Runners Must Strengthen Their Hips

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Many people start a running program in January to help achieve their resolutions to get in shape. The unfortunate result is many will soon experience knee pain. 

There is an important relationship between hip strength and knee pain, which is why runners who experience chronic knees issues are often prescribed hip strengthening exercises. Strong hips typically equate to strong knees. Weak hips often result in knee pain. 

When you run, the phase during which one foot is in contact with the ground is called the stance phase. During this aspect of your running gait, it’s critical that your gluteus medius muscle is strong enough to stabilize your pelvis and prevent it from dropping. If your hip muscles are weak, it will cause your hip to drop to one side with every step you take. This will cause your knee to cave inward resulting in more wear and tear at the knee joint, which can often lead to knee pain.

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Bottom line – if your hips aren’t strong enough and effectively able to stabilize your pelvis while running, your knees will suffer.

By strengthening your hip muscles, you can resolve this issue.

Include the following hip exercises 2-3 times per week into your strength training repertoire if you are a runner and/or starting a running program:

1 Leg Step Up

Holding a set of hand weights, position yourself in front of a bench with one foot on the bench. The bench should be at a height that puts your knee at a 90 degree angle. Keep your kneecap facing forward and your weight distributed on all four corners of your foot. Now slowly step up extending the supporting knee into a fully upright, balanced position. Now slowly lower yourself down to the starting position. Perform 1-2 sets of 8-12 reps to fatigue for each leg.  Keep the height shorter if this bothers your knees at all. 

Resisted Lateral Steps

Wrap an exercise tube (exercise cuffs) around your ankles. Standing tall with abdominals tight, slowly step side to side maintaining resistance on the tube.  Continue for 1-2 minutes.


1 Leg Bridging

Lay on your back with 1 leg bent, foot on the floor and the other leg lifted straight up to the ceiling. With your arms at your side, slowly lift your hips and buttocks up towards the ceiling while contracting your glutes (buttocks) and hamstrings (back of thigh) until your body weight is resting comfortably on your shoulder blades. Throughout the entire exercise, be sure to keep your hips square to the ceiling and your abdominals contracted.  Be sure not to tilt to one side while doing these 1-leg lifts. Slowly lift up and down 8-20x for 1-2 sets.

Side Lying Outer Thigh Leg Lifts

Lie on your side with your body straight. Keep you abdominals contracted as you lift the top leg upwards. Hold at the upper end range of motion and then return to the starting position. Complete 1-2 sets of 8-20 reps each leg. If this is too easy, perform this exercise with tubing wrapped around your ankles to increase the resistance.

Yours in health & fitness,
Sherri McMillan


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