Core Stability Training Can Influence Distance Running Performance

As we enter into the cross country season, many of us may be wondering how we can increase our running efficiency and speed.   In fact, as running is inherent to almost every fall sport, this question may apply to almost every athlete.  Core strength is an often alluded to, but sometimes unexplained and misunderstood, component to athletic performance.  A recent study conducted at Barry University in Florida decided to tackle this age old question, looking at the effect of core strength training and its relationship to improved running kinematics and running performance.

In recent years, core strength training has been widely touted to increase athletic performance and decrease chance of injury.  However, there is not much in the way of scientific studies to support this theory.  Therefore a group of researchers attempted to demonstrate the relationship between improved running efficiency and core strength training.

The study included 28 recreational and competitive runners.  They each completed a series of pretests, including a test for lower extremity stability and balance and a 5,000 meter run.   They were then randomly divided into two groups – a CST (core strength training) group and a control group.  The experimental group underwent a core strength training program 4 x per week to include abdominal crunches on a stability ball, back extensions on a stability ball, supine opposite 1 arms, 1 leg raises, hip raises on a stability ball and Russian twists on a stability ball.

Following the six weeks of training, the performance tests were again completed.  The results were somewhat surprising.  The subjects undergoing the CST program demonstrated a significant decrease in the time of the 5,000 meter run.  The results on the lower extremity stability test, while demonstrating a numerical increase, were not statistically significant for improved lower extremity control.

Although the CST program did not result in statistically significant measurable differences in lower extremity balance and control, the 5,000 meter run times did decrease.  This is a positive indication that core strength training can improve function with athletic activities.  It is also believed to be able to help prevent injuries by preventing excessive limb excursion or loss of control.  Further studies are needed to determine the magnitude to which core strength training can enhance athletic performance.