Running has one of the HIGHEST INJURY RATES per year of all sports with nearly 80% of runner’s suffering an injury that derails their training. It makes sense when you start to think about it. Running is extremely repetitive. This repetitive motion is a really easy way to create muscle imbalances in the legs, hips, and core which can over time lead to injury. In this article, I will cover
- Common muscular imbalances we see in runners
- The role our hips play during running
- Exercises to improve hip strength
Running, while a great form of exercise, is very one-directional. Our bodies are designed to move in multiple planes of motion: Sagittal plane (front and back), frontal plane (side to side), and transverse plane (rotational). A common muscular imbalance seen in runners is very strong and overdeveloped quadriceps (thigh) and gastroc and soleus (calf) muscles because these muscles help propel us forward. Since running is so dominant in the sagittal plane (forward) we often see weak frontal plane (side to side) and transverse plane (rotational) strength in the running community.
Avoiding this muscular imbalance is crucial for remaining injury free while running. In a study by Niemuth et al, it was found that runners with hip abductor (side to side) and external rotation weakness were more likely to suffer an overuse injury with running (1). Your hip abductors and rotators are responsible for keeping your pelvis level and maintaining the alignment of the knee while running, walking, or standing on one foot. If these muscles are weak they are unable to control your core, hips, or knees when running which not only increases the risk of injury but also affects your performance. This weakness causes a lot of wasted energy and extra movement, reducing your running efficiency.
Unfortunately, running does not specifically strengthen these muscles. The only way to avoid weakness in these muscles is to perform exercises that enter into their “plane of motion.” You will want to focus on hip strengthening exercise which incorporates side to side motions, pivoting motions, and exercises in which you are balancing on one foot.
I highly recommend you click on the video below for step by step guidance on examples of exercises that get your hips moving in the right direction!
Watch this video to learn more:
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Niemuth, Paul E., et al. “Hip Muscle Weakness and Overuse Injuries in Recreational Runners.” Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, vol. 15, no. 1, 2005, pp. 14–21., doi:10.1097/00042752-200501000-00004.