For runners, one of the easiest ways to prevent injuries is to strengthen the muscles used in running. In this strength training sequence taken both from one of Jeff Gaudette's strengthening routines and the fabulous Anatomy of Movement series, we develop both deep hip strength and decompression alongside general hip strength.
As you may know from my articles on runner's knee and IT band syndrome, muscle weakness and imbalance is a major cause of knee and hip issues in runners. While good nutrition, a safe training program, well planned hill sprints, adapting your training to what is actually happening, good sleep and other factors are all crucial for training effectively, strengthening programs cannot be forgotten about.
1. Deep Hip Abduction
Lie on your back and raise both flexed knees above the abdomen. Pace your hands on the outside of the knees as shown, then try to abduct the knees against the resistance with the hands. Hold for 5 seconds for 15 reps.
2. Deep Hip Rotators
Place one fist between the knees and adduct the knees strongly against it. Be sure to relax the gluteal muscles in order to isolate the six rotator muscles. Hold for 5 seconds at a time 15 times.
The six deep muscles include the obturator internus and externus, quadratus femurs, gluteus minimum and iliacus. these are relatively small and precise muscles that help fine-tune the orientation of the pelvis on the leg (without the proper working of which knee injuries would be far more prevalant) and affect spinal curvature. They are also capable of pulling apart or decompressing the hip joint, which is helpful for hip arthritis and tight hips in general.
3. Iliapsoas Strengthening
Place the hands flat just proximal to the knees. Flex the thighs against the resistance of the hands. The iliac and psoas are working here. To work the psoas more specifically, concentrate on pressing the lumbar spine against the floor. Hold for 5 seconds at a time for 15 reps.
4. Deep Hip Extension
Wrap the hands around the posterior thighs. Extend the thighs against the resistance of the hands. Try to relax the gluteal muscles as much as possible so that the deep muscles are doing most of the work. Hold for 5 seconds at a time for 15 reps.
5. Side Laying Clams
Keep the pelvis perpendicular to the floor rather than rolling backwards, which is a way to cheat this exercise. 15 reps, see if you can hold it for ten seconds at the top as you get used to the exercise.
6. Lateral Leg Raises
Focus on engaging the glutes on your top leg. Take your time and keep your foot neutral. 15 reps.
7. Donkey Kicks
Keep your abs tight and your back flat. Imagine placing a broomstick on your back along your spine and keeping it in place throughout the entire movement. Start with 15 reps.
8. Donkey Whips
Keep your abs tight and your back flat. Extend your leg back behind you and then bring it out to the side while keeping it fairly straight. Keep that imaginary broomstick on your back. 15 reps.
9. Fire Hydrants
Keep your abs tight and your back flat. Focus on keeping your lower back flat and straight and lifting your leg only with the use of your hips and glutes. 15 reps.
10. Forward Knee Circles
Extending first back behind you, bring your knee out, forward, and back to neutral drawing a big circle with your knee. Don't forget about the imaginary broomstick staying on your back! 15 reps.
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