keeping it straight. This will engage your raised leg similarly to the back leg extension of your running stride.

Side plank + Optional Leg Lift (30 seconds each side) – Benefits: Strengthens your gluteus medius. The forward and backward motion of running often leads to weakness in the gluteus medius. This exercise targets this muscle group effectively. If you want to increase the difficulty of this exercise, raise your top leg as high as it will go. After performing this routine several times, notice how much higher you are able to raise your leg.

Hand Towel Exercises. These two exercises demonstrated below can be performed on an UltraSlide Slideboard, or with a small hand towel on smooth surfaces such as tile or wood floors. For more slideboard exercises, see my previous article, “UltraSlide Ultrafun: A Core Routine With Slideboard Exercises.”

Slide board in-n-out (30 seconds) – Benefits: Strengthens core and arms. Activates stabilizer muscles. Keep your hands and shoulders in line above each other. The upper body should remain stable.

Slide board hand walks (30 seconds) – Benefits: Strengthens core and arms. Activates stabilizer muscles. Move slowly and controlled. Keep your core tight and lower back level.

Dorsiflexion Test (1 minute each side) – Benefits: Increases energy transfer through your calves and achilles tendon. Keep your heel on the ground and touch the wall with your knee. If you are unable to touch, move closer to the wall until your knee is just able to touch. Make note of the distance between your foot and the wall. After consistent practice, you will be able to move your foot farther and farther from the wall. This is a sign of increased dorsiflexion. Dorsiflexion is essential for achieving the most spring and energy transfer from your calves.

For another example of a proper dorsiflexion while running in this photo of Jordan Hasay, professional Nike runner and 3rd place finisher of the 2019 Boston Marathon.

Figure 4 On the Wall (1 minute each side) – Benefits: Releases Hips. A great pose to finish the routine and relax. Push your hand against your out turned hip to increase the stretch.