Hip drop is when a person is supporting the weight of the body on one leg and the
opposite hip drops lower than the hip on the standing leg.
Hip drop commonly occurs in the stance phase of running but can also be seen with
single leg balance, single leg squats or in many single leg yoga poses.
Hip drop is linked to weakness in the pelvic girdle but can also occur because of
dysfunctional gait mechanics or impaired neuromuscular control. Lack of muscular
control is not always weakness – they are correlated but not the same. This is where
many people go wrong. While strength is extremely important for athletes, if they do
not know how to use the strength they have it will not fully benefit them. To
improve hip drop gait mechanics, strength and neuromuscular control must be
Why is it important to address hip drop? Hip drop in running, weight lifting and
yoga is important because it can lead to injuries in the knee, hip, back and
foot/ankle. If the pelvic girdle is not strong enough to properly support the body
weight above it, it will collapse and place undo stress on the lower extremity below
and spine above.
Looking at the images/videos of single leg squatting, we can see how the spine, knee and foot must compensate for poor mechanics of the pelvic girdle and how lack of strength and neuromuscular control in running can lead to injury.
So what can we do about it?
First we have to identify which muscles are actually weak. In our practice, we
diagnosis muscle weakness with manual muscle testing, functional testing and
redcord Neurac. At home, if you have hip drop, assume you have weakness in one or
more of the muscle groups below, and begin strengthening them!
Here are a few basic strengthening exercises to address the most important muscles
involved in hip drop.
Hip external rotators:
Dynamic foot stabilizers (foot intrinsics, posterior tibialis):
If you cannot feel the muscle that you are working on strengthening engaging or are
not sore after exercising it, you may be doing the exercise incorrectly or have poor
neuromuscular control. This means you are likely compensating through the
movement. Additionally, if you cannot figure out what is weak, it is probably time to
see a practitioner, such as a physical therapist or a good trainer, for help. Trainers
can be a great resource for improving strength and neuromuscular control. If an
issue is long standing or more involved, it may be time to see a physical therapist.
Lastly, for our runners and triathletes, let’s look at gait mechanics. There are two
gait modifications that can be made, if necessary, when an athlete demonstrates hip
drop in the gait assessment. Remember that it is not beneficial to make more than
one gait modification at a time. If more than one modification is made, then if things
improve no one will have a clear idea why.
Increase cadence/shorten your stride (link to gait modification blog about cadence):
Increasing cadence can improve the function of the glute muscles and therefore
create more stability in the hips.
Adapt your arm swing (link to gait modification blog about arm swing):
Since the arms and legs are linked via the thoracolumbar fascia, they work in
concert. Clinically, we have seen that modifying your arm swing frequently
decreases the amount of hip drop a runner demonstrates.
Hopefully, this blog post will give you more ideas how to improve your hip drop in
exercise. When our Precision community asks, we deliver! This blog post was
inspired by one of our Precision community members. If you have a topic you would
like us to cover, let us know! We are here for you and want to help answer your
Dr. Kate Mihevc Edwards is a board certified orthopedic specialist, a specialist is running and endurance medicine and the owner/CEO of Precision Performance & Physical Therapy. She is the author of Racing Heart: A Runner's Journey of Love, Loss & Perseverance.
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