13 core exercises for endurance athletes

With our 13 core exercises, you become a stronger endurance athlete. Ready to swim, bike and run more efficiently and faster than before.


As an endurance athlete, your focus often lies on volume in training – more time for swimming, cycling, running, or whichever sport you are focusing on. Core strengthening is often forgotten or maybe even a skipped part of the training.

The importance of core strength

However, having proper core strength is vital for a functioning body – especially for you.

  • In swimming, the core has a central role, since it affects your ability to maintain the body position in the water. A strong core also gives you a better rotation and is said to provide a better swimming technique.
  • When you are cycling, of course, your legs have to work the hardest. But your core muscles need to be strong to be able to maintain your position on the bike. Otherwise, the upper body will collapse somewhat, and you will lose power.
  • During running, you need a stable and supporting musculature in the core to maintain a good posture. If you succeed in this, it results in better breathing and a more efficient running step.

Furthermore, your core strength is a combination of your abdominal muscles and your back muscles. And they are used all the time. It will give you a good posture, which is beneficial for the expansion of your chest. Which, in turn, has a positive effect on your breathing and oxygen uptake.

4 weeks of core workouts

A core workout should rely less on mindless repetition of exercise and focuses more on awareness. With a good core strength, you learn to identify and activate the muscles needed.

To accomplish that, we recommend you to do some core training three times per week.

So, download our free 4-week core training program. It contains below core exercises and will strengthen you and make you a more durable athlete.

13 exercises for core strength

The following core strengthening videos are presented by Ingmarie Nilsson, a former National champion over the marathon, half-marathon, and in cross-country.

Plank

  • Start by laying down with your stomach against the floor resting on your forearms. With the elbows directly under the shoulders, you lift the torso from the ground so that the body forms a straight line from the upper body to the heels.
  • Your body weight rests on your forearms and toes. Tighten your stomach and don’t let your hips sink. Your shoulder and elbow should be in a straight line.

Planks are great, yet only doing planks regardless of how great they get monotonous real fast. Following a varied and thought through training plan will keep training fun and varied.


Back extensions

  • Start on your stomach with your hands held right by your ears. Focus your gaze down on the ground so you can relax your neck while doing the exercise. Lift yourself up so that you feel the lower back work. Activate your glutes throughout the exercise.
  • If you raise your arms and hands are stretched over the head, this increases the difficulty level.
  • Back extensions can also be done statically. That means that the body is kept in the same position all the time with the muscles activated.

Back extensions are great for all types of endurance sports, both your gluteus and your erector spinae helps you with holding a good posture when you get tired. In our free core training program, you will do this and many more exercises that will strengthen your core!


Hip thrusters

  • Lay on your back with your knees at a 90-degree angle to your feet.
  • Lift hips and back from the floor so that the body forms a straight line from the shoulder to the knee.
  • Tighten your glutes at the top position and avoid lowering your back.

Hip thrusters are a perfect exercise to incorporate in your warmup routine. Try it out, either next time you run, or as one of many varied and great exercises in our free four-week core training program!


Plank leg raises

  • Start on the ground with your stomach against the floor resting on your forearms.
  • With the elbows directly under the shoulders, you lift the torso from the ground so that the body forms a straight line from the upper body to the heels.
  • Bodyweight rests on forearms and toes.
  • Make sure there is a straight line between the shoulder and the elbow.
  • With your body static, lift one leg and hold for 10 seconds, alternate your legs for one minute.

Do you want to try something new? Planks are great! No doubt about that, yet if you want to increase the difficulty of the plank, try this. Did you know that our core training program comes in two different difficulty levels? Try it out, it’s free!


Side plank

  • Start by laying on the side of your body, and support the upper body with your forearm on the same side of your body.
  • Hold your other hand on the hip of the side that is pointing up.
  • Lift the hip and support the body on the forearm and on the outside of your foot.
  • Stretch your upper arm over your upper shoulder and head. Hold the position for 30 – 60 seconds.
  • Change side and repeat.
  • Keep your hip up, don’t let it sink to the floor.

Side planks, it’s kind of like a side order when you go out to eat. It is a small extra, but it enhances the whole meal (or training session). It is a great exercise, that will make you feel the burn in your obliques. We have incorporated the exercise into our core training program – a free four-week training program that you can download here!


