If You Are Not Properly Activating the Glutes and Outer Hip Muscles While Running, You Are Wasting Time and Effort Strengthening the Glutes and Outer Hip Muscles

powerful runners

Hello Runners,

Have you ever worked hard and spent a bunch of time on a project that you thought your boss, co-workers, or significant other would appreciate, and then you presented your hard work and they weren’t impressed, and said something along the lines of, “thanks for your effort, but we’re going to do this instead.” How frustrating was that?

In the last two posts, I shared glute and outer hip strengthening exercises that can help you minimize the risk of injury and improve your running performance. I also provided a plan you can use to progressively incorporate more running-specific exercises once you have established a solid base of glute and outer hip strength that included dedicating at least 3 days per week for several months. That can be a lot of work!

Let’s say you’ve done these exercises consistently for a few months, and you still get an injury like plantar fasciitis, or your running pace isn’t really improving? You’d probably be mad at me!

Yes, performing these exercises consistently and in a progress manner to more running-specific exercises is important. However, that’s not the whole picture. If you are not properly engaging the glutes and outer hip muscles when you run, all your hard work and dedication is for naught.

So, in this post I will share with you what you can do to properly engage these muscles and get the benefit of all your hard work.

Activation of the Glutes and Outer Hip Muscles Before Running

I can’t stress enough the importance of a warmup before your runs. When I say warmup, I mean a dynamic warmup that engages the muscles that your need to utilize during running. Click here for a previous post on a dynamic warmup that can help with engaging the glute and outer hips muscles.

In addition to a dynamic warmup, I also recommend performing neuromuscular activation (NMA) exercises. I recommend performing these exercises before your dynamic warmup. NMA exercises should take less than five minutes to perform.

NMA Exercises:

These exercises teach your brain how to send signals to the glute and outer hip muscles so they can be activated when you run.

  • Single-leg stands:
    • While standing on one leg, raise the other leg in front of you with the knee bent until the thigh is parallel with the ground
    • Hold for 5 seconds and then do the same on the other leg
  • Single-leg stands with arms crossed:
    • While standing on one leg, raise the other leg in front of you with the knee bent until the thigh is parallel with the ground
    • Start with both arms straight out to the side and palms up
    • Bring the arms in front of you, so that the cross, bending at the elbows and flipping the hands over so the palms face down
    • Perform for 5 seconds on each leg, switching the arm that is on top as you cross to the front
  • Single-leg stands with foot abducted in back:
    • While standing on one leg, have the other leg straight out in back of you with the foot just slightly off the ground
    • Slightly turn the foot outward an hold for 5 seconds
    • Repeat with the other leg
  • Calf raises with abduction:
    • While standing on both feet, raise straight up on your toes
    • Then turn your heels out to the side and hold for one second
    • Then bring your heels back and lower them back down to the ground
    • Perform 8-10 repetitions
  • Single-leg stands with leg swings:
    • While standing on one leg slowly swing the other leg forward and back
    • Make sure the toes are pointing forward throughout the range of motion, correct if necessary
    • Perform 10-15 repetitions for each leg
    • Note: The range of motion doesn’t need to be as great as when you do leg swings for the dynamic warm-up
    • Bonus exercise to activate inner thighs – Single-leg stands with foot abducted in front:
      • While standing on one leg, have the other leg straight out in front of you with the foot just slightly off the ground
      • Slightly turn the foot outward and hold for 5 seconds
      • Repeat with the other leg

After performing NMA exercises, you should then perform a dynamic warmup exercise, which will more fully engage the glutes and outer hips muscles, as blood flow and the temperature of these muscles is increased.

Activation of the Glutes and Outer Hip Muscles While Running

All right, so you’ve woken up the muscles of the glutes and outer hips and they are ready to work for you. You’ve also increased blood flow and the temperature of these muscles so they have oxygen and nutrients for contraction and are pliable.

Now you’ve got to keep them engage while you are actually running.

In a previous post, I discussed several cues that can help remind you to engage the glutes and outer hips muscles. These included:

  • “Imagine someone in front of you grabbing you by your shirt and lifting you up at the chest”
  • “Extend the hips”
  • “Think of knees as headlights that you shine straight ahead”
  • “Put your foot down underneath you”

These cues will all help you better engage the muscles of the glutes and outer hips while you run, allowing you to run with more power, while helping you reduce the risk of injury.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

References

Jay Dicharry. Anatomy for Runners. Skyhorse Publishing, New York, 2012.

Triathlon Training Series. Strength Training with Bob Seebohar. Endurance Filsm, Inc, 2010.

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