Have you heard that strength training is good for runners, but you don’t know where to start? Do you want to get stronger hips and you are just too confused with the hundreds of exercises everyone recommends?
Maybe you learned some hip exercises in physical therapy before, but you felt like they didn’t do anything for you, so you started doing some gym-based exercises but your knees started hurting!
If this is you, I feel you and this is how I felt when I was just starting out in my running journey 12 years ago this very same month! I was just coming off hip surgery for a torn labrum and cartilage and my hip muscles were weak and I was looking for exercises to get them stronger.
Today, I want to teach you the 5 simple exercises to strengthen your all-important hip muscles that today you can implement no matter what level runner you are! These have been the tried, true and tested favorites that I have done personally and are the very same exercises that I have programmed for clients either getting out of hip, knee, or even ankle pain or have the foundation for which huge, massive improvements in becoming a stronger and faster runner begin.
Listen to the Podcast Episode during your next run!
In today’s blog I am going to cover…
My top 5 hip exercises for runners
What are the benefits of doing these exercises
Why did I choose them
What muscle are we working
Common mistakes most runners make with these exercises
When is the best time to do these exercises?
How many reps or sets?
How Can you Make these exercises easier or harder?
9 out of every 10 runners reading this right now will get injured, and one of the most common reasons for runners getting injured during their hard race training cycles is not building up the strength and resilience in their tissues to tolerate the demands that half marathon or marathon training offer.
Trying to get stronger as a runner when you don’t have direction can be frustrating. You may have been given an exercise by a random PT you saw a couple of times but they really don’t know much about running or you may have seen an exercise on social media posted by a friend who is a runner or a running “influencer” but they really don’t know much about the body or health for that matter.
If you don’t do specific exercises for your running specific hip muscles…
And that leads to frustration and feeling constantly overwhelmed with the amount of information out there. We don’t want that for you.
We at Spark Healthy Runner have a plan on how to build a strong foundation as a runner so you can optimize your running for longevity.
As a running physical therapist and coach, I have given thousands of runners a plan for getting stronger hips and our plan will work for you too!
I know how hard it is to grow as a runner (heck it took me 12 years to come up with this brand new framework) Trying to grow as a runner is overwhelming if you don’t have a plan… Your running gets slower or (worse) leads to injury. When you master the six key parts of your running journey, you’ll not only feel more confident in getting stronger and faster – you’ll stay healthy and enjoy the process of running again!
👉Get the latest Spark Healthy Runner E-book Free resource, How to Grow as a Runner (6 Step) Roadmap with a ton of supplemental resources, visuals and video content that will help provide context to what you will learn about today.
These have been the tried, true, and tested strategies that have kept all the runners I work with on a 1:1 bases as their running physical therapist and coach to stay running during their recovery and then finally learning how to never have their pain or injury come back again.
Go ahead and download your free e-book by going to learn.sparkhealthyrunner.com and get the resource and get all the bonus content!
These are foundational exercises to activate your hip run specific muscles. As a runner, you need to turn on and learn how to activate these muscles prior to focusing on strengthening them.
We’re going to be talking about Strength training as power training with Jason Fitzgerald from Strength Running in the next episode on the podcast in Episode 171. Before you can do the power training that Jason and I talk about you have to turn on these running specific muscles first so you don’t get injured!
These muscles are important turn on when running on 1 leg all the time (not in bootcamp, crossfit, body weight training).
These target your run specific muscles and will help prevent runner’s knee, IT band syndrome, shin splints, and ankle tendinitis. For those that have had LBP, hip pain, or knee pain…these muscles get inhibited. Listen to Episode 155 on the Healthy Runner Podcast: 5 Types of Low Back Pain for all things about low back pain.
The tried, true, good old clamshell exercise! Why do we need to do this exercise? Runners with knee pain or iliotibial band syndrome or glute med tendinopathy, compensations are happening where the body isn’t using the correct hip muscles when we’re running! The clamshell helps to target the muscles we NEED and WANT to focus on.
The clamshell works the external rotators but also works the gluteus medius as well.
Be aware of common mistakes with this exercise. These include not having your hips stacked and having the pelvis roll forward or back, not rotating around the hip but instead rolling the whole body back, going too fast, not feeling the squeeze, not progressing resistance or progressing resistance too soon before actually working the right muscle! You want to be feeling this exercise DEEP in your glutes. If you’re not, then there are some problems that you’ll want to address!
This next exercise is going to target the upper hamstring, the glutes and the low back. The reason we want to incorporate this exercise is for any history of upper hamstring tendon pain, low back pain especially due to instability or SI joint pain. This exercise can help to strengthen the musculature and prevent more pain.
Bridging with Marching works the glutes, lower abdominal muscles and the deep low back rotators.
The dead bug is a GREAT exercise to incorporate as a runner! You are performing a reciprocal motion just like when you’re running!
The deadbug is important to incorporate to strengthen the core and the hips. This exercise can be done for runners post-partum (as long as there is no rectus diastisus and you’ve cleared it with your doctor/physical therapist), you have a weak core, continual anterior hip pain or pain in your hip flexors with running.
The deadbug exercise works the lower abdominals, glute max, and hip flexors. We are isometrically stabilizing these muscles. Be conscious of not arching your back off the ground when performing this exercise! Think of pulling your belly button down towards your spine and keeping your core nice and tight while performing the reciprocal movement with your arms and legs.
Are you wondering why we call this The Humbler? It is because when done right, this exercise is quite humbling, even for the strongest of athletes. This exercise targets those deep hip muscles and when done right, you feel the burn, baby!
This exercise is important to do because the muscles that this exercise targets are the most important running muscles we have. If these muscles are weak, there can be a hip drop or pelvic drop in runner’s gait.
