If you struggle to stay upright towards the end of a race, or find yourself slumping forward as you get tired, this may be a sign that you have weak hips or lazy glutes.
Weak hips and glutes can have a negative impact on your running form and performance.
However, there are ways to improve your running economy by practicing these hip strengthening exercises for runners.
A lot of runners experience hip pain one time or another in their lives, so there’s even more reason to include these hip strengthening exercises for runners in your training routine.
In this guide we’ll explore:
- Why are hip strengthening exercises for runners important?
- How often should runners do hip strengthening exercises?
- Hip strengthening exercises for runners Q&A
- 7 best hip strengthening exercises to improve form and performance
- 3 running drills to promote good hip posture
Let’s get started!
Why are hip strengthening exercises for runners important?
In the age of desk jobs and extended periods of sitting, our hip flexors and glutes have become weakened.
The group of muscles around your pelvic girdle work together to help stabilise the body, so when they are weakened, this can lead to injury and inefficient running form.
IT band syndrome, for example, is a common running injury of the anterior knee and is often caused by weak hips and lazy glutes and failure to adopt a warm up and stretching routine.
According to a 2015 study, incorporating hip strengthening exercises into a rehab routine following a knee injury can lead to earlier resolution of pain and greater overall gains in strength compared with knee-related protocols only.
Your hips and glutes are also important when helping to propel the body forward. When the hip extends, it swings the leg forward as quickly as possible after setting off after push-off.
Simply put, your body goes where your hips lead.
The key takeaway? Strong hips and glutes can help you run more efficiently and faster and stronger for longer.
How often should runners do hip strengthening exercises?
Hip strengthening exercises should be done as part of your strength training routine.
Ideally, you should aim to include 1-2 strength training sessions in your training each week.
As with any form of training, the key is to be consistent to really see benefits in your muscular and bone strength.
Each session should last no longer than 45 minutes. Aim to perform strength training as a standalone session or after an easy run.
Hip strengthening exercises for runners Q&A
Q: Can I run with weak hips?
A: Running with weak hips can seriously compromise your running economy and mechanics.
As a result, other muscle groups will become strained and will try and compensate to stabilise the hips. Over time, this can causes imbalances to form, especially in the glutes, knees and lower back.
Q: When doing hip strengthening exercises, my hips click, why is this?
A: If you experience clicking in your hip joints (also known as ‘popping hip syndrome’), this is normally a sign that you need to improve the strength and range of motion in your glutes (your buttocks) and hip flexors so to reduce the click.
People with hypermobility (excessive flexibility) may also experience clicking in their joints due to lack of muscle control around their hips.
Q: How do I stop my hips from hurting when I run?
A: If you regularly experience pain in your hips during and after running, then this may be a sign that something wrong.
Hip pain after running can be caused by a variety of conditions, including pulled muscles, osteoarthritis, tendonitis and hip stress fracture.
The first step if you experience hip pain is to identify the cause before continuing running. If you ignore the pain, it could become more painful or make the injury worse.
If in doubt, speak to your healthcare professional.
Q: Should I run if my hips hurt?
A: The best course of action if your hips hurt is to rest and take time off running. Most common running injuries are easy to fix with proper rest and recovery.
Seek a healthcare professional’s opinion if the pain worsens or doesn’t get better with time.
7 best hip strengthening exercises for runners
These are the best hip strengthening exercises for runners to improve your running form, performance and economy over short, middle to long distances.
#1 Single leg deadlift
The single leg deadlift is a core exercise for many runners looking to improve their glute and hip strength.
- Hold a kettlebell in one hand, hanging to the side. Stand on one leg, on the same side that you hold the kettlebell.
- Keeping that knee slightly bent, perform a stiff-legged deadlift by bending at the hip, extending your free leg behind you for balance.
- Continue lowering the kettlebell until you are parallel to the ground, and then return to the upright position. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
#2 Single leg squat to stand
The single leg squat is a great variation on the standard squat.
The sit to stand movement challenges you to drive your hips forward without dropping the knee or rotating the spine. It’s also a great exercise to improve your balance.
This is probably one of the more advanced hip strengthening exercises for runners, so take your time while you do this.
- Stand tall with your back facing a flat bench, and lift one foot a few inches in front of you.
- Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower down as far as possible into a single-leg squat. Once you master lowering to touch your glutes to the bench without relaxing onto it, lower the bench or try lowering to the floor.
- Pause, then push through your planted heel to return to start. That’s one rep.
- Do 5-8 reps then repeat on the opposite side.
#3 Side plank with knee drive
You’ve probably heard of the side plank. This variation is a great way to challenge your glutes which are working to stabilise your body.
- Start in a side plank with your left elbow under your shoulder, legs extended, and hips, knees, and ankles stacked. Engage your core, tuck your butt, and make sure your lower back is flat.
- Slowly drive your right knee up toward your chest. Pause for a second, and then slowly extend the leg back out to starting position. That’s 1 rep.
- Do 5-8 reps on each leg.
#4 Step up to reverse lunge
This is a good compound movement to include in your training routine.
A compound movement is when you use multiple muscles and joints in the body at once into one, fluid movement.
Any exercise that includes a step up is a great way to increase intensity without using weights.
- Stand facing a box, step, bench, or chair.
- Step onto the box with your right foot and drive through your right heel and glute to bring your left leg up to meet the right. Let your left foot hover, and keep most of the weight in your right foot.
- Step back down with your left foot, then step your right foot back about two feet behind the left and lower immediately into a reverse lunge.
- Push through your left foot to stand back up (that’s 1 rep) and move right into the next step-up.
- Do 12-15 reps on each leg.
#5 Banded glute bridge
The glute bridge is a simple but effective exercise which squeezes your bum and glutes.
This variation uses a resistance band to improve your ability to drive through the hips and hone hip stability.
- Lie face up with your back flat on the floor, a mini looped resistance band just above your knees, and your feet flat on the floor, spread hip-width apart.
- Push through your heels and squeeze your glutes to raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees.
- Pause, then slowly lower your hips to return to start. That’s one rep.
- Do 12-15 reps.
#6 Explosive sprinter’s lunge
This variation on the lunge is a great plyometric movement to help build your power and speed.
If you’ve never done an explosive lunge before, then master the basic forward lunge first.
Alternatively, do this movement by breaking down its parts before attempting the whole movement at once.
- Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart.
- Step your right foot back a few feet into a lunge position.
- Push through your left foot to explosively jump into the air, driving your right knee toward your chest.
- Land with a soft knee (that’s 1 rep) and step back immediately into another lunge.
- Do 5-8 reps on each leg.
#7 Monster steps
This variation on lateral band walks trains the glutes from a different angle while also training the hip flexors and extensors in the front and back of your hips.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, a mini looped resistance band just above your knees, and your knees slightly bent.
- Take a giant diagonal step forward and to the right with your right foot, then follow with your left, ending with your feet together.
- To return to starting position, reverse the movement, stepping diagonally behind your body with each step.
- Take another diagonal step forward, this time leading with the left foot instead and following with your right.
- Reverse the movement to return to starting position. That’s one rep.
- Repeat this movement, alternating directions each time.
- Do 12-15 reps each leg.
3 running drills to promote good hip posture
These 3 running drills will help you improve your hip posture when standing and running.
These drills also help to build awareness of when your hips and glutes are activated.
#1 Standing glute activation drill
This drill will help you build awareness of hip and glute activation.
- Stand with your feet hip width apart.
- Squeeze your buttocks to engage your glutes.
- When you do this you should feel your hips drive forward as your pelvic girdle locks into place.
- Repeat 4 to 5 times.
#2 Hollow body hold drill
The hollow body hold helps to strengthen the muscles that stabilise your lower back during running.
- Lie on your back on the ground.
- Bring your knees up to your chest
- Extend your arms overhead, and straighten your legs with your feet together and toes pointed.
- Tighten your core by drawing your ribs towards your pelvis and flexing the abdominal region.
- Raise your feet, legs and shoulders off the ground and flatten your lower back against the floor.
- Complete 3 holds lasting around 15 to 30 seconds each.
#3 Banded air squat
The squat is a popular exercise for runners for good reason. It has so many benefits and targets the major muscle groups used in running.
- Start with your feet hip-width apart and the band above your knees.
- Again, resist the band by pushing your knees out.
- Pull yourself slowly down into the squat position, keeping your back straight and knees out.
- You should feel your outer hip or glutes firing as they resist the pull of the band.
- Stand back up, being sure to keep your weight in your heel and avoid rocking forward onto your toes.
- Repeat 8 to 10 times.