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7 essential hip strengthening exercises for runners to improve form and performance

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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?
  • 7 essential hip strengthening exercises to improve form and performance
  • Bonus material: Running drills to promote good hip posture

Ready?

Let’s get started!

hip strengthening exercises

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.

Runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, shin splints and lower back pain are also signs of weak hips.

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.

Related: 5 essential hip flexor stretches for runners

hip strengthening exercises

7 essential hip strengthening exercises for runners to improve form and performance

These the best hip strengthening exercises for runners to improve your running form, performance and economy over short, middle to long distances.

Single leg deadlift

  • 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.

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, 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.

Related: 7 of the best glute strengthening exercises for runners

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.

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.

Banded glute bridge

I love the glute bridge. It’s 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.

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 I suggest you 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.

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.

Bonus material: 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.

Standing glute activation drill

This drill will help you build awareness of hip and glute activation.

  1. Stand with your feet hip width apart.
  2. Squeeze your buttocks to engage your glutes.
  3. When you do this you should feel your hips drive forward as your pelvic girdle locks into place.
  4. Repeat 4 to 5 times.

Hollow body hold drill

The hollow body hold helps to strengthen the muscles that stabilise your lower back during running.

  1. Lie on your back on the ground.
  2. Bring your knees up to your chest
  3. Extend your arms overhead, and straighten your legs with your feet together and toes pointed.
  4. Tighten your core by drawing your ribs towards your pelvis and flexing the abdominal region.
  5. Raise your feet, legs and shoulders off the ground and flatten your lower back against the floor.
  6. Complete 3 holds lasting around 15 to 30 seconds each.

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