You’ve done the drills, read the articles and heard the coaches tell you that core strength is vital to maintaining good running form and that this helps you to run more efficiently, but what if I told you that these same drills could actually be making you SLOWER?
Muscle fibres are designed to resist two things; compression and stretching. They are also designed to return the muscle to its original length immediately afterwards, much like tennis players try to return to the centre of the court after each shot in order to be as ready as possible for the next one.
Running is a great example of when different groups of muscles are doing different jobs in order to create the whole action. In this situation, the leg muscles are resisting compressive forces and then using them to propel you forwards, and the ‘core’ muscles are resisting stretching forces (when your arms travel behind you) and then returning your trunk back to centre to help you stay balanced.
Great, but how does this make me slower?
Historically, many different techniques have been used to strengthen the ‘core’ including flexion of the spine in a ‘curl’ type motion, or holding static postures such as the plank, but these work the core in a way that is different to what it is doing while you are running. While this in itself is not a problem, the result is often that the muscle gets so used to doing the resistance work that it loses the ability to lengthen, or to return the muscle to its original position.
In our tennis example, the player would lose some of their ability to get back to the middle of the court which would likely result in them not moving so far to the side, shortening their working range whilst still being able to play. As you can imagine, this limits the effectiveness of that player.
But I still don’t get how this makes me slower?!
Watch this video to see what happens in running when your core is too tight, or even if you just ‘engage’ it whilst running.
Did you notice how the action changed entirely from a forwards/backwards motion with arms and legs, to sideways motion? This happened every time the core was engaged and then returned to the forwards/backwards motion when it released.
If your ‘core’ is tight enough to develop this side-to-side motion, you’ll be wasting energy fighting against it instead of being able to use that energy for running, therefore making you slower and making it feel harder.
Research has shown that a lack of arm swing in running creates a 67% increase in the forces the foot has to absorb from the ground, which essentially means that you land harder and are more at risk of lower leg injuries over time. It’s not likely that your core is so tight that you’re running like you’ve got your hands stuck in your pockets, but it may be tight enough to be causing increased stress through your legs.
So what can I do about it?
If your ‘core’ is too tight, the muscles in it are too short, so the key to success here is to lengthen them, but we’re not talking simple stretching here.
We also need the brain to recognise how to use the new range of motion properly to create real change.
Watch this replay of my LIVE video show to start making a difference to your core tightness immediately!
For more problem solving, technique enhancing, injury preventing moves, why not join me for my FREE 5 day mini course designed specifically to help runners beat injury AND improve their technique simultaneously!