Runners can benefit from strong abs, because a strong core helps the rest of the body function at its best. The abs help during breathing, especially exhaling. They also help with posture and balance. There are actually 6 areas of the abdomin that have muscles you can work and tone. One of the most ignored of these is extremely important in building the strength of the core, and it helps prevent injury while running. Here are exercises to work the abdominal muscles and target abs that many ab workouts may ignore.
The Rectus Abdominus Muscle
This is the muscle group referred to as "the six-pack". It's actually one muscle, the long muscle in the center of the body. There are 2 ways to exercise this area. One is the traditional crunch. Lie on your back and make sure your back is flat on the floor. Bend your legs at the knees and cross your arms at the chest. If you put the hands behind the head, don't press on the neck. Try to lift your upper back off the floor using the abdominal muscles.
The second exercise is the bicycle. On your back, lift both legs off the ground and as level with the head as possible. Pretend you are riding a bike that's right in front of you. If it's not hard enough, adjust the height of the legs.
The Oblique Muscles
There are four oblique muscles in total, an internal and external on both sides of the body. They're next to the muscle mentioned above. To work these muscles on the right, stand in a firm position with the knees soft. Put your arms in front of you, bent at the elbows as if you're hugging someone. Twist directly to the left and hold the position for 3 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Do 10 repetitions. You can adapt the move by stretching the right arm outward as you twist. Another move would be to bend directly to the side, bringing the opposite arm over the ear.
The Transverse Abdominis Muscle
This muscle lies deep in the abdomen and will help improve your core strength, which is vital for running. The best way to work this muscle is called the plank pose. Get in the position as if you were about to do a push-up. Keep your whole body straight and lift the whole body as one straight unit. You can then try to lift a leg from this position to work the muscle further.
Other Ways to Achieve a Full-Ab Workout
There are several ways to really work the abs at the gym or at home. If you can get to a gym, find one that has a variety of ab machines. There's one in particular that's good for people of varying sizes and strengths. You're on a seat and twist around with as little or as much weight as you want. Using an exercise ball at home is also a way to amplify the workout. You can sit on the ball and try to do crunches, or lie on the ball on your front and try to lift your upper half up.