6 Hip Exercises You Should Do Before a Run

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6 Hip Exercises You Should Do Before a Run

Photo: Twenty20

As a runner, you’ve probably given some thought to keeping your hips happy and healthy. But, if you’re like most mile chasers, that stops at hip exercises to “strengthen them.”

While that’s definitely a start, you can’t effectively train any muscle that’s tight, overstretched, or altogether asleep, explains David Reavy, PT, a board-certified clinical specialist in orthopedic physical therapy and founder of React Physical Therapy in Chicago. No matter how dedicated you are to a running routine, the muscles that move your hip probably deserve one (if not all) of these adjectives.

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Why So Many People Have Tight Hips

Research from Northwestern University shows that people who exercise sit just as much as those who don’t, and if you haven’t guessed, sitting does a number on your hip muscles. Sitting shortens the anterior chain (or front of the body) and stretches the glutes, says Reavy. He notes that in this position, the glutes and abs then shut down. After all, when you’re sitting on your keister, crouched over a computer screen, these muscles don’t need to activate. So they stop firing.

Problem is, the act of running hammers your hips with forces 12 times your body weight, Reavy says, and your butt and core muscles don’t simply start firing again after sitting. Meanwhile, the tightened-up muscles on the front of your body — including your hip flexors, which raise your knee to your chest with every stride — can’t properly absorb the shock or propel you forward. In the end, your running performance suffers and your risk of injury increases, Reavy explains.

“Your body follows the path of least resistance, and when your hip muscles are inactive or tight, that path isn’t going to be the healthy one,” he says. While hip-related injuries can strike anywhere throughout the body, knee pain, IT band syndrome, and herniated discs are a few notables, he says.

That’s why Reavy recommends runners perform hip-activation and release exercises regularly. By moving your hip muscles through eccentric (aka lengthening) actions, you stimulate specialized neurological sensors, called spindles, housed in every muscle fiber. The result: Your muscles return to their normal length, wake up and get ready to power your best run yet.

Here, Reavy shares his six favorite hip exercises. Perform them every day for optimal results. On running and cross-training days, use them as part of your pre-sweat warm-up.

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6 Hip Exercises to Add to Your Run Warm-Up

Hip Exercises for Runners: Hip-Flexor Roll-Out with Hip Rotations

GIFs: K. Aleisha Fetters / React Physical Therapy

1. Hip-Flexor Roll-Out with Hip Rotations 

How to: Lie face-down on the floor, and prop your torso up on your forearms. Position yourself so that both knees are bent, the inside of your left leg and the front of your right thigh is flat on the floor. Your right foot should extend toward the ceiling. Place a massage or lacrosse ball (a tennis ball will work, too) under your right hip crease, just inside and below your hip bone. This is your starting position (a). From here, slowly lower your foot toward the left, then to the right. That’s one rep (b). Perform 15 reps, then repeat on the opposite side.

Hip Exercises for Runners: Hip-Flexor Roll-Out with Knee Extension

2. Hip-Flexor Roll-Out with Knee Extension

How to: Lie face-down on the floor, and prop your torso up on your forearms. Position yourself so that both knees are bent, the inside of your left leg and the front of your right thigh is flat on the floor. Your right foot should extend toward the ceiling. Place a massage or lacrosse ball (a tennis ball will work, too) under your right hip crease, just inside and below your hip bone. This is your starting position (a). From here, slowly lower your foot toward the floor, then back up toward your butt. That’s one rep (b). Perform 15 reps, then repeat on the opposite side.

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Hip Exercises for Runners: Forward-Reaching Lunges

3. Forward-Reaching Lunges

How to: Get in a split stance with one leg in front of you and the other behind you, and your arms bent and hands held just outside of your shoulders. Bend your knees to lower your back knee toward the floor until your hips are just higher than your knees. Keep your weight in the heel of your front foot. This is your starting position (a). From here, while keeping your back flat, hinge at the hips to bend forward as if you are reaching for something in front of you on the floor (b). Reverse the movement to return to start. That’s one rep (c). Perform 20 reps, then repeat on the opposite side.

Hip Exercises for Runners: Side-to-Side Lunges

4. Side-to-Side Lunges

How to: Get in a split stance with one leg in front of you and the other behind you. Bend your elbows and hold your hands just outside of your shoulders. Bend your knees to lower your back knee toward the floor until your hips are just higher than your knees. Keep your weight in the heel of your front foot. This is your starting position (a). From here, while keeping your back straight, spine neutral and hips steady, bend your torso toward the right, then the left. That’s one rep (b). Perform 20 reps, then repeat on the opposite side.

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Hip Exercises for Runners: Rotational Lunges

5. Rotational Lunges

How to: Get in a split stance with one leg in front of you and the other behind you. Bend your elbows and hold your hands just outside of your shoulders. Bend your knees to lower your back knee toward the floor until your hips are just higher than your knees. Keep your weight in the heel of your front foot. This is your starting position (a). From here, while keeping your back straight, spine neutral and hips steady, twist and rotate your torso to the right, then the left. That’s one rep (b). Perform 20 reps, then repeat on the opposite side.

Hip Exercises for Runners: Up-and-Down Lunges

6. Up-and-Down Lunges

How to: Get in a split stance with one leg in front of you and the other behind you, and your arms bent and hands held just outside of your shoulders. Keep your weight in the heel of your front foot. This is your starting position (a). From here, while keeping your back flat, bend your knees to lower your back knee toward the floor until your hips are just higher than your knees (b). Then, drive through your front foot to reverse the movement and return to start. That’s one rep (c). Perform 20 reps, then repeat on the opposite side.

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