Excessive hip motion during running represents a major injury risk factor for runners. When a runner’s hips move excessively due to hip muscle weakness, the legs of the runner will be subjected to greater loading and strain.
Numerous research findings verify the link between hip muscle strength (and pelvic stability) and the onset of running injuries. For example, hip adduction (where the hip moves towards the midline of the body) and internal rotation (a collapsing in of the hip towards the runner’s midline) have been associated with knee pain and iliotibial band syndrome.[1,2,3] Altered hip movements and reduced hip strength have also been identified as common findings in females with knee pain.
Research has also shown that females have a greater tendency to core instability than males, which may predispose females to greater incidence of lower extremity injury. One group of researchers found that female athletes displayed significantly decreased hip external rotation and side bridge strength measures compared with their male counterparts.
They reported that athletes who experienced an injury over the course of a season displayed significant weakness in hip abduction and external rotation. They also concluded that hip external rotation strength was the sole significant predictor of injury status for the athletes they tested. They tested 80 female and 60 male athletes, many of whom were cross country runners.
Given the frequency of running injuries a failure to stabilise a runner’s pelvis may expose the runner to a gamut of running injuries. The good news is that stabilising the hips can be a straightforward process for a runner. With the right exercises, discipline and scoring method to gauge progress, I have found that all runners, irrespective of running ability, can stabilise their hips. I often tell runners who are either rehabilitating from injury, or seeking to prevent injury, that hip stability exercises are ‘medicine’ for a runner’s legs.
Here are some of my favourite running strength exercises for targeting hip stability and strength: