Training for a half marathon or marathon? Blending some of the most beneficial exercises from ballet, pilates and yoga to focus on core strength, posture and balance, barre workouts are the perfect cross-training activity for both serious and novice runners.
No matter if you’re a marathon or short-distance runner, the same muscle groups are used to propel the body forward – primarily, the hip flexors, quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings. So, runners will be especially strong in these areas, but may be imbalanced in others. Barre is beneficial because it addresses these imbalances by building a strong core and spine, which benefits breath control, creates more efficient movements with less chance for injury for runners.
We chatted with the folks at The Dailey Method—a popular barre workout with locations across the country—for the top four barre exercises to help runners build a lean, strong and flexible body.
Seated Neutral Spine
This movement helps to properly align your spine. It’s one of the healthiest positions to engage the small muscle groups around the spine and help to stabilize through the movement and impact of running. Holding this position also helps to create length and flexibility in the hamstring muscles, which will offer more power for runners.
- Sit with your legs straight in front of you, hip distance apart and knees slightly bent.
- Widen your sitz bones and sit up as tall as you can.
- Lengthen up to try to find the natural curvatures of your spine and then squeeze your abdominals.
- For the extra hamstring length, try to maintain the spinal position and push your thigh bones down towards the floor to straighten your legs.
Standing Knee Pull
This is an interval exercise, replicating some of the movement in running, that engages the abdominal muscles to give support to your pelvis and power in your running stride. This movement also helps to teach your body how to move quickly while still maintaining proper spine alignment.
- Start in a plank position at the barre. Feet about 3 feet from the wall and legs together.
- Hands are shoulder distance apart at the barre and palms pressing downward.
- Lift your heels and while maintaining neutral spine, use your abdominals to pull your right knee into your chest. You can do this with a large or small range of motion.
This movement will help strengthen both your quadriceps and your gluteal muscles for running. Additionally, it works to strengthen the muscles all the way around the knee joint for greater support and stability, a common point of injury for runners.
- Start in a traditional lunge position with your hand in profile, holding onto a table.
- Front knee should be right over front ankle and back knee directly underneath the back hip.
- Maintain neutral spine then hinge the whole shape forward.
- Keeping your hips level energize through the entire front foot and move up and inch down an inch 50 times, switch sides.
This pose stretches the quadriceps, hip flexors and even deep into the psoas muscle in the pelvis. The movement is also a great balance challenge.
- Bend your right knee and grab the foot with your right hand.
- Tip your hips forward and draw your thigh as far behind your standing thigh as possible.
- Reach your opposite hand over your shoulder and slowly start hinging forward, kicking your foot back into your hand and trying to keep your chest as upright as possible.
- Keep the shoulders and hips squared forward.