By Elizabeth Towe

If you’ve decided to try something different and have signed up for a trail race on single-track trail or one of the many mud and obstacle-course races, then core stability will be the key to a successful race. Plank, as a basic exercise, is excellent for [static] full-body stability.

When we increase the difficulty by bringing one foot off the ground [dynamic], we ask for more strength from the shoulder girdle and more power from the standing leg. This will improve your ability to stabilize on a single leg while in a running or jumping pattern. You will also begin to prepare the shoulder girdle for the obstacle-course stations such as pull-ups, wall climbs, rope climbing or anything that requires crawling. And you will see improvement of core stability through pelvis counter rotation forces for cycling.

You can add challenge again by putting a quick leg change to also improve leg turnover.



  • Start in push-up position, shoulders directly above your hands.
  • Push your shoulders away from your ears.
  • Lengthen your spine through the top of your head and down through your tailbone.
  • Keep your eyes gazing down at the floor.
  • Your shoulder blades should be flat on the back of the ribcage.
  • Brace your abdominals to maintain neutral spine.
  • Contract your glutes and quadriceps (squeeze your butt and straighten your knees).
  • Bring your right knee directly toward your right elbow without elevating your pelvis or rounding your spine.
  • Pause with your knee at the elbow to feel the contraction of the glutes of the standing leg.
  • Find a rhythm of breath with the movement – for example, inhale while in plank, and exhale as you bring the knee to the elbow.
  • Alternate right and left knees doing 5-10 repetitions on each side for 2-4 sets.

Elizabeth Towe is a runner and a cyclist and the owner of Balanced Movement Studio in Carrboro. She graduated from East Carolina with a degree in exercise and sports science and has been personal training for over 20 years. Her ultimate goal for all of her clients is to help them realize and achieve the optimal quality in their life – and to remember to have fun doing it.