supereli23

Running Through a Fulfilled Life

It’s All In The Hips

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Females have crappy biomechanics.  Our hips are generally wider than males (for popping out babies), causing our alignment of our leg to be entirely different.  The angle at our knee (generally described for those wanting fancy terms as genu valgus) is slightly larger.  The angle at our hip and relation to knee (known as our Q angle) is greater.  We have higher levels of estrogen running amock in our bodies causing our ligaments to be slightly more lax.  We have less muscle mass.   What does all that nonsense mean?  That women in sports are generally at a higher risk for knee and specifically ACL injury.  I have been there, done that twice and I can tell you…a) it’s not fun at all and b) if you can prevent injury, definitely do it.

When it comes to running, our flaws in mechanics are magnified.  We can take 180 strides or more per minute.  That’s 180 times or more that you could be doing something completely wrong and detrimental each minute.  Over the course of miles, weeks, months, or even years it can lead to injury.  As most runners want to “run for their lifetime”, it is a good idea to keep our flaws in check.

A lot of mechanical issues start from the hips and work their way down to the foot.  Weakness of the hip external rotators and abductors or tightness/overuse of the hip internal rotators leads to the following consequences: Increased internal rotation at the hip at heel strike and stance–>increased valgus force at the knee–>overpronation at the foot—>decreased ability to “push-off” into the next stride.   This same movement pattern is exacerbated with fatigue, which is why our form tends to breakdown towards the end of a race.

Me demonstrating what NOT to do when landing a jump on one leg.

Me demonstrating what NOT to do when landing a jump on one leg.

So what can be done? Specific exercises to correct imbalance.  Stretching out your IT Band, Hip Rotators, Hamstrings, Gastroc/Soleus, and becoming BFF’s with your foam roller is essential.  Drills to practice running form.  Have someone video tape you running on both a treadmill and outside.  Change up your terrain.  Don’t overtrain.  Incorporate appropriate cross training into your routine.  If you are attempting to switch to a different strike pattern (heel strike, mid foot, forefoot, barefoot running) make sure you are training your muscles to handle that (i.e. barefoot running requires significant intrinsic foot strength).  Some of my favorite exercises to use to correct this faulty form pattern are the following:

Walking Lunges: Emphasize good form. Knee should not advance beyond toe.  Watch for knee collapse inward.

Walking Lunges: Emphasize good form. Knee should not advance beyond toe. Watch for knee collapse inward.

Chair Squats: Keep back straight, squat down to touch butt on edge of chair.  Stand back up.  Work up to 50  with good form (no knee collapse).

Chair Squats: Keep back straight, squat down to touch butt on edge of chair. Stand back up. Work up to 50 with good form (no knee collapse).

Side Step with Sumo Squat: Stay low.  Side step, squat, side step, squat.  I like to use a resistance band around my ankles on this one.

Side Step with Sumo Squat: Stay low. Side step, squat, side step, squat. I like to use a resistance band around my ankles on this one.

Clamshells: Lay on side with the leg you want to work facing up.  Rotate hip/knee upwards to ceiling.  Hold 1-2 seconds.  Relax back down.  Work up to 100 Reps each side.

Clamshells: Lay on side with the leg you want to work facing up. Rotate hip/knee upwards to ceiling. Hold 1-2 seconds. Relax back down. Work up to 100 Reps each side.

Bridges: lay on back with knees bent, feet flat on ground.  Lift butt off ground hold for 5 seconds.  Work up to 30 reps.

Bridges: lay on back with knees bent, feet flat on ground. Lift butt off ground hold for 5 seconds. Work up to 30 reps.

Single leg bridge variation

Single leg bridge variation

Fire Hydrants:  Get on all fours.  Lift leg you want to work, rotating out to side as if you indeed are peeing on a fire hydrant.  Work up to 30 reps each side.

Fire Hydrants: Get on all fours. Lift leg you want to work, rotating out to side as if you indeed are peeing on a fire hydrant. Work up to 30 reps each side.

Bird Dogs: Get on all fours.  Lift opposite arm and leg and same time.  Keep back flat and avoid rotation.

Bird Dogs: Get on all fours. Lift opposite arm and leg and same time. Keep back flat and avoid rotation.

Foam Roller Plank with Leg Lifts.  Get in full plank position, hands on roller.  Alternate lifting one leg up at a time.

Foam Roller Plank with Leg Lifts. Get in full plank position, hands on roller. Alternate lifting one leg up at a time.

Foam Roll plank with Donkey Kick:  Get in plank position hands on foam roller.  Alternating lifting one leg kicking back as if doing a "donkey kick".

Foam Roll plank with Donkey Kick: Get in plank position hands on foam roller. Alternating lifting one leg kicking back as if doing a “donkey kick”.

It’s also a good idea to work on balance and proprioception in a single leg position.  It’s good to alter your variables here as well.  Practice on even and uneven surfaces.  Eyes open and closed.  Up on toes.  Challenge your limits of stability by tapping your other foot away from your body.

IMG_5370 IMG_5368

IMG_5371 IMG_5372

Finally, I like to work on challenging single leg stability dynamically.  Practicing hopping onto one foot and landing with an appropriate loading strategy (flexed knee, stick the landing, knee does not migrate inwards) helps develop the stability needs to land each footfall when running.

I obviously still need to be working on these but it is much better than the first picture earlier on.

I obviously still need to be working on these but it is much better than the first picture earlier on.

Thanks to Julie for giving me the idea for this blog post!

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5 thoughts on “It’s All In The Hips

  1. So many hot pictures 😉 I do most of these exercises already now let’s just hope I am doing them correctly.

    • i know my legs are super hot. cant wait for mike to make fun of me for wearing my CEP’s. and form is everything with those exercises. as are reps. seriously high reps are needed because those are endurance muscles needed to hold you in good alignment over the course of 1.5-4 hours of running if you are doing halfs and fulls.

  2. This is absolutely perfect. I will be adding each of these to my routine. And when I say routine, I mean something that I started doing like a week ago because of all my leg and hip and achilles issues 😦
    You are the bomb. Thanks again!

    • you are welcome! i wrote this all with you in mind knowing that there are a lot of runners out there that also have problems with their ankles and knees that stem from issues at the hips/core.

  3. Pingback: Marathon Training Week 8 | Am I There Yet?

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