Hip strength is essential for a runner to maintain power and strength, and to stay injury free. The hip muscles control the mechanics of your knee and with weakness or instability a runner is at greater risk for knee pain, iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), and piriformis pain. Here are four exercises that improve strength, stability, form, and balance of the hip muscles—incorporate them into your routine and you’ll see a noticeable improvement in your running form and health.
1. Single Leg Balance to Touch Standing on one leg with a slight knee bend, keep hips square, reach forward and touch the ground. This exercise works your lower gluteal muscles, core muscles, and knee and ankle stabilizers. Keep your core engaged throughout the movement to support your back. Complete 2 sets of 10 on each leg.
2. Curtsy + Leg Abduction Begin in lunge position. With your right leg forward, bring your left leg as far behind the right leg as possible, keeping your hips and toes square to the front. Lunge down and then, as you come up, extend your left leg out and straight to the side, engaging the outer thigh for a pure abduction. Return to curtsy position. Complete 2 sets of 15 per leg.
3. Pelvic Press + Leg Lift and Lower Like a bridge position in yoga, the goal of this move is to engage the back line of your legs and to articulate the spine as you move up and down. Imagine your spine as a string of pearls and place one down at a time—this is a nice stretch and massage through the low back. Make sure you are holding the shape at the top by engaging your legs rather than your low back—the muscles along the sides of the spine, the erectors, should be supple and your core should be engaged to support the shape as well. Check in with your inner thighs to make sure your legs are parallel and activated. Roll up and down 4 to 6 times.
Progression: Add on by extending your right leg. Keeping your hips stable, begin by folding at your right hip and bringing your leg towards you. Then lower your leg down, passing next to your standing leg. Your range of motion is determined by your ability to keep your hips still. Complete 2 sets of 8 on each leg.
4. Clam + Leg Extension The key to this exercise is keeping your hips stacked. Lie on your side with your hips stacked, then lengthen both sides of your waist and engage your core. Keep your feet together and begin pressing your knee open using your external rotator muscles. This move strengthens your external rotators and your lower gluteal muscles, while stabilizing your spine.
Progression: To take this move to the next level, open your knee and hold that position. Working on the endurance of your external rotators, from here begin to extend and bend your knee. Try your best to keep your knee in place while bending and extending. Repeat 10 times with each leg.
Who’s adding these moves to their routine this week?