CHS XC Core Program
XC Core Program: CHS PRIDE

Building a solid foundation in the hips, pelvis, and abdominal area allows the body to support itself when receiving the impact of each foot strike when running. Running, in its most basic form, is a series of single leg bounds that project the athlete forward. Harnessing the forward forces from the foot strike (channeled up through the ankle and knees to the hips) allows each runner to move forward. By being strong you can manage the forces better which will create a better performance and reduce the likelihood of injury. Runners who are weak often drop their hips, sag, or collapse on each foot strike leaving energy on the ground rather than being used for forward propulsion. Your core muscles have three duties while you run:
1) Keeps your pelvis and spine properly aligned, and stable in that alignment
2) Aids in the transfer of forces between the upper body and the legs
Core Slideshow 3) Limits spinal rotation as you run

The pictured routine is done most days of the week with alternative drills being mixed in on additional days for variety and to maintain a large base of strength. At no time should these drills cause pain and if someone is unable to support themselves (e.g. hurt wrist/shoulder) then skipping a position or doing an alternative is a good compromise. The five alternative exercises shown with a * are all part of the Distance Runner Injury Prevention Program provided by our athletic trainer.

Note on Dorsiflexion: To dorsiflex the foot is to bring the toes towards the shin. The opposite is to plantarflex where the toe is pointed. Plantar flexion is common for people who have studied dance, gymnastics, swimming, and soccer. Distance runners benefit from the foot being up because it reduces ground contact time in the stance phase of the foot strike and allows for more energy being generated via elastic recoil from the Achilles tendon and plantar facia. Using drill time to focusing on posture increases the likelihood that neuro pathways will be created to repeat the position during the dynamic movement of running.

Here is our routine that uses the mnemonic phrase "CHS PRIDE" and commonly takes 5-8 minutes to complete:

Cook Hip Lift

  • This is a pose where you alternate the supporting foot.
  • Lift your hips high by driving your heel into the ground while contracting your glute.
  • If your hamstring starts to cramp then switch sides.
  • Dorsiflex your upper foot.
  • Cue yourself to "lift" the hips every few seconds as they will sag.

  • Modified positions include keeping your knees together as the one leg has a straight extension and lift your hands directly above or moving your hips up and down from the ground to the bridge position.
  • Alternative exercises include: Clamshells* (do both sides and keep the lower heel a few inches off the ground), 3-Way Calf Raises* (10x each of straight, toes in, toes out).

Heel Drops

  • The only thing that moves is one leg at a time during this drill.
  • Keep your back flat to the ground.
  • Suck your belly button towards the ground to engage your core.
  • Keep your legs at a 90 degree angle.
  • Dorsiflex your feet for the duration.
  • Your quads will be contracted to maintain this position.
  • Relax your upper body, breathe.
  • Position your fingers on your abs and you will feel the work being done, especially in the upper region.
  • SLOWLY drop the heel of one leg to tap ground and SLOWLY return it to the starting position.
  • The leg stays locked in the 90 degree angle throughout the movement.
  • Switch legs as you count to yourself during each repetition.

  • Alternative Exercise: Hip Raisers, Hip Flexor Pump, Hamstring Fall-Outs.

Side Plank

  • Position yourself on one elbow and lift your hips while supporting yourself on both feet.
  • Your body should be straight and aligned from your head to hips to feet.
  • You may put your upper arm on your hip or elevate it straight above.
  • Remember to breathe.
  • It's OK to lift and drop your hips to the ground in a controlled manner.
  • Turn over to switch sides when fatigued or after 30 seconds.

  • Modified positions include from easiest to hardest: Both feet separated on the ground, feet stacked, upper foot raised.
  • Alternative Exercises: Superman, Scissors, Single Leg Balance*.


  • Support the upper body on the elbows and create a straight body to the feet.
  • Check your hips to maintain initial position.
  • Remember to breathe.
  • Keep the head aligned with the back.
  • Start out with a goal of 20-30 seconds and work up to holding this position for a minute (or more).

  • Modified positions include: Sawing (rocking forward and backward), Raising up and down with the arms, Lifting one foot at a time off the ground, Plank jacks, and plank with straight arms and knee drive (outside, under, across).
  • Alternative Exercises: Penguins (shoulders off the ground, thumbs to your heel), Picking Grass (also known as Russian Twist), Pushups (Spiderman, corkscrew, or march).


  • Our cRoss countRy cRunches involve crossing both the arms and legs.
  • Hands go across the body to the alternate shoulder.
  • Legs cross at the knees.
  • Repeatedly lift your upper body so your shoulder blades are off the ground.
  • After 15 to 20 reps switch the arms and legs and repeat.

  • Modified positions include not crossing the legs (supporting them like at the start of Heel Drops).
  • Alternative Exercises: Rowing (legs are extended when hands are near the chest), Rowboat pose.


  • Keep your back flat to the ground.
  • Suck your belly button towards the ground to engage your core.
  • Hands may go at your side or behind your head.
  • Dorsiflex your feet for the duration.
  • "Pedal" to full extension of each leg.
  • It's OK to go slow, you won't be really traveling anywhere.
  • When halfway done, switch direction, pedal "backwards".

  • Alternative Exercise: FIre Hydrants*.

birD Dog

  • Start on all fours.
  • Extend one arm, seek a good reach.
  • Extend the opposite leg straight back.
  • Dorsiflex your rear foot.
  • Check your hips and shoulders so you are flat.
  • Align your head with your back.
  • Visualize being flat and able to balance a long board on your back.
  • Switch sides when you fatigue.

  • Modify position to increase difficulty by lifting the foot off the ground to balance only on the knee.
  • Alternative Exercises: Dead Bug, Donkey Kicks*, Dive Bombers


  • The goal is to position the legs in an extended position.
  • Whenever possible, dorsiflex the feet.
  • Lift both feet a few inches above the ground.
  • Bring your knees to your chest.
  • It's fine to pull your knees closer to a tuck position with your hands.
  • Return your feet to the extended position.
  • Repeat, and enjoy each rep.

  • Alternative Exercises: Flutter Kicks, V-Ups, Boxes, Leg Abductions

Overview of Routines:

Standard (most days of the week):
  • Cook Hip Lift
  • Heel Drops
  • Side Plank
  • Plank
  • XC Crunch
  • Bicycle
  • Bird Dog
  • Extensions

Alternative Routine A (wet or raining):
  • 3-Way Calf Raisers
  • Hip Flexor Pump
  • Single Leg Balance
  • Pushups
  • Rowing
  • Fire Hydrant
  • Donkey Kicks
  • Standing Leg Abductions

Alternative Routine B:
  • Clamshells
  • Hamstring Fall-Outs
  • Scissors
  • Penguins
  • Rowboat Pose
  • Fire Hydrants
  • Dive Bombers
  • Flutter Kicks

Go Warriors!