DR. BETTIE- Hips Don’t Lie

DR. BETTIE- Hips Don’t Lie

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HIPS DON’T LIE: Runners need strong hips for increased endurance and reduced knee pain


Conventional wisdom once told us that when our knees started bothering us we should look to strengthen our quadriceps and other muscles directly surrounding the knees.  While these muscles are certainly important, we now know that the hips play a crucial role in knee stability and overall core stability for runners.  As such, we should be incorporating some hip strengthening exercises into our core routines at least 2-3 times a week to help improve hip strength and flexibility.  The core muscles do not just include the abdominals.  They also include the hips, lower back, and muscles surrounding the pelvis.  Therefore, when we think “core strengthening exercises” we should remember to include these muscle groups as well to maintain a strong core.  Here are a few hip exercises and stretches to incorporate into your core strengthening routines to help maintain hip stability.

  • Clamshells: Lie on your side with your knees and feet together at a 90 degree angle.  Keeping your feet together, slowly open and close your knees about 45 degrees (like a clam opening and closing!).  This exercise is great for helping to tone the gluteus medius and hip rotator, which can help stabilize the knee while running.  Be sure to repeat on both sides.


  • Side-lying leg lifts: Similar to the clamshell exercise, lie on your side with your knees and feet together at a 90 degree angle.  This time lift your knee and feet both up so that your top leg is parallel to the ground.  You could also do side-lying leg lifts with both of your legs straight out.  These leg lifts help strengthen your hip abductors, or outer hip muscles.  Again, be sure to repeat on both sides.


  • Inner-leg leg lifts:  Lie on your left side.  Bend your right leg and place your right foot flat on the floor in front of you.  Lift your left leg off the floor 3-5 inches.  Repeat several times and make sure you do both sides.  This exercise helps work your inner hip and thigh muscles, or abductors.


  • Pigeon Stretch:  After working the hip area, you should always stretch.  I love to do the pigeon pose and hold it for several minutes when time allows.  You get into this pose by starting on all fours, bending your right knee, and bringing your right knee to your right wrist.  Then lie down on top of your right leg and put your left leg straight out behind you.  Your right leg should be under your chest, your forearms should be in front of you, and your hips should be square.  You should feel a good stretch in your hip.  Make sure to get the left side as well.


  • Butterfly Stretch:  Sit upright with your knees bent and the soles of your feet together.  Lean forward to get a good stretch in your inner thighs.

Incorporating these exercises and stretches into your core or strength training routine will help tone your hip muscles which will help stabilize your knees, reduce fatigue, and maintain good form while running.   This in turn helps prevents injuries like runner’s knee and IT band syndrome. Keeping the muscles stretched will also help maintain a normal range of motion.  As Coach G says, “The best way to arrive at the starting line is healthy!”