Run Better with Hip and Glute Strengthening
October 12, 2020
Understanding how the hips and glutes interact with your running form can help resolve weak muscle issues, lower back pain, and even plantar fasciitis.
When you run your legs are not only moving forward and backward. The femur bone which connects to your hip socket rotates and tilts in there. Any muscle weaknesses here make the joint unstable and can affect your running mechanics.
Think about each step you take while running. In the moment of impact with the ground, your body weight is solely on that landing foot and can create a a force that is 2-3 times your body weight.
All sides of the hip (abductors, adductors, hip flexors) are working to keep your balance, stabilize your leg, and prepare for the next step forward. In the case of weak hips, the body will call on other muscle groups to support you, whether that’s the glutes, hamstrings, or back.
If your hip drops because of poor mechanics, your body will most likely use the glutes for extra support, and this can strain your back and imbalance other muscles. The glutes are the largest muscle in the body. They are made up of three different regions: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. All together you’re looking at all the musculature from the top of your hamstrings to the bottom of your lower back.
The gluteus medius is located on the side of your leg at the hip and is often the first spot to look at when it comes to strengthening your hips and engaging your glutes. By ensuring that the gluteus medius are working, they take some of the demand of the hips, preventing fatigue and lending strength to your stride. The glutes also help add stability to your pelvis, preventing the hip drop mentioned above.
There a many types strengthening exercises but here's two that we like and can be done as part your warmup or post-recovery workout:
SIDE PLANK WITH CHAIR/BENCH
This exercise strengthens the hip adductor. The adductor consists of five muscles that bring your leg inward and help stabilize the pelvis and help internally and externally rotate the hips.
The Exercise: Start on your side with your forearm on the ground. Your elbow should be directly beneath the shoulder. Place your top leg on a chair seat or bench. Lift your hips off the ground until you are parallel (plank) to the ground. Don't let your hips sags. Lift your bottom foot off the ground slightly and hold for 15 - 20 seconds. Repeat 4-6 times and then do the opposite side.
This leg lift exercise targets the muscles on your backside. Adding in the hip rotation challenges the muscles to control hip motion in the various planes of movement aiming for overall stability.
The Exercise: Stand with knees slightly bent and feet shoulder-width apart. Move your right leg (keeping it straight) behind you until it is parallel to the ground. As you lean forward keep your back straight. Your pelvis and hips should be level and facing the ground. Now, rotate your right hip toward the ceiling and then bring your leg back down to the floor. Repeat 6-8 times and then do the same on the other leg.