Why Every Runner Needs Lateral Hip Strength?

Running is a free, accessible, convenient, time-efficient form of exercise that (almost) everyone can reap the vast physical and mental benefits from. Running is a very repetitive movement pattern, and whether you are a weekend warrior runner or an elite runner, you require a certain amount of strength to run without causing injury. The focus of this blog is lateral glute strength. Weak lateral glutes can cause excess strain on other structures of the body causing injury and reduced metabolic efficiency and running economy.

You’ve likely heard the term ‘glutes’ before, but you’re probably referring to the gluteus maximus. You may be less familiar with the term ‘lateral glutes’. Before we go any further let’s have a quick anatomy recap. The lateral glutes are made up of the gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus, which are located on the side of your bottom slightly above your hip joint.

How do these ‘all important’ lateral glutes work during the gait cycle (running)?

When you’re running you never have both feet on the ground. It is the job of the lateral glutes to stabilise the hips, which means they help control the position of your pelvis, hips, knees, and ankles – quite an important job! 

What weakness in the lateral glutes during running can cause? 

  • Increase the peak impact of vertical ground reaction forces in running and impair the body’s ability to properly absorb these forces 
  • Reduced metabolic efficiency and running economy 
  • Overuse injuries, such as iliotibial band syndrome, low back pain, and plantar fasciitis

So, how do we fix it?

The good news? There are countless exercises that target and strengthen the lateral glutes. There are isolated lateral glute exercises such as crab walks, monster walks, scooters, clams, side plank with hip abduction, hip hitch, and wall press (click here for video demonstrations of some exercises by our Exercise Physiologist, Eddie!). While the above exercises are great, running is a dynamic multi-joint movement, so it is important to integrate some compound resistance training exercises also. Single-leg exercises where the foot is fixed in space and the person is required to utilise the lateral glutes to stabilise the hips (just as they are required to do during the single-leg stance phase of running) are great. Some example exercises comprise the lateral step-up/step-down, single-leg squat, and skater squat.   

While traditional strength training may not be ‘your thing’, it can allow you to do the activities you enjoy (running). If you want to improve your running economy, stop getting ‘niggles’ or injuries after you run, or start this glorious form of exercise, our EP’s have got you covered! 

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