How to Improve Hip Extension in Runners
When I started running I paid very little attention to prehab or form. Obviously, since I struggled to get started and was riddled with minor injuries. You can learn all about my journey to running here. When I started running I had no idea that over 50% of regular runners get hurt each year. That amount is crazy. Something that I have learned in relation to that over the years as a physical therapist is that usually, these injuries start at the hips. Today I want to focus on hip extension and how to improve your hip extension for powerful, injury-free running! There are a number of ways to prevent injury as well right HERE
Why is hip extension important for powerful running?
Let’s take a step back for a minute here. Why should you care if you have enough hip extension? Well, one study showed females with patellofemoral pain (knee pain) demonstrate 17% less hip extension strength than controls. In addition, hip extension range of motion deficits have been correlated to both knee and back pain.
I mean, if you want to have increased risk of those things then feel free to ignore this. But I’m personally of the camp of preventing pain and injury before it begins. I have way more time to add in some stuff than to try to fix it later. But that is just me.
Not good enough of a reason? How about increased power and efficiency while running? Running pace is mostly a combination of stride length and cadence, the ability to extend the hip well is a vital key to developing and improving running speed and efficiency.
I believe that running starts with the hips. The position of your hips influences pretty much everything in the way you run. I also see weak hips as the starting point for most pain and injuries that runners experience in their legs.
What is hip extension?
When you land on your leg you then push and slightly pull your body forward by pushing the ground backward. This is the power phase of your stride and when your leg moves behind your body (hip extension) your gluteus maximus is at its most powerful.
If you don’t have adequate hip extension you are never going to fully utilize your glute’s full strength and force potential. Optimal running form is achieving triple extension which is where you simultaneously extend your hip, knee, and ankle during your stride and this is when you can produce the highest amounts of force through your body.
Moving away from the force that is generated, hip extension also opens up your stride length which allows you to “fall into your next stride”. When you are in hip extension you stretch your tendons (kind of like an elastic band) which will then recoil and spring your leg forward to flex the hip and the knee preparing you for the next step in your stride.
How does hip extension become compromised?
I will never say that a position or movement is inherently bad. I want to get that out of the way and understood. No position, even posture, is “bad” per se. It is only a problem when we do the same thing over and over again that leads to an overuse problem. Always in the same “bad posture” then you are going to eventually have issues due to being in the same position.
How does this relate to your hips as a runner? We live in the 21st century and our lifestyles reflect that (mostly). The vast majority of us spend a huge amount of time sitting down from day to day. This position puts us in a perpetual flexion posture for the hips. To be clear, that is the opposite of hip extension and what we are trying to achieve.
If you spend your day in hip flexion, don’t expect to be good at hip extension naturally. It is something you are going to have to work on. Let’s do a little experiment. For the next 3 days I want you to track how long you spend sitting each day. You might be shocked with how much time you are actually in a seated position. Come back and leave your average daily hours in the comments below!
How to improve hip extension for powerful running
I don’t believe in quick fixes. I’ll get that one out there too. If you decide to follow me and come back for more content you will realize that is going to be a recurring theme. Quick fixes don’t work. EVER. You might find something that gives you some relief temporarily but it doesn’t FIX the issue.
That being said. I DO believe in doing regular prehab. Prehab doesn’t have to be long and tedious. A few different things before or after a run each week is enough. For instance, one day you can do hip extension work before your run and the next run can be ankle mobility (a topic for another time). If you don’t have a major issue or struggle with these exercises much then it is fine to do them only occasionally. That is enough to maintain.
However, if these put you on the struggle bus then it might be something you need to do more frequently. Say 2-3 times a week before runs. And give it time. Things won’t get easier in a week.
- How to Start Running – The Beginner’s Guide
- My Running Journey
- 10 Best Secrets for Runners to Preven Injury
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