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Hip Strengthening (Kacy's Version)

Most runners I talk to know that they need strong hips in order to run injury-free, however they don’t usually know what that means in practice, so…

Look What You Made Me Do:

Write a blog about it in more detail than probably anyone asked me for.

When we are talking about hip/glute strength (these terms will be interchangeable for our purposes), we are referring to the muscles that stabilize the pelvis and extend the hip. However, these muscles don’t work in isolation and there are many factors that affect our ability to actually utilize our glutes in a way that benefits us as runners. This includes, but isn’t limited to: foot strength/balance, glute muscle strength, muscle tension of the pelvic girdle, neuromuscular control, muscle sequencing, fatigue, and running form.

We have to think of our hip strength journey like building a house - a weird, glute, and running-specific house. There needs to be a strong foundation upon which to build the walls, top it with a roof, and fill it with Pottery Barn’s best. The foundation is being able to access the muscles reliably, and to have the strength/endurance for those muscles to function step after step - for some of us as long as 26.2+ miles.

Of course my somewhat biased opinion is to see a Physical Therapist, who can help determine why your glutes are weak and can teach you how to use them through cuing, exercise, and a progressive program. For me and my patients, we start with basic movements such as bridges/hip thrusts, hip abduction movements (think Jane Fonda), and side planks. The timeline for progressing from these exercises is variable for everyone, but the key here is that we MUST progress from these. I think where a lot of hip strength programs “for runners” fail is that they never progress to a functional position, and for runners, that is standing on one foot.

Once we have the strength in place, we can start to work on the neuromuscular pattern that we want the glutes to serve while we’re running: maintaining a level pelvis and controlling the femur as we move through slight internal/external rotation throughout the gait cycle. Now that we are in a standing position, foot strength and control becomes a factor in proper form and sequencing. Continuing the theme of building the foundation first, we need sufficient balance and to remain grounded through the foot. This means having equal weight distribution across the entire foot with the foot tripod engaged throughout. (I've written about this previously)

From the solid base of our foot, we then can progress to lunge, single leg squat, and single leg deadlift patterns. Utilizing a partial single leg stance in the beginning can help provide a buffer as we’re still working on balance. I will typically start with slider lunges, kickstand deadlifts, standing clamshells, and supported single leg squats (using a TRX, wall, or another prop to help).

Doing these exercises slowly, intentionally, and with good form is key. Remember, we are working on the patterns of level pelvis and knee tracking (how did you forget already!?), so completing your exercises in front of a mirror, in clothing where you can see your hips, can be helpful in the beginning. Our hope is that you will be able to feel when you’re completing the exercise correctly without the visual feedback, but the mirror can help with your internal cuing.

Once you get the form down, then we NEED to add weight. Increasing the load is how we build strength and tissue resilience; body weight isn't going to cut it! No matter the combination of sets/reps that you complete, the last set should be challenging.

Strength takes time to develop, so be patient! You wouldn't expect to lift weight once and notice a difference, so be consistent! Body weight exercises can be done most days, and once we start adding weight, 2-3 times per week is appropriate.

Many of us know (All Too Well) that injuries suck. Let's keep those hips strong, shall we?

Keep going, you've got this!

Dr. Kacy Seynders


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