When runners think about their workout, they focus on strengthening the obvious areas: the hamstrings, the quads. Every once in a while, you’ll get someone who gives some consideration to their core, ankles, and feet. However, one of the most underappreciated yet most important areas for runners to exercise is the hips. So here’s an article about hip strengthening exercises especially for runners.
It’s in our hips and glutes that our strides are determined. Proper form with the hips helps in longer strides, greater balance, and safer footfalls. Keeping those hips straight during a run determines a straight posture for the spine and the legs. It’s all about keeping you steady. Your body needs to work harmoniously while you run for greater efficiency, to decrease the likelihood of injury, and increase your gains.
To that end, we’ve collected some hip-focused stretches and strengthening exercises for runners to help you ensure you’re getting everything you can out of your run. We even included videos. Take a look, pick a few favorites, and add them to your regimen.
Hip Strengthening Exercises for Runners
Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch
This exercise not only makes you look noble, but it will stretch your quads, hips, and glutes. Kneel on your left knee. Draw that left knee behind you. Take your right leg, bend the knee in front of you. For an extra stretch, flex your glutes. Hold the pose as long as you can–recommended between 30 seconds and 2 minutes.
Figure 4 Stretch
This isn’t quite the move Ric Flair made famous, but perhaps we’re a step closer to him than we were before this exercise. Lie on your back. Bend your right quad and bring it close to you. Take your left foot and cross it over the bent right quad. With both hands, pull your right quad as close to your body as possible. Stop when you feel a comfortable stretch. Hold this pose for 30 seconds. Switch. It’s not Space Mountain, but you have to start somewhere.
Get on all fours, arms shoulder-width apart, almost like a push-up. Keep your knees together, resting on the floor. Lift your right knee, and kick your foot upward. Your thigh is in alignment with your back, while your knee is almost at a right angle. You’ll feel a stretch in your core and glutes. Switch legs. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. Use this as part of your warm-up 2-3 times a week.
This simple exercise is great for long distance runners who need to maintain their form during the workout. Balance yourself on one leg, while raising the other knee as high as possible. Bring it down and switch. Increase speed as you switch between the two. Do 2-3 sets of 30-60 minutes each.
Technically speaking, nobody’s allergic to this exercise. Lie on your side with your knees bent on top of each other, and one arm folded under your head for support. Keep your feet together and lift your top knee. This is called “opening the clamshell.” Allow your hips to rotate, but keep your core unmoved. Close the clamshell. Switch sides. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. Use this as part of your warm-up 2-3 times a week.
Standing Hip Flexion
Use a resistance band and loop it around something stable and close to the floor. Place your foot inside the loop, facing away from the stable point. Using your hip and hamstring, slightly bend your knee, and move your looped foot forward as far as possible. Keep your posture straight. You’ll look like the T-1000 trying to walk after getting frozen by Sarah Connor. Don’t move too fast. Switch legs. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.
Side Planks With Leg Abduction
I know this one sounds weird but bear with me. It’s a really useful exercise. You start in the side plank position, with your arm resting underneath you for balance. Your legs are stacked above the other. While squeezing your glutes, lift your top leg as high as possible while keeping the rest of your body as a straight line. Hold the pose of your leg in the air. Then slowly bring it back down. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. Switch legs. As you become accustomed to the exercise, use a resistance band around your knees for extra tension.
Reclining Angle Bound Pose
Like all stretches, this one can be uncomfortable, particularly in the groin area at first. You may not quite be able to do this pose perfectly the first time out. Over time, your hip flexors and groin muscles will be able to complete this task perfectly. Anyway, first thing’s first: get on your back. Bring the soles of your feet together in a diamond shape. Let your knees open up to make your feet positioning easier. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
Lie on your back, legs up and feet flat, like you’re going to do a situp. Lift your left leg forward, while raising your hips and glutes, creating a bridge. Hold this pose for two seconds before careful returning to your resting pose. Repeat with the other leg. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.
