One of the most common causes of knee pain is hip weakness from lack of strength or tightness shutting down muscles! I bet you thought I was going to say running causes knee pain, since that’s the long standing myth!
Then again if you’re here, you already know that running doesn’t hurt your knees and what you’re really looking for are hip stretches for runners and hip strengthening exercises…probably because a PT told you that’s your issue!
Let’s dive in to why weak hips are a problem, what the heck are the hips and then how to fix it all!
Why Hip Strength Matters to Runners?
Lack of hip strength causes some of the most common issues related to running injuries:
- creates a tight IT Band, which then begins to pull your knee cap the wrong direction
- knee failing inward when you run
- twisting when you run to compensate for tightness
- unstable pelvis creating lower back pain
- muscle imbalances
- poor form when doing squats, lunges (you know that cross training we harp about)
Our hip muscles serve as the stabilizers for our bodies and weak one’s are shown to increase injuries, most commonly:
- IT Band Syndrome
- Piriformis Syndrome
- Runner’s Knee
- Achilles pain
Now we aren’t getting ready to get you ripped hip flexors or the most enviable hip dip on the planet because well who really goes to the gym and does that. We want to create function and figure out what the heck we even mean by saying runners need hip strengthening exercises!
Strengthening weak runner hips helps by repairing our movement patterns, allowing the appropriate muscles (like your glutes) to take on the load of the workout.
What Do We Mean by Hips?
Are you thinking of the hour glass figure or your Aunt Hilda’s hip joint replacement? Most of us recognize that our pelvis creates the width of our hips, but minus the rare instance a runner has a pelvic fracture, our actual “hip” focus tends to be on the surrounding muscles, tendons and fascia.
Keeping the science to a minimum here are the key players:
- hip flexors: they allow you to raise the leg in front and when flexible to reach full extension for pushing off the ground to create momentum
- adductors: these muscles move the leg inwards and across the body and are the primary driver in creating knee stability, this includes your groin and inner thigh
- glutes: yes the butt muscles are part of your hips! They control everything from moving your leg out to the side, to extension, to internal and external rotation of the leg.
Though I’ve broken the following in to hip strengthening and hip stretching for runners, the truth is that a TIGHT muscle is a WEAK muscle, so you need both in your routine.Everything you need to know about how to strengthen and loosen your hips to prevent the most common #running injuries!! #runchat Click To Tweet
Weak Runner Glutes
Let’s focus a bit more on the glutes now that we understand they’re part of this whole weak hips complex we need to resolve!
Here’s why this matters that we get our glutes firing before a run:
When you place a movement demand on your body, it’s going to do its damnedest to perform. If it can’t do so using the correct muscles, then it’s going to start firing all sorts of funky stuff in a mad dash to satisfy your demands.
The gluteus maximus is a primary mover of hip extension. There are two other muscles associated with the glutes called the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. These two muscles are most associated with stabilization and are equally as important as the gluteus maximus.
Weak glutes mean weak extension, less power and overcompensation injuries
Not sure if your glutes are firing? Checkout the tests in this post.
Here’s a great one to do before your next run to get everything firing!
Hip Strengthening Exercises
A number of studies have proven that strengthening weak hips is more effective at relieving knee pain than focusing on trying to improve knee function.
While, another study showed that improving hip flexor strength improved run time by up to 9%.
Convinced yet? Relieving pain and getting faster, by spending a little time during your dynamic warm up seems like a pretty great trade off. Many of these moves are going to engage your glutes, which makes them perfect to do before a workout as it will help you run faster.
- Improving hip extension and strength
- Best glute activating exercises for runners
- Creating strength with the stability ball
- Creating strength with mini band workout
- Hip stability exercises no equipment needed
Loosen Tight Hips
Author John Gibbons of The Vital Glutes notes that many of our weak or “non firing” glute issues can be resolved by stretching the reciprocal muscles, in regular words, your hips!
Stretching isn’t just so you can be more flexible for yoga class. When a tight muscle pulls at an incorrect biomechanical angle, the result is inflammation and pain.
Try these workouts to loosen tight hips from sitting or that occur from your run!
- Hip mobility workout (includes video demo)
- Best stretches to loosen tight hips after sitting all day
- Multidimensional stretches for the hip flexors
- Best post run stretches
Now that you know it’s more than spending time doing squats, what are you going to do about it?? Are you going to wait until another injury appears before getting consistent?
I hope you’ll instead look at spending a few minutes each day as pre-hab and worth it to avoid the angst of being sidelined or just as bad not hitting your next PR goal because your body isn’t firing on all cylinders.
How much time do you spend strengthening your hips?
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