Everyone, especially runners, can benefit from hip conditioning, even if you don’t currently have any hip concerns. Stretching and strengthening the muscles in this area helps build stability and flexibility so you can move with ease and avoid injury. Weak hip muscles are common and made worse by the sitting that so many of us do at work. On the other end of the spectrum, athletes who overuse their hips can also experience pain and injury. Here are some of my favorite hip exercises that can help everyone, especially runners, to build strong hips.
Exercises to Build Strong Hips
Lateral Leg Raises: lie on your right side. Lift your left leg to about 45 degrees in a controlled manner, then lower. I do 30 reps per side. An advanced version of this exercise uses an exercise band around your ankles to increase the resistance.
Clam Shells: lie on your right side with your knees together and a theraband around your thighs. Your thighs should be about 45 degrees from your body and your knees bent at 90 degrees. Open your legs like a clam shell but don’t move your pelvis – the motion should not rock your torso or pelvic girdle. Keep it slow and controlled working up to 30 reps per side.
Elevated Clam Shell: A more advanced version of the clamshell is to thighs should be about 90 degrees from your body and your knees bent at 90 degrees. Then lift your feet about 1 foot above the floor and then open your legs like a clamshell. Try this without a band around your thighs progressing to using a band. Again keep it slow and build up the reps as you progress.
Hip Bridge: Lie face up on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keep your arms at your side with your palms down. Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Squeeze those glutes hard and keep your abs drawn in so you don’t overextend your back during the exercise. Hold your bridged position for a couple of seconds before easing back down.
One-Legged Hip Bridge: This is an advanced version of the hip bridge described above. This involves lifting one leg off the floor to about a 45-degree angle and lifting your hips off the floor with the other leg.
- Side-Steps: with a theraband around your ankles and knees slightly bent, take ten steps laterally. The band should be tight enough so it provides constant resistance during all steps. Still facing the same direction, take another 10 steps in the opposite direction.
One-legged Squats: The key to a successful squat is to not lean forward, keep the motion slow and controlled, and make sure your knee does not collapse inward. To practice the correct form, try performing a two-legged squats standing a few inches from a wall so that your knees cannot move forward.
Hip Hikes: Stand on your right foot. With your pelvis in a neutral position, drop the left side so it is several inches below the right side of your pelvic bone. Activate your right hip muscle and lift your left side back to its neutral position doing 20 reps per side. It is important to hold both knees straight and drop the leg from the hip. Think of this as tilting your waistline.
There are many more options for these exercises to explore as you progress. Work with your coach to find ones that will make you a stronger runner through stronger hips.