When I was younger and ran everywhere, I didn't understand the point of doing other exercises to strengthen the rest of my body. I logically assumed that running would naturally strengthen the muscles I needed need to run, so I just focused on running as much as possible.
But as people who know more about running than I did observe, strengthening your leg muscles without strengthening the core muscles that surround your spine is like putting a sports car engine into the chassis of an economy car. Without a solid core, a runner and cyclist risks injuring himself, and his whole body will not be able to support his powerful leg muscles and heart.
So take some time to train and strengthen your core muscles. Here are five exercises that should help.
Planking is one of the better known core exercises, second only to Crunches. In planking, you lift your hips off the ground, get on your elbows and toes and keep a straight line between your head and heels. Planking is the sort of exercise from which you will benefit a lot more if you do it with a friend who can ensure that you hold the proper posture.
It should be noted that there is a lot of controversy about planking's benefits. Some experts believe that since you do not actually move while planking, it does not do all that much to build your muscular strength. Regardless of whether this is true, adding some movement to your planking exercises certainly cannot hurt. Transverse planking, a form of planking where you lie on your side and do Push-Ups of a sort, is a good alternative.
2. Landmine Press
This is an interesting core exercise that works your shoulders and arms at the same time. It is possible to do this exercise while standing, but kneeling is the better position to take if your goal is to work your core.
Take a landmine or a barbell if no landmine is available and place it by the wall. Kneel down, grab the end with both hands and place it right below your chin. From there, lift it up and down repeatedly. During the exercise, keep your elbows close to your body while the barbell is down, and try to keep your upper body from moving.
3. Russian Twist
This exercise can be done using either a medicine ball, a dumbbell or a kettlebell. As Men's Fitness notes, you should sit on the floor next to your weight while keeping your hips and knees bent. Grab the weight and swing it from side to side. Go as far as you can to each side while preventing your hips from twisting along with your shoulders.
4. Scissor Kick
You may be moving your legs in this exercise, but this is a full-body move that also builds up your thighs. Similar to Bowflex Revolution abs training, this exercise requires that you lie on your back with your legs extended, then place your arms under your back. Take care not to move your arms.
After that, raise your legs a few inches off the floor and scissor them. Alternate the top leg each time. If you are not capable of doing this yet, lift your legs and hold them in position for at least one minute. It will not be as effective, but it will build your core muscles so you can attain the strength to do the Scissor Kick.
5. Push-Up Variations
The classic Push-Up strengthens your core and upper body as your muscles work to keep your body off the floor. Push-Ups are a fantastic exercise that can be done anywhere, but there are variations that can be done to emphasize your core muscles and relieve the monotony of doing 50 Push-Ups day after day.
For example, place your feet on a stability ball or try to do one-handed Push-Ups. Here are a few examples of variations you can do to target certain areas of your body. But above all, make sure your push-up form is correct. Push-Ups done incorrectly will affect your core muscles more than your arms, so have someone watching to make sure you do them slowly and properly.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock