Clinically, we often see lower extremity injuries in patients with hip weakness. This hip weakness can also manifest itself in run form impairments.

What does hip weakness look like while running?

Hip drop and/or poor knee control can be indicative of hip weakness while running. However, one may display adequate isolated hip strength in a single plane, but still display poor run form. Therefore, these movement patterns may not be indicative of true weakness, but poor muscle activation and coordination during the dynamic and multifaceted activity of running.  

Can strengthening alone improve my run form?

Interestingly, research indicates that hip strengthening alone will not change running mechanics. It shows that strengthening a specific pattern (such as single leg squat or side lying clamshells) will improve that specific pattern of movement, but will not directly affect your running mechanics. 

Why should I strengthen my hips if it will not improve my run form?

Research shows that hip strengthening helps improve pain that is associated with numerous lower extremity overuse injuries. Strength work helps to improve muscle firing patterns so that the body is more controlled and stable under load. Also, strengthening specific muscle groups (depending on the type of strength work performed) can help that particular muscle group more fatigue resistant.

How can I improve my run form?

It is important for the improved strength of the hips to  be integrated into a neuromuscular training program. This type of program involves training the body to move in a more specific, coordinated fashion via 2D (video) or 3D feedback. Visual feedback is an effective tool to teach your body to move better in real time. By doing this, you can address the impairment while it is occuring; making self correction much easier. 

Take home:

If you have hip weakness and related run form impairments, strengthening may be an important aspect of your recovery. However, as discussed earlier, improving hip strength will not change your run form. Long lasting form changes and injury prevention can be obtained via a combination of specific, individualized strength work and real time, video feedback, with cuing and direction by a qualified lower extremity specialist.

Davis I., Willy R. The Effect of a Hip-Strengthening Program on Mechanics During Running and During a Single-Leg Squat. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2011;41(9):625–632, Epub 12 July 2011. doi:10.2519/jospt.2011.3470

Check out the referenced article.

Options for hip strengthening exercises:

  1. Side plank circuit
  2. Hip band series

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