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Video:Ab Workouts for Runners

with Jonathon E. Stewart

Keep your stomach muscles in good shape, and you'll not only look good in a bathing suit, you'll also get more power out of every step of every mile you run. Learn an easy ab workout for runners.See Transcript

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Transcript:Ab Workouts for Runners

Hey guys - Jonathon Stewart here for About.com. Running relies on great cardiovascular fitness, lung power, and strong, powerful leg muscles, right? Well sure, but believe it or not your stomach muscles also play a pivotal part. So are there any exercises you can do that are specifically designed for runners? Ab-solutely. Check it out.

Why Do an Ab Workout After Running?

Running helps strengthen your back muscles, but not the ones in your stomach. Without proper attention to your abs, it's not uncommon to develop an imbalance in your torso which can negatively affect your posture and gait. Plus, strong abdominal muscles also help you move your legs and shift your hips, giving you more power with every step.

As an old cross country coach once told me, you're only as strong as your back and stomach. Of course he was the one sitting in the back of the pickup truck with a megaphone and a lawn chair as we chased after him for ten miles everyday.

Ab Groups to Target

When you're working your abs, it's important that you hit all six major stomach muscles: the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominus, and a pair each of the internal and external obliques. I know, I know. Not everybody took Latin for a couple weeks in college, so let me translate: upper, lower, love handles.

Runner Abs Workout 1

After you've put in your miles for the day, give yourself about 5-8 minutes to work your abs, broken into 30 second intervals. Start with a simple set of crunches, legs bent at a 90 degree angle and crossed, hands behind your head. Gently lift your head, neck and shoulders up and off the ground, all as a single unit. Don't jerk your head or neck forward, or use your arms to pull you up. Focus on allowing your upper abs to lift your upper torso up, about six inches or so. Relax, and repeat.

Runner Abs Workout #2

Focus on your form here, not how many you can do, or how cool you look doing them. Although if you do them right for long enough, you're gonna look pretty cool. After 30 seconds, switch to a side oblique crunch. Keeping you legs bent, let them rest on the ground on your right side. Keeping you left arm straight, reach down toward your heels. Again - this should be about a six-inch movement. Repeat for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Runner Abs Workout #3

Next, move to cross-over crunches. Keep the same position as regular crunches, but this time lift your right shoulder towards your left knee, return, then lift your left shoulder towards your right knee. Alternate for another 30 seconds.

You don't have to stick to this exact order, by the way. In fact, it's important you mix it up from time to time, so that your muscles don't develop a memory for your workout and plateau in their development. Muscles actually have a very good memory - sometimes much better even than your, um, I'm sorry - what was I saying?

Runner Abs Workout #4

For your lower abs, place your hands underneath you and lift your heels off the ground about six inches. From here, flutter kick for 30 seconds, then switch to scissor-kicks for another 30. Now, bend your legs and bring them up toward your chest, then straight up. Bend them again, then extend them back out, six inches above the ground.

Runner Abs Workout #5

You can also work your lower obliques from this position by lifting your legs up toward the sky, and rotating your hips slightly to the right, then left, again and again, for 30 seconds.

Runner Abs Workout Variations

Some great variations on all of these include "froggies," "penguins," "mountain climbers," "Rocky crunches," and one that's great to finish with: the "wood plank." Get into a pushup position, but with your elbows and forearms underneath you, flat on the ground. Lift your midsection up, and keep your entire body in a straight line for a final 30 seconds.

Keep adding these 30 second intervals to your routine until you just can't take it anymore, and you'll be Joe Six-pack before you know it. Or Jane Six-pack - nobody ever talks about Jane. Just remember that if you're starting from scratch, you might want to go easy. Rome and strong abs weren't built in a day, and if you try, you'll be hurtin' for certain. The good hurt, that is.

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