Mountain climbers

  • With the elbows and hands directly under the shoulders, you lift the torso from the ground so that the body forms a straight line from your upper body to your heels.
  • Bodyweight rests on hand and toes.
  • Tighten your stomach and raise one knee to the same elbow.
  • Get back to the starting position and repeat the exercise with the other leg.

This exercise is great. Sure, it is a core exercise, yet it also makes your shoulders stronger, you’ll get your heart rate up and many more benefits. Have you tried it?

Another thing that I think you should try is our four-week free core training program. It will make you a stronger athlete, regardless of what your main sport is.


Bicycle crunches

  • Lay on your back with your legs at a 90-degree angle and your lower back pressed against the ground.
  • Put your hands right on your ears.
  • Twist your body so that the left arm extends towards your knee on the right side.
  • Feel how the oblique abdominal muscles work through the movement and remember that the arm and legs do not need to meet.

Not just marvelous for cyclists! This is a tough one, but master it, and you will get super strong in all other disciplines in endurance sports. Try this, and many more great exercises in our free core training program!


Butt ups

  • Start by laying on your back.
  • Lift your legs up, so that you are at a 90-degree angle in your hip.
  • Lift your feet straight upwards, and your legs and butt will follow.
  • Lower your legs back to the ground in a controlled motion.
  • Repeat.

Little things makes a huge difference. This exercise may not seem like much. But trust me, it will make your muscles burn, and your core super strong!

Do you want a kick start with your core training? Try our four-week core training program for free!


Jackknife crunches

  • Sit down and place your hands behind your back so that you can bend your elbows.
  • Lift your knees, and bend so that your shins are horizontal.
  • Lean back, supporting you with your hands. And at the same time, stretch your legs out.
  • Your feet should not touch the ground.
  • Explosive movement back to the starting position.

The great thing about core training is that you can vary the difficulty of the exercises so that they suit your level. Jackknife crunches for example can be varied in difficulty level by where you put your hands. Or if you want it really tough, have your arms lifted in the air! Try this and many more fantastic exercises in a varied, functional training program – for free!


Standing on all four, lifting your knees

  • Stand on all four, hands placed beneath your shoulders.
  • Tighten the trunk and hold that activation as you lift your knees from the ground (a few centimeters).
  • Maintain that abdominal pressure and balance.
  • Then raise one hand and make a touch on the opposite knee if you feel you have the balance.
  • Keep your body stable throughout the movement, and switch hands.

This will give you tremendous body control, and body awareness! Two things that will benefit you greatly in everything you do in life. Especially in sports. We like to do it both in our core training programs. or, as part of your warm-up routine before training.


Dead bug

  • Start on your back, with your lower back pressed into the ground.
  • By pressing your lower back downwards, you keep the tension in your abdominal muscles.
  • Stretch out one leg and the opposite arm is lifted straight over the head, alternating arm, and leg.
  • Be careful to maintain tension in the abdomen.

Dead or not – this bug will strengthen your core. But it is also a great way to learn diagonal movements that will benefit you in both running and swimming! Try it out together with lots of other fun exercises in our free core training program that is perfect for you as an endurance athlete!


Plank with a touch

  • Stand in plank with straight arms and a straight line. Keep hands under your shoulders. Feet hip-width apart.
  • Lift your left hand and touch your right elbow. Change. Then left hand to right hip. Change.
  • Stabilize your core and torso. It´s just your arms that should move in this exercise. Not the hips. If you fall from one side to another move your feet wider apart to get a better balance.

Plank with a touch, a touch of madness? We are joking, but it is a bit mad that such a small difference can make such a huge impact on the difficulty level of an exercise.

Do you want to master endurance sports? Get there faster by mastering core training! Try our core training program for free, and you’ll feel the results!


Side plank with a twist

  • Stand in plank with straight arms. Keep hands under your shoulders. Feet together.
  • Lift right arm and roll over to a side-plank. Make sure you don’t drop the left hip.
  • Come over to a plank-position again and move directly over to the other side by lifting your left hand and arm. 
  • Try to do it in one movement without pausing in the middle.

Try this exercise either before a swim session or as part of your core training. If you need inspiration, download our 4-week core training program for free. It comes in two different levels so that it will fit you regardless of training background!


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