Your Hips Don't Lie

By Amanda Leibovitz | Dec. 05, 2017, 2:49 p.m. (ET)

bridge exerciseIt’s now been almost three months since I underwent surgery to repair some tendons and anchor some ligaments in my ankle, which was a long time coming thanks to a long indoor volleyball career as a teen. Everything about this procedure and the recovery was totally “textbook” with no (knock-on-wood) unexpected setbacks. However, what was most surprising about this whole experience