The most famous and arguably still the best. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees downward, while pushing your hips back. Make sure your legs stay straight and don’t turn toward each other or touch. Get as low as you can. Use your heels to drive yourself back into the starting position.
I’m tempted to say, “It’s a squat with one leg–figure it out,” but I’ll be nice. Stand in a regular squat position with your arms in front of your body and your feet set wide apart. Here’s the fun part. Slowly, lift your left foot, then your left leg straight out in front of you. Make sure you’re balanced and then squat down with your right. Switch to the right foot. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. Use this as part of your warm-up 2-3 times a week.
Get on all fours like you’re about to pay your taxes. This one might take some extra practice if you have coordination issues. Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Tuck your head down, looking at the floor. At the same time, lift your left arm straight ahead and your right leg straight behind you. Bring them back to the central resting pose and switch, with your right arm and your left leg. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. Use this as part of your warm-up 2-3 times a week.
You should have a step or a bench handy for this one. Nothing too high. About 4 or 5 inches should do. With one foot on the box, let your free hip upward, so the flexors feel a stretch. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. Then switch legs.
Yeah, this one’s a tough one, but it’ll stretch everything from your shoulder to your hamstrings. Those already introduced to yoga will have an easier time with it, but runners looking to get more out of their stride should take the time to get this done. Get on all fours, or the downward facing dog, as it’s better known in their circles. Lift your glutes up into the air, and let your body weight rest on your hands, which should be spread apart. They’ll help take care of the balancing. While keeping that balance, draw your right leg as far back behind you as possible. Hold the pose for two seconds, then switch legs. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.
Too bad they don’t make these in real life. Sure, they wouldn’t make sense from an engineering perspective, but who’d really complain? Anyway, lie on your back, with your hands on your sides like Superman does. Then keep your knees bent and feet flat on the floor like you’re doing a situp. Lift your glutes off the ground until you’re making a straight line with your shoulders and knees. You’ll feel the pull in your glutes, which should be used to keep your balance. Dig your feet into the ground for extra support. Hold the pose for several seconds, rest, and do it again. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. Use this as part of your warm-up 2-3 times a week.
This will stretch everything from your back down to your quads. It also looks very, very unpleasant at first glance, but there’s much worse out there. Lie on left your side, using one arm as a pillow. Legs stacked. Then, bend your right knee and hip up toward your chest until you feel a stretch. Return the right knee to a resting position. With your right hand, hold your left foot, as you bend the left knee toward your back. The twisting will not only help your hip flexors but will also give your obliques some attention too. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. Use this as part of your warm-up 2-3 times a week.
Fair warning: this one requires as much practice balancing as it does anything else. The single-leg deadlift will help your hips and your glutes. Your spouse will thank us both. First, stand with your feet together. Lift your left leg behind you. Lean forward while keeping your shoulders and back straight. Try to get your hand to touch the ground. Return to a standing position. Switch legs. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. Use this as part of your warm-up 2-3 times a week.
Stretch both hips simultaneously with the Butterfly. Sit on the ground, legs straight out ahead. Then bend your knees so that they’re facing outward but the soles of your feet are touching. Keep your back straight. Use your hands to put pressure on your knees to bring them closer to the floor, further stretching your hips. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. Use this as part of your warm-up 2-3 times a week.
We’ll end on one of the most popular running stretches out there. It was so popular, they were taught to some of us in gym class at school. The Head-to-Knee (unrelated to Shinsuke Nakamura’s similar move), though painful especially at first, is incredibly useful, as it provides flexibility to your hips and hamstrings. Sit on the ground, legs stretched forward. Bend your left knee so that the sole of your foot is touching your right inner thigh. While keeping your back straight, reach toward your right foot with your hands. If you can’t make it that far, place your hands at your best distance. With practice, you’ll be able to make it. Hold for 10-15 seconds and switch legs. Do 2-3 sets. Use this as part of your warm-up 2-3 times a week.
And there you have it: all the hip strengthening exercises for runners you could ask for.
So make sure to give your hips some attention with these hip strengthening exercises for runners. You’ll get more out of your stride, and probably a nicer behind out of it too.