Whenever I work with runners dealing with injuries, observing their running gait can provide me clues on what to look out for. By analyzing their biomechanics, I can roughly pinpoint the root of the cause, and other potential musculoskeletal issues they may encounter.
Whenever there is a weak link within the kinetic chain, the body tends to compensate to get the job done with the least amount of effort. As a result, we rely on our joints instead of our muscles to run. One of the most common compensation patterns runners tend to have is swaying of their hips from left to right when they run. This dysfunctional movement is known as “hip drop”, and it can happen to newbies and veteran runners.
To know if you have a “hip drop”, ask someone to take a video of you running from behind. If your hips drop to one side like the photo below, you’re probably making that mistake.
Hip drop occurs when we have weak hip external rotators and glutes: mainly gluteus medius and minimus. If our glutes are weak, our feet tend to pronate, which causes our knees to buckle in. As a result, the kinetic energy from every stride will travel up from our feet towards our joints (knees, hips and lower back).
Common injuries due to hip drop include runner’s knee, SI Joint pain syndrome, IT Band Syndrome and lower back pain. Energy leaks can also occur from unstable hips, robbing you from running at optimum speed and endurance.
There is a simple test you could do to determine if your glutes are weak and unstable. The Trendelenburg Test is simple to perform. Place your hands on your hips and raise one leg off the floor. Try to squat with one leg and observe your form. If your hips raise at one side as your knee buckle in, you’re likely running with an unstable hip.
5 quick and simple fix
You need to strengthen your glutes and stabilize your hips to prevent your hips from dropping. Here are 5 simple exercises which you can do at home to improve your run and minimize injuries.
- Side Plank
Lie on your side and raise your hips off the floor while maintaining a neutral spine. This exercise targets your obliques, hips and shoulders. Try holding this position for 30-60 seconds on each side.
- Bird Dog
At a quadruped position, maintain a neutral spine and lift off one of your leg and your opposing arm. Aim to keep your hips stable by avoiding it from tipping over to one side. Imagine that there is a glass of water at your hips, and you’re trying to keep it still.
- Lunges With Torso Rotation
Hold on to a medicine ball and perform a regular lunge. At the bottom of the lunge, rotate your torso while keeping your hips stable by engaging your core and glutes.
- Single Leg Wood Chop
Balance on one leg while holding on to a medicine ball. Perform the wood chop by doing a half squat. Rotate from the bottom of your hips and swing up, diagonally towards the top of the opposing side. Work on maintaining your balance throughout the movement.
- Hip Raise with Hip Abduction
Stand on a step board with one leg and allow the other hip to drop. Later, level the hip by raising the hip up. At the top, slowly lift your legs sideways. Squeeze the side of your hips when your legs are abducted. Maintain balance and return to the starting position. Repeat the entire movement for 5-10 reps on each side.
Strength training plays a major role in improving your run. Do not make the common mistake of assuming that in order to run better, you only need to keep running. We all know that it is important to run with proper form. And in order to do that, you must first identify your weak links and strengthen it. I hope that these simple exercises would alleviate any pain you may have, and help you run farther and faster.
About The Author
Ke Wynn is a certified personal trainer by ACE, specializing in corrective exercise and sports injury, and also a certified deep tissue sports massage therapist. He was given the prestigious and internationally recognized award as “The BioMechanics Corrective Exercise Specialist” of the Year 2018 for his commitment and success in helping his clients to live a pain-free and functional life. He is a strong advocate of staying active and eating right through education. Ke Wynn struggled with weight issues during his teens but managed to overcome them through exercise. Since then, he has successfully completed major triathlons, half-marathons, cycling events and obstacle races in his early 30’s.
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