Your hips do more than propel you forward; strong hips lead to healthy legs. Your hips are an essential part of running because they also keep your knees and feet aligned properly and ensure your feet land safely. You can add a range of exercises before, during and following your run to help strengthen this joint.
Your hip joint is the meeting point for your hamstrings, quadriceps and glute muscles. Both your hamstrings and quadriceps also connect to your knee. If they are weak at the hip, this translates to problems in your knees. Weak hips lead to common running injuries such as runner’s knee and IT band irritation. Properly strengthening and stretching these muscles will help you run for mile after mile.
If you already call yourself a runner, then it only makes sense that your next goal is to become a faster runner. Increasing your stride frequency is the most effective way to improve speed. To achieve this, you need to strengthen your gluteus maximus, iliopsoas and hamstrings, according to a study published in the “Journal of Experimental Biology” in 2012. A few moves that target these hip muscles include mountain climbers, squats, forward lunges, single leg squats, the yoga pose Downward-facing Dog and toe-touches. Do 10 reps of each exercise except for the yoga pose and toe touches; hold these for 30 seconds each. Do these moves twice a week on non-running days.
When you have weak hip muscles, you throw off the biomechanics of your entire leg, leading to a variety of injuries. Focus on hip extension exercises to prevent a sidelining injury. Examples of a few hip stretches include the knee-to-chest bridge, marching bridge, swinging drill and kneeling hip-flexor. For the hip-flexor, step into a lunge position and lower your back knee to the ground. Keep your upper body straight and tilt your pelvis forward. Hold for one minute and release. Repeat two more times and then switch legs. Do these moves before you head out for a run.
If you want to strengthen your hamstrings and quadriceps while out on a run, tackle some hills. You target your hamstrings when you climb uphill and engage your quadriceps as you come back down. An example of a running hill workout is doing five- to 10-second sprints up a hill and walking back down. Rest for three minutes and repeat. Start with four to five reps and build up to eight to 12 reps. Another way to target your hip muscles is running backwards. Find a clear stretch of grass about 100 feet long and run backwards with long strides. Jog forward to your starting point and repeat 10 to 15 times.
- Runner’s World: The Runner’s Body: The Hip & Thigh
- Journal of Experimental Biology: Muscular Strategy Shift in Human Running: Dependence of Running Speed on Hip and Ankle Muscle Performance
- The American Council on Exercise: Exercise Search: Gluteus Maximus and Hamstring
- Human Kinetics: Lengthening Of The Iliopsoas and Toe Touching
- Runner’s World: Move Those Hips!
- The Running School: Training Tips to Help You Strengthen Your Hamstrings and Gluteus
Fitzalan Gorman has more than 10 years of academic and commercial experience in research and writing. She has written speeches and text for CEOs, company presidents and leaders of major nonprofit organizations. Gorman has published for professional cycling teams and various health and fitness websites. She has a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech in political science and is a NASM certified personal trainer.