Runners suffering low back pain should do more abs and glute exercises, according to a new study. When researchers at Ohio State University analyzed runners’ personal biomechanics, they found that it was weak deep core muscles—the transversus abdominis which wraps from spine to pelvis and the multifidus which runs up your spine—causing an increased load on the spine that was likely leading to back issues.
“Low back pain is a frequent complaint for recreational runners, and the more miles logged, the more prevalent the symptoms,” says running rehabilitation specialist Steve Vighetti, MPT, CSCS, faculty member at the University of St. Augustine in Florida. Your core is not just the foundation for movement in every direction but it’s also the base of your leg muscles. That means that each stride originates from the core, which also absorbs the force of your foot hitting the ground at each step. “If the core is weak, the muscles no longer absorb those forces; instead, the joints in the legs and the low back do. That constant pounding can ultimately lead to pain and injury,” Vighetti says.
What’s more, if your deep core muscles aren’t strong enough, you’re more likely to develop other problems from running, like knee pain and overuse injuries in your hips and feet, says Ashley Fluger, CSCS, sports performance specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
Do three to four core strengtheners every day, but not before a run so your muscles aren’t fatigued heading out, Vighetti says. A few favorites: forearm planks, side planks on elbows, dead bugs, glute bridges, single-leg Romanian deadlifts, supermans, spidermans, bridge walkouts, and mountain climbers. Start with 30 seconds each and progress up to one to two minutes each.