7 hip strengthening exercises to improve running form

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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, there are ways to improve your running form through these hip strengthening exercises.

Your hips are really important when it comes to good running form. You may have heard of the terms ‘run tall’ or ‘high hips’. These are terms the running community uses to describe efficient running form for your hips.

When you run, you adopt a slight forward lean (especially when sprinting), but where most runners go wrong is when they hinge forward from the waist, therefore creating extra stress on their back and lower spine.

Core strength is often looked at when we talk about hip strengthening exercises. Core strength and hip strength work together to stabilise the body and create the tall posture you see in elite runners, even on those long, tiring runs.

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 in your training routine.

In the age of desk jobs and extended periods of sitting, our hip flexors 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 and core 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.

It’s not just a tall posture that hips can help with. Hips 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.

The key takeaway? Strong hips can help you run faster and stronger for longer.

In this post I’d like to share my favourite hip strengthening exercises. Some of these can be done without equipment.

hip strengthening exercises

7 hip strengthening exercises to improve running form

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.

  • 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.
hip strengthening exercises

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.
hip strengthening exercises

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.

Caroline Geoghegan

Caroline Geoghegan (aka Run With Caroline) helps people become faster and stronger runners. She started her blog in 2018 to share her passion for running. Caroline is a UK Athletics qualified Run Leader and Run Coach and NASM qualified Personal Trainer.

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