Hip Strengthening and Stretching for Endurance Athletes
Douglas Adams PT, DPT, SCS, OCS, CSCS
Introduction: Runners will often face nagging injuries throughout the year which can affect their ability to run. By strengthening and stretching your hips, especially during the off-season, you can improve your performance and limit you chances of injury. The hip muscles play an integral role in maintaining stability while in single leg stance, which can be performed thousands of times during a run. Core strengthening is also essential in maintaining healthy hips, and will be addressed in later posts.
- Hip 4 ways: (strengthening)
Purpose: A great exercise to work 4 of the major muscle groups around the hip. It incorporates weight bearing and dynamic stability with isotonic strengthening.
Technique: Begin standing with your hands on your hip and a Theraband around your ankle. You may start in any position and rotate in any order, as long as all 4 motions are done. Keeping an upright posture of the trunk and a straight knee, extend the leg to the outside, to the inside, backwards, and forwards. Each position is done for 3 sets of 10. The same procedure is done with the Theraband around the opposite leg. (hint: you may feel more difficulty on the leg you are standing on then the leg you are moving!)
What to watch for: Make sure that you don’t lean with your trunk in the opposite direction you are moving your leg, which means you aren’t using just your hip muscles anymore.
Progression: To make this exercise more challenging you can increase the resistance of the band or stand on an unstable surface (i.e. a BOSU).
- Clams with a Theraband
Purpose: Your hip external rotators play a large role in your stability during running .
Technique: Begin lying on your side with a Theraband tied in a circle around both legs above your knees. Keeping the heels together, lift the knees apart 18-24 inches. This is done for 3 sets of 10 on both sides.
What to watch for: Make sure that you don’t roll backwards with your trunk while rotating the legs.
Progression: To make this exercise more challenging you can increase the resistance of the band, perform them in standing, or extend your hip by pushing your foot back towards the wall and then perform the clam.
- Single Leg Cone Touches:
Purpose: Working dynamic stability of the whole leg including quadriceps, gluteals, hamstrings, and plantar flexors .
Technique: Begin standing on one leg with your foot in the middle of 4 cones placed in a semi-circle. Go down into a single leg squat and touch the top of the cone while maintaining an upright trunk position. Return to a full standing position and repeat for each of the four cones. It is important to use the same hand during the whole exercise, but it does not matter which hand you use. One set counts as touching all cones in one direction, and then again back to the start cone. Perform 5x on both legs.
What to watch for: Watch to make sure that your knee does not collapse inwards and that you do not go knees over toes. Also, watch to make sure you are bending at the knee and not the waist.
Progression: To make this exercise more challenging you can make the cones lower to the ground or stand on an unstable surface (i.e. a BOSU).
- Standing Hip Abduction:
Purpose: Working the hip abductor muscles to improve stability.
Technique: Begin standing on one leg with your other leg bent at the knee and against a wall. Make sure that the knees are next to each other. Begin by hiking up the hip along the wall (2nd pic) and then push your leg on the wall outwards, as if you were trying to push yourself away from the wall. Hold this position for 5 seconds and perform 10x on each side. (hint: you may feel more difficulty on the leg you are standing on then the leg you are moving)
What to watch for: Watch to make sure that your knee along the wall does no move forward and make sure that your trunk stays upright with no lean.
Progression: To make this exercise more challenging you can increase the number of repetitions or increase the hold time.
- Lateral Hip Stretch:
Purpose: Stretching piriformis, glute medius, TFL/IT-Band, and glute maximus .
Technique: Begin lying on your back with a dog leash, belt, or sheet around you foot. Lift the leg up keeping the knee straight and let the knee fall out to the opposite side. Extend the same arm as the leg out to the side to provide counter balance to keep your hip/back in contact with the table. Pull on the strap attached to your foot in a motion to pull the leg towards the ground and up towards your head as pictured above. This is done for 3 sets of 30 seconds on both sides.
What to watch for: Make sure that the hip on the side that you are stretching does not come too far off of the table and avoid twisting your back.
- Hip Flexor Stretch:
Purpose: Stretching rectus femoris and illiopsoas primarily .
Technique: Option 1; Stand next to a table or surface slightly lower than hip height. Place one leg up o the table and take a small step forward with the leg on the ground so that the foot is in front of the hip. Push your hip towards the table and then reach back and grab your ankle attempting to bring your heel to your bottom. It is important that on the leg being stretched the hip remains in close proximity to the table. Option 2; Start in a lunge position with the back leg as the leg you would like to stretch. Slowly lunge forward while maintaining an upright position. You may advance this stretch by drawing in your abs as you lunge forward or by raising one or both arm overhead reaching towards the sky. Each of these stretches is done for 3 sets of 30 seconds on both sides.