Your core is your pillar. It’s vital for pretty much every human movement. However, it is even more critical to have a high-functioning core when running because your trunk connects your feet to your hands and vice versa. 

Furthermore, a solid core is better able to build and sustain abdominal pressure. Thus, we must adapt our training to maintain the requisite core tension to be efficient runners. 

Abdominal Pressure

Abdominal pressure creates intramuscular pressure in all the muscles surrounding the torso to stabilize the spine, chest, and pelvis. We know this from training in the gym, but research also supports this.

Professor Vladimir Janda, a neurologist in the Czech Republic, showed this in one of his studies. He attached sensors to the various muscles in the core musculature, then had his patients run. He found the diaphragm and the transverse (oblique) abdominal muscles initiated the movement, and the other muscles then followed in a domino-like effect to coalesce around the torso.

Unfortunately, most test subjects who did not exhibit this natural movement pattern had chronic low back pain. However, by activating the muscles in the right way through the right choice of exercises, the aches disappeared, and they were able to optimize both their function and well-being. 

Now you're probably wondering what that has to do with your training. Let me explain.

Breathing Is The Key

When we 'breathe with the stomach,’ the diaphragm is lowered, which gives more space for the lungs to be filled with more air. Simultaneously, the intestinal package is pressed down into the abdominal cavity, causing the abdominal muscles to tighten to protect the inside. 

In other words, it is not the air we fill the stomach with, as is often learned in various relaxation exercises. Still, I often tell my clients to fill their bellies with air, as it visually explains how it should feel. Just remember that higher-level clients and athletes will benefit from understanding breathing mechanics, so don’t hesitate to tell them the nitty-gritty details.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

The number one thing you can do to improve your running is to learn diaphragmatic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing puts you in a 'second breath,' as you have to do in cardiovascular activities.

When jogging, most people start slowly to avoid ending up in an oxygen debt, mainly because it takes a while before the upper body is in sync with the lower body. It's also easy to start breathing high up in the chest. 

It may take some time to get a good flow for a relaxed, good breath cycle and for the body to sink into the groove. However, if you learn to actively start with a diaphragmatic breath, you can immediately begin in the second breath. 

If you think of the torso as a plastic bottle, we have the pelvic floor (i.e., the bottom of the bottle), and all the muscles in and around the torso surround it. When the bottle is empty, it's easy to bend. However, lowering the diaphragm is like putting a cork on the bottle; the air doesn't go anywhere. So even if we try to bend the bottle, the air cannot get out; the higher the pressure from the outside, the greater the pressure inside the bottle/trunk.

Breathe With The Stomach

To learn to 'breathe with the stomach,' it is good to start by being able to breathe with a lowered chest and feel as if the air is going down into the stomach; then, you direct the air out towards the sides. 

Put your hands just above your waistline and breathe low and deep into your sides; you should feel your side expanding. That’s breathing with the stomach.

Once you have that down, try to flow through regular breathing cycles. It's easiest if you just breathe in and out through your nose. 

Then, breathe in when you have air out towards your fingers and tighten your stomach towards your fingertips. In other words, you’re breathing in and out while maintaining a general outward pressure.

Once you’ve mastered this, establish the same breathing and core control in your daily movements.

No More Mouth Breathing

You should also breathe through your nose and not through your mouth. If you breathe with your mouth open, you take in too much air, which can cause your chest to rise. If the oxygen you breathe in through your nose is not enough because you are short of breath, you can breathe through your mouth with your teeth closed. Then abdominal pressure is also created. Again, the goal is for you to experience a vacuum in your stomach.

Smarter Core Training

The exercises we choose to strengthen our core should coincide with the aforementioned breath work. 

The oblique abdominal muscles connect the lateral portions of the ribcage to the pelvis. On the other hand, the rectus abdominis (i.e., the muscle you train in situps and crunches) pulls the pubic bone closer to the sternum. Thus, when practicing breathing and bracing, we want to fully engage these muscles for the greatest output.

So, learning to keep pressure in the torso during a good morning is much more effective than randomly doing a standard elbow plank. With a good morning, you can keep the ‘plastic bottle with the cap on’ while challenging the torso to hold the pressure without swaying. 

How far you go down depends entirely on how far you go without 'dropping the cork.' This exercise is also suitable for learning to relax the hamstrings (back of the thighs), which generally work dynamically during movement, while the trunk is statically tense during running.


I can provide countless exercise examples to showcase better breathing and bracing, but I want to keep this article simple. 

In standard training, it is primarily about stressing the muscle and forcing it to adapt. Ideally, the muscle must not get used to the work because it stops developing; this applies to strength training when the aim is to build a larger or stronger muscle physiology. 

However, my goal in this article is not to build a bigger or stronger muscle but to help teach a correct movement pattern in the body. Therefore, it is more on a neurological adaptation level than a muscular one. We want to train the brain and spinal cord to activate the right muscles as efficiently as possible so that they are connected with as little effort.

In this article, you have gained an understanding and insight into how:

  • Abdominal pressure binds the upper body and lower body together.
  • As a result, it becomes easier to run after the hip.
  • You save time by training correctly.
  • The oxygen supply is optimized.
  • Training is adapted for neurological learning.

write for elitefts

Stefan Waltersson is a professional strength coach certified by Westside Barbell, lecturer, physiotherapist, author, personal trainer, kinesiologist, sports massage therapist, nurse assistant, and founder of Seminoff Sport & Rehab in 2004. Stefan has previously worked in neurology (Sahlgrenska University Hospital) and with researching doctors in microbiology and clinical chemistry. Check out his website.