The Difference Between Runner and Bodybuilding Abs

Strong abdominals provide critical support when bodybuilders and runners work out. Powerful abdominals help with running economy and injury prevention. For bodybuilders, 6-pack abdominals are an essential aesthetic goal and also assist in heavy lifts. The appearance of cut, or lean, abs is a function of exercise and nutrition in both athletes.

Runners' Abs

Runners train to strengthen their entire core, which is composed of the abdominals along with the hips and back muscles. Training the abdominals while ignoring the other muscles of the core could lead to imbalances that impede running. A strong core helps keep your pelvis aligned and makes each stride you take more solid, so you don't have to recruit muscles for unnecessary stabilization, which wastes energy and may set you up for injury. Runners' abdominal definition is often visible, because they are quite lean and light. Leanness is a goal for a runner; a low body fat percentage usually correlates with faster race times.

Exercises for Runners

Runners focus on stabilizing and anti-rotation exercises when training their abdominals and core. These types of moves prepare the abdominals for how they'll function during runs -- keeping your pelvis stable and preventing excessive, energy-wasting rotation through the trunk. Planks and side planks strengthen the transverse abdominis, a muscle deep inside your abdomen that acts as a corset for your internal organs and promotes tall posture. The hollow rock is another valuable exercise that trains the transverse abdominis along with the multifidus, another deep, often-neglected abdominal stabilizer. To perform the exercise, lie on your back, extend your arms overhead and point your toes with squeezed-together legs. Keep the position as you rock back and forth, keeping the low back on the floor and the limbs tightly pulled together.

Train anti-rotation with the Pallof press. Stand or kneel next to a cable machine, with the cable set to chest height. Attach a D-handle to the cable and grasp it in both hands. Standing or kneeling with your left side to the cable machine, pull the cable out to the middle of your chest. Slowly extend your elbows to push the weight forward and back, resisting rotation toward the machine. Repeat 10 to 15 times and then change sides.

Additional exercises that train the back, such as bird dogs and supermans, and the hips, such as bridges, should be included as part of a runner's core routine.

Bodybuilding Abdominals

Bodybuilders' strong abdominals are essential to the athletes' overall appearance and ability to score in competition. A 6-pack, which carves out two visible portions of the upper, middle and lower abdominals, is the gold standard for many bodybuilders; but whether you can get these to appear is largely a matter of genetics. The external obliques on either side of your midsection are also factored into the appearance of your abdominals. These become thicker and more pronounced with training, but may also be limited by genetics. Strong abdominals support bodybuilders as they develop other muscles, too. They are particularly important to support your trunk during heavily weighted compound exercises, such as dead lifts, squats, chest presses and lunges.

Achieving Bodybuilders' Abs

Bodybuilders train the abdominals with stablization exercises, like runners, but also include a number of exercises to develop the surface muscles of the rectus abdominis and external obliques. For the rectus abdominis, choose reverse crunches, hanging knee raises and rope crunches. For the external obliques, try seated or standing side bends, incline-twisting crunches and bicycle maneuvers. Heavy compound lifts, such as squats, use the abdominals as stabilizers and offer greater abdominal muscle recruitment than some traditional stomach exercises, such as situps.