Naturally, your go-to core workout might include a variation of sit-ups, crunches, and planks. Because as a runner, you know how important training your midsection is to improve your performance. But these traditional exercises aren’t the only way to get stronger. Enter: this standing ab workout that trains muscles you might have overlooked, while turning up the stability test.
Standing core exercises strengthen the deep core muscles and those hard-to-target obliques that keep you stable while running, says Runner’s World coach, Jess Movold. Making them a great addition—not replacement—to any core routine.
While prone exercises like sit-ups and crunches have a place in your core routine, they primarily strengthen your superficial abdominal muscles that lie just below the skin. And to be an efficient and stable runner, you’re going to need to strengthen all of your abdominal muscles, including those that sit a little deeper in your midsection and support your spine.
How to use this list: Each exercise is demonstrated by Coach Jess in the above video and detailed below so you can learn the proper form. Practice each move for the number of reps listed below. Complete 2 to 3 sets and rest for 30 seconds between sets. Do this workout at least twice a week. You will need a dumbbell, a slam ball, and a long resistance band with handles. A medicine ball is optional.
When performing standing ab exercises, be sure to engage your core through the entire move. That requires drawing your belly button in toward spine and avoiding letting the ribs stick out. You should feel like you’re bracing your midsection, like you do when you laugh. This will help keep the work in your abdominals instead of in your hip flexors or arms.
The dumbbell weight should be challenging but not so heavy that you begin to feel the burn in your shoulders or arms instead of your abs for this standing ab workout.
1 - Standing Cross-Body Crunch
Why it works: The cross-body crunch hits your entire core—the upper, lower, and oblique muscles. The move also requires balance and coordination, which is essential for runners.
How to do it: Stand tall with your fingertips behind your ears, elbows out wide, and core engaged. With foot flexed, draw right knee up as you rotate from the torso, left elbow meeting right knee. Return to standing. Then repeat on the opposite side. Continue alternating. Do 20 reps on each side.
2 - Weighted Side Bend
Why it works: Strong obliques help minimize side-to-side rotation while on the run. And this move helps to strengthen those muscles.
How to do it: Grab a dumbbell and stand tall with the weight in left hand, core engaged, shoulders back, chest proud. Contract abs and lean to the left as you slide the weight down to left knee. Use right oblique to pull torso back up to standing. Do 20 reps then repeat on the opposite side.
3 - Standing Side Crunch
Why it works: In addition to targeting the obliques, you can also elevate your heart rate the faster you go. This move does not hit all abdominal muscles, but it fires up the exterior ab muscles, which are key for stabilization.
How to do it: Stand tall with fingertips behind ears, elbows out wide, and core engaged. With foot flexed, draw right knee up and out as you crunch right elbow to right knee. Return to standing. Repeat. Do 20 reps then repeat on the opposite side.
4 - Cross-Body Chop
Why it works: This works the abs, upper back, shoulders, and glutes, making it a total-body move. It emphasizes torso rotation, which aids in hip and lumbar (or low back) stability.
How to do it: Stand tall with one dumbbell in both hands. Take weight overhead at a diagonal over right shoulder as you pivot left toes in, heel up. Keep both arms straight and long as you cross the weight down and over to left hip, moving it diagonally across body. Draw the weight back up and repeat. Do 10 to 12 reps. Then repeat on the opposite side.
5 - Med Ball Slam
Why it works: Short explosive bursts are one of the best ways to train the abdominal region. This move combines both strength and cardio.
How to do it: Stand tall with a medicine ball in both hands. Roll onto toes as you draw the ball up overhead. Using your core—not your arms—hinge at the hips and crunch down to slam the ball to the ground, as you lower into a squat position. Catch the ball and repeat. Do 10 to 12 reps.
6 - Dumbbell Pull-Over
Why it works: Overhead resistance will challenge your core in a new way. For the best results, think about contracting your abdominals the entire time and pulling the navel closer to the spine. Remember: The dumbbell should not be so heavy that you feel the burn in your shoulders instead of your abs.
How to do it: Stand tall holding one dumbbell vertical with both hands, arms extended straight out in front of chest at shoulder height. Engage core then draw the weight up overhead. Stabilize, then slowly lower the weight back down to chest height. Repeat. Do 10 to 12 reps.
7 - Standing Halo
Why it works: The rotational movement of the weight forces your core to stabilize. A smaller size weight will make it easier to maneuver.
How to do it: Grab a medicine ball, dumbbell, or kettlebell and stand tall, core engaged. Lift the weight up to right shoulder and rotate it around your head, keeping elbows in close to head and ending with the weight back at your chest. Repeat. Do 10 reps. Then reverse direction to complete another 10 reps.
8 - Trunk Rotation With a Band
Why it works: This strengthens your abs through the rotational movement, targeting the hard-to-hit oblique muscles. For best results, make sure you squeeze your glutes to avoid any strain on the knee.
How to do it: Anchor a long resistance band to a steady object, like a weight rack or door. Stand to the side of the anchor point and grab the handles of the resistance band with both hands. Extend arms straight out in front of you with core engaged. Rotate torso toward the anchor. Then use core to reverse the movement and return to the starting position. Engage your core to keep the hips stable. You should feel this on both sides of your abdominals. Do 10 to 12 reps on each side.