Core strength can make or break your speed goals.
We all want a solid core for different reasons: sports performance, pain prevention, that finish line photo—but strengthening your midsection is particularly important for runners. That’s because your core is the stabilizing center of your body (it keeps you standing, least of all sprinting), and it can make or break your speed goals, prevent (or contribute to!) an injury, and yes, make you feel pretty badass in a sports bra.
But if you’re searching for lower abs exercises, we need to get one thing out of the way first: “Lower abs exercises” aren’t really a thing. “Your core is comprised of the rectus abdominis, which runs down the front of your body and creates that ‘six-pack’ effect; your obliques (side abs); your erector spinae, which runs up your back; and your transverse abdominis (the deep core located under those six-pack muscles),” says Lindsay Clayton, a certified run coach and trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp in New York City. “When people point to the lower part of their stomach and say their ‘lower abs’, they’re really just referring to their rectus abdominis, and you can’t only work the lower part in isolation.”
That said, there are plenty of abs exercises—both creative and classic—that engage your rectus abdominis, including the lower part, and make you a stronger runner.
“While it’s important to work your whole core for a balanced body, there are certain exercises that utilize the lower part of the rectus abdominis,” Clayton says. “These ‘lower abs’ exercises are great for runners because they often involve driving your knee up towards your core, stimulating the motion of running.” (See: mountain climbers.)