Lower back pain is a common problem that runners can face and it has been linked to a weaker core. When most of us hear we may need to strengthen our core, we tend to focus our effort toward our abdominals. According to new research from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, we actually want to forgo the six pack and focus our effort on our deep core muscles. When a runner has weaker deep core muscles, it forces their abdominals to compensate, which enables them to continue running. However, over time using their abdominals increases the load on their spine, eventually causing fatigue and lower back pain.
Weaker deep core muscles are not just isolated to beginners or novices. They are even found in well-conditioned and well-experienced runners. This may in part stem from mainstream fitness magazines and online platforms, who encourage more of a focus on six pack producing abdominal exercises such as sit-ups or back extensions. The science has in fact proven these types of exercises will not strengthen deep core muscles. To effectively do that, Dr. Ajiti Chaudhari suggests, “static exercises that force you to fire your core and hold your body in place are what’s really going to make you a better runner”, such as the plank.
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Margaret E. Raabe, Ajit M.W. Chaudhari. Biomechanical consequences of running with deep core muscle weakness. Journal of Biomechanics, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2017.11.037