Athletes (particularly runners), listen up! Maybe you’ve gotten away with avoiding hip-strengthening exercises in the past, but working out with weak hips is an injury waiting to happen. Our bodies – including the muscles around our hips – work synergistically, and if one muscle outperforms another, trouble lurks.

Hip weakness can throw off stability and create excess movement in the low back and knees. It also can lead to other problems, such as shin splints, Achilles tendinopathy and plantar fasciitis. Some runners focus on their feet, but it’s more important to zone in on the hips and torso – where your stride begins.

Here are two common issues that can occur when you have weak hips:

  • Static flexion position – When your pelvis falls out of alignment, or your hips are tight, your trunk and legs will move less efficiently. For runners, this has an adverse effect on gait. While running, the hips drive the extension pattern. They help the gluteus maximus create momentum through the mid-to-late stance and drive you forward.   But if you spend a lot of time sitting, your body shifts from a neutral pelvic position to a static flexion position. In time, this will inhibit your glutes’ ability to function correctly.
  • Hip collapse – This can occur when there’s a weak core-hip connection. It’s sometimes the result of your core not knowing when it’s time to ‘switch on’ because compensating muscle groups do all the work. In other words, a lack of deep core muscle strength can result in an increased workload for the hips and buttocks, creating knots and tightness. This also leads to poor pelvic posture and lower back pain.

Simple exercises for strong hips
To avoid these issues, work on strengthening your hips 2-3 times a week. Here are three simple exercises to get started:

  • Side leg lifts – By working your oblique’s (outer abs), outer glutes (bum) and hips, this exercise is sure to strengthen your muscular strength and endurance. Start on the floor laying on your side with your bottom arm extended and the other on your top hip. In a controlled movement, lift your top leg up and down. For more of a challenge, point the toes of your top leg toward the floor as your leg moves down and up. Aim for 2-3 sets of 30-second holds on each side.
  • Single-leg hip extension (hip ups) – This move is perfect for strengthening your lower back, glutes and hips. Begin on your back with one leg bent and the other extended. Use the bent leg to drive your hips up until your back and bum form a straight line. Come down to the floor and repeat. Ensure your pelvis does not rotate as you lift and breathe out as you come up. Avoid arching your back and make sure you tail-tuck your pelvis in and engage your core. Aim for 2-3 sets of 15 on each leg.
  • Single-leg deadlift – Starting with your feet hip distance apart, bend one leg slightly and kick your opposite leg back as you bring yourself parallel (or close to parallel) with the floor. Return to standing position. Perform 2-3 sets of 12 on each leg.

To learn more about strengthening your hips, schedule a session with a Bellin Fitness personal trainer.