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Photo credit: Cor de Jonge

Cor’s Core! Simple exercises to build leg and core strength


Last updated: 08-Mar-21

By Alice Morrison

A strong core and strong legs will pay dividends when you are slogging out those miles up and down a wind-blasted or sandblasted fell.

Here is a quick but very effective ultra exercise routine that will hit your core and your legs. You can do it at home or in the gym. If you don’t have weights, use full water bottles.

The routine has been designed and is demonstrated by coach Cor de Jonge, a former track star.

The most important thing is to get your posture right and do the drills slowly and steadily. Five good ones are worth twenty mediocre efforts, as the Actress said to the Bishop.

Air Squat (works on quads and glutes)

20 – 40 reps

Stand straight with your feet hip distance apart and your toes pointing slightly outwards. Start from your hips, bring your butt down, keep your upper body straight. As you bend down bring your arms out in front of you to shoulder height. Your knees should go straight towards your toes but not over them. When you reach 90 degrees between knees and hips, start the upward movement. Push your heels hard into the floor to engage the glutes and move back up to standing position. Bring your arms down to your sides as you do this. Don’t come forward with your upper body or you will be working your lower back rather than your legs.

Air Squat

Air Squat - side view

Front Squat with weight (works on quads, glutes and abs)

20 – 40 reps

Assume the same position as above but with a weight held between both hands under your chin. Follow the movement as above for the Air Squat. Working with the weight in front of you, means that you have to switch on your abs to maintain your balance. So, keep your core rock hard for full benefit.

Squat with weight

Squat with weight - side view

Lunge (works on hams, quads and glutes)

10 reps each side, repeat to 20

Start by standing straight with your feet at hip distance apart to give you stability. Step back with one foot. Make it a big step. Bring that knee to the floor and keep the other one at a 90-degree angle and check your position and adjust if necessary. Come back up and you are ready to begin the movement.
Keep your weight in the middle, then kneel down with the knee of your extended leg. Lengthen your back and switch on your abs. The back knee leads the movement. Get to a 90/90 position with your back knee just off the ground. At the end of the down movement, push the heel of your front foot down and the toes of your back foot down and push back up.

Don’t bring your weight forward as this means you will only work with your front leg. Your knee should not go over your toes.


Lunge - side view

Lunge with weights (works on hams, quads and glutes and core)

10 reps each side, repeat to 15

Take a weight in each hand, keep these nice and relaxed by your sides and repeat the exercise above. The weight asks more from your core and also helps strengthen the legs.

Lunge with weights

Lunge with weight above head (works on hams, quads and glutes and obliques)

10 reps each side, repeat to 15

A variant that will help your obliques, is to work with one side weighted. Hold the weight on the same side as your extended leg. Lift your arm straight above your head and keep it there. Repeat the exercise as above.
Try not to wobble like a jelly. You will need to switch on your obliques to keep you straight.

Lunge with weight above head

Shoulder Bridge or Hip Lift (works on your posterior muscles – shoulders, back, glutes, hams)

10 -30 reps

Lie on your back with your legs bent. Keep your hands down by your sides. You should be able to touch your heels with your fingertips. Relax your arms. Push your shoulders and heels down and your pelvis up. Squeeze your lower back, butt and hamstrings as tight as you can.
If you want to increase it, put a weight on your abdomen.
Don’t just thrust up and down like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, go slow and squeeze.

Shoulder Bridge or Hip Lift

Side squat with weighted front raise (hip abductors, core, quads and glutes)

10 reps each side – repeat to 20

This is a tricky one to get right, so take it easy till you feel it bite. Stand with your legs together and your back straight. Your arms should be straight down in front of you, holding a weight or weighted ball. Move one leg out and go into the squat position. At the same time reach your arms away from you. Not too high. You have to switch on your abs and lower back harder the further you reach away from your middle. Then push back hard with your extended foot and leg back to centre.
Don’t bring the ball/weight up too high, and keep your body centred.

Side squat with weighted ball

Back leg raise and forward drop with weight (core, hams and glutes, feet and ankle stabilisers)

10 reps each side

Balance and rock hard abs from this exercise. Start in a relaxed standing position with a weight in your right hand. Drop your body forward and bring your left leg straight up behind you. Switch on that core. When you have reached a position where your right hand is touching your right toe and your left leg is fully extended, swing back up.

Try not to fall over... the more slowly and controlled you can do this one, the better.

Back leg raise

That’s it. If you do that twice a week you will see a marked difference in your core stability and your leg strength, which will help you battle fatigue and fight injury as the runs get longer.

Cor’s Core! For more info – check out his Facebook page

Your Comments On Cor’s Core! Simple exercises to build leg and core strength

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Peaks Princess

01:10 08-03-21

In answer to your queries yes, my understanding is that you would do 10 each side, then 11 each side, then 12 each side until the final number.

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Sarah Clough

08:00 04-03-21

I'd like to know the same as DBursell please.

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12:00 11-04-20

Awesome exercise! How do you mean "repeat to"? Each round you increase by one rep until your reach the set amount or?