The Humbler works the Gluteus Medius and Minimus.
Common mistakes include rolling the pelvis back or bringing the leg off the wall. We want to be sure to keep the hips stacked and keep your heel attached to the wall during the slide. You want to make sure you’re feeling this exercise in the side of your butt and NOT in your back or obliques.
Last but not least we have the standing march exercise! This exercise is important to do because it is a great introduction to single leg stability!
This exercise works the side hip muscles, external rotators, and gluteus maximus to stabilize the hip flexors.
When performing this exercise, be sure to keep the pelvis level and do not let it drop.
The best time to do these exercises are going to be before your normal strength workout. You can also do these after a run as a quick circuit!
You’re going to be doing 10 to 12 reps for 1 set, going through all 5 exercises on each side! Once you get comfortable doing the exercises, you’re going to work up to doing 2 to 3 sets per side eventually.
To make any of these exercises easier, you can do them without the miniband and to make them harder, you can add the band or increase the resistance level of the band!
There are six parts of your running journey that need to be optimized so you can run strong and last long! Learn them here: https://learn.sparkhealthyrunner.com/grow
Want Dr. Duane to answer your question on the podcast? Submit questions here
Episode 155 on the Healthy Runner Podcast
5 Types of Low Back Pain:
Want the structured strength, nutrition, and run plan with motivation and accountability to reach your highest running potential? Book a call and learn more about Healthy Runner coaching here: https://learn.sparkhealthyrunner.com/coaching
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Connect with Dr. Duane:
Dr. Duane Scotti, DPT, PhD, OCS is a running physical therapist, run coach, host of the Healthy Runner podcast, and founder of Spark Healthy Runner and has been a leader in the rehab and running community for 20+ years.
Duane initially started running as an adult, wanting to add some cardio to his gym sessions. After having a hip surgery, his doctor advised him to get off the treadmill and run outside. Without having fully recovered, Duane suffered a running-related hamstring tendon injury and many others as a novice runner.
As a coach, he has guided thousands of athletes back to running, finishing their first marathon, crushing a personal best, and even the elusive Boston Marathon qualifying time.
He is truly living his passion educating the running community that they don’t need to stop running to get over a running injury. Through his signature 1:1 coaching program, weekly videos, and podcast episodes, he empowers runners to get stronger, run faster, and enjoy lifelong injury free running. Dr. Duane truly believes that anyone can run and that all runners should be treated differently when recovering from an injury. He is on a mission to change the traditional thinking that running causes “overuse injuries” or “your body is just not meant to run” and you must “take a break” to get better. Through strength and run specific training you can grow a strong mind, strong body, and just keep running!
Duane received his Bachelor of Health Science degree and Master of Physical Therapy degree from Quinnipiac University in 2001 and 2003. He then went on to receive a clinical Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Ph.D. in Physical Therapy from Nova Southeastern University in 2017. Duane is a board-certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist, RRCA Certified Running Coach, Certified Mulligan Practitioner, certified in dry needling and has advanced training in spinal manipulation and rehabilitation for runners.
As an athlete, Duane is an adult-onset runner, avid half marathoner, and enjoys challenging himself to learn and grow in his personal running journey!
A native New Yorker from Long Island, Duane currently lives in Cheshire, Connecticut with his wife Deb and his two teenage daughters who are competitive volleyball players. They all love to explore new beaches along the east coast.
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You can teach an old dog new tricks!!! I have never considered myself a runner and I knew I needed to be smart about it because I am no spring chicken. Spark preached getting strong and healthy to be injury free and they practice what they preach. I am soooo glad I made the investment in me! I finished my half marathon last weekend and couldn’t be any happier! The program fed me all the steps I needed to essentially learn how to run long distance, build strength, nutrition help, a forum of other runners and probably most important was the 1:1 coaching. I had no idea how to tackle training for a 1/2 marathon and this program broke all of it down, had it individualized for me and we tweaked as we went to make sure I was staying healthy and strong. I had so many questions the week prior to my race and Coach Cat was always there for me and answering all the questions and issues I had-and believe me there were a lot! The biggest benefit I think I got was the strength. I am strong and fit. But most important was what I gained emotionally. I built confidence and strength I didn’t know I had, even at my age. Honestly could not have done this without Spark Healthy Runners!
My Healthy Runner journey started after I had battled bilateral achilles pain for a few months and was frustrated how it affected my running. As soon as I talked to Duane I knew I had made the right decision. His positivity, enthusiasm and genuine care are infectious. The training plan that was tailored to me included specific exercises to rehab my injury and I was so excited that I didn’t have to stop running. It took patience to only run slow for a few weeks but I trusted the process and it got me me to where I am now: running pain free. We made adjustments to the plan throughout whenever needed having someone in your corner that is always there with guidance and support throughout the process was invaluable.
I just ran my second half marathon, both with Duane’s coaching, and PR’d by over 9 minutes! I got all choked up in the last mile when I realized that I felt strong and could still kick it up a notch.
I’m so thankful for the Healthy Runner program, community and the entire coaching team for all the support!
Wanting to run more consistently, and to increase my long run distance and total weekly mileage, I was concerned about hip pain due to hip alignment issues. This is an issue I had when I trained for my first half marathon several years ago. Having listened to the Healthy Runner podcast for the past couple years, I knew Duane Scotti could help. I signed up for the four-month strength and running training program and am extremely happy with the results.
The program Duane and Coach Whitney developed for me was exactly what I needed. It was tailored to my needs and to my target race. Coach Whitney was very helpful, and with the biweekly coaching calls, we were able to fine tune the program based off my performance and feedback.
At the end of the program, I completed a 10K trail race feeling strong and pain free.
I highly recommend Duane Scotti and the Healthy Runner training programs.