This whole being injured thing gives me a good excuse to focus on those other muscle groups that need to be strong. (P.S., last night I realized how addicted to cardio I really am when I asked C what exercises I could do at the gym… he said core, arms — no, what cardio workouts! When he wasn’t sure if my hamstring was in good enough condition for the bike, I decided to drop the gym idea. Sigh.)
I have been focusing on stretching my hamstrings and other important muscle groups, like hips. Not having strong hips can lead to a lot of issues. Like runner’s knee. And IT band issues.
Because of this, it’s important that you spend time strengthening and building up these muscles so they can do your job. By spending ~15 minutes a couple times a week, you can become a much stronger runner.
Here are my five favorite hip exercises for runners.
1. Side Lying Leg Lift
This has been an exercise crucial to my recovery from every single injury I’ve ever had (note to self: don’t stop doing these once I’m healthy). It is one of the easiest exercises that you can do, and it’s easy to modify to make it more difficult.
To do this exercise, you basically lie on the ground on your side. Extend your legs and your bottom arm straight out, resting your head on that arm. With your top arm, use it as a brace by putting your hand on the ground in front of you. You will look like this:
Slowly lift your top leg up and down for one repetition. The most important element of this exercise is maintaining control when you return your leg back to the ground. It should be lowered just as slowly as you raised it.
Modification: Wrap a resistance band around your ankles to add resistance (duh) when lifting your leg.
2. Standing Hip Abductor
Stand with your feet on the ground and your left leg slightly behind you. Lift your right foot from the ground. Keeping your leg straight, lift it to your side and bring it back to the ground. So, you look like this:
Like exercise #1, you can add resistance with a band around your ankle. However, master being able to do it without a band before you overwhelm your muscles with resistance.
3. Hip Hikes
These are really easy to do, but I’ve learned you really need to focus on form with hip hikes. It’s easy to get lazy and sloppy. With these, you need to elevate one of your legs so the other is in the air. I have done this while standing on the edge of the bathtub. (Since I don’t have the best balance, I need to hold on to the wall to do these.)
So once you are standing, use your hip muscle to hike your leg of the dangling foot up and back down, making sure your movements are slow and controlled.
I like these and they make me feel strong… basically you lie on your side, but bend your legs at your hips/knees (approximately 45 degrees). With your heels resting together, you then open and close your legs like a clamshell. To make it more difficult, add a resistance band.
5. Bridge Exercises
In addition to helping build your hip muscles, bridge exercises also help to build hamstring strength (yes!). I love these because you can either do them as isometrics or in reps. To do, lie on your back with your knees bent. Using your hips, raise your body up, until you create a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. You can hold this (20 to 30 seconds, more if your hips are stronger), or you can lower your body down and continue to perform reps.
To modify: When you raise your hips, extend one leg out. You will create a straight line from your ankle to your shoulders.
I started with exercise #1, not being able to do more than 10 on each side without significant burning/sacrifice in quality. Whenever my form gets weak, I know it’s a sign that I have to stop.
What are your favorite hip exercises? Do you focus on strengthening them on a regular basis?
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