Preventing Injury and Enhancing Performance:
Exercise to Strengthen the Hip
First things first, let’s all agree that running is BRUTAL! Did you know that during a 1-mile run, your foot impacts the ground 400-600 times PER FOOT! Also, with each strike, you are transmitting forces between 1.5-3.5 of your body weight through your foot, leg and hip; that all adds up to about 100 TONS PER FOOT of forces, and that’s just in one mile!
Injuries of the lower extremities are common to runners, whether it be hip, knee, foot, or ankle. The problem may be due to weakness in the muscles of the hip. In fact, inadequate hip stabilization is the leading cause of injury in runners. The reason for this is that the hips are the powerhouse of a runners stride and need to be strong to support adequate movement below the hip, while providing stability above. Furthermore, weak hip muscles may be the cause of common complaints such as:
- Patellofemoral syndrome (patellar tracking disorder)
- Achilles tendonitis
- Iliotibial-band (IT band) syndrome
- Plantar fasciitis
- Low back pain
- And MORE!
Tests to Determine Weak Muscles:
- Squat in front of mirror:
- Look for knees to buckle inward or feet flare outward, this is a sign of weakness
- Look for excessive leaning forward or falling backward, this is a sign of weakness and lack of control.
- Can you get your thighs to parallel with the ground? Can you return to standing without excessive effort?
- 1-leg squat:
- Front view
- Are you able to control your descent?
- Are you able to return to standing with control?
- Hip hike on step
- Can you perform this without bending side-to-side?
- Does this movement hurt?
- Are you able to balance to perform this movement?
- Hip flexor length on bench or bed:
- Top image: bottom leg raises off table = tight hip flexor
- Middle image: lower leg not straight = tight quadriceps muscle
- Lower image: tight hip flexor and quadriceps muscles
- Fire hydrant:
- Can you perform this without pain?
- Can you perform this without excessive rotation of the back?
Hip Strengthening Exercises: (these are best performed daily, after your run)
- Seated hip external rotation – 2 sets for 10 reps
- Option #2: Fire hydrant – 2 sets for 10 reps
- Standing hip flexion – 2 sets for 10 reps per leg
- Clam shells → Advanced! – 2 sets for 10 reps each side
- Option #2: Standing hip abduction
- Glute bridge – 3 sets for 10 with glute squeeze at top
- If pain/tightness in lower back and/or hamstring, discontinue for now. Do not progress.
- Advanced! → Single-leg glute bridge
- Lunge – 2 sets of 10 steps per leg
- If you notice wobbling of the ankle, do not progress to advanced.
- Advanced → Plyo lunge
- If any pain in knee when landing, discontinue movement and perform normal lunge
- Side plank – 2 sets of 15 second hold per side
- Advanced 2 sets of 20 second hold per side
- Eccentric heel drop – 2 sets of 10 per foot
- Focus on the slow return of the heel to the ground
- Hip flexor stretch – stretch each side for 20-30 seconds
- Don’t ignore pain!
- If these exercises do not improve your current condition, see your doctor as a more significant underlying problem may be occurring.
- Take it SLOW!
- If you have been sidelined recently or have been having difficulty completing your normal run, don’t jump right back into your normal run. Elite runners and running coach’s worldwide agree that tapering back in to your normal run will help to prevent further injury and build resistance to stresses as you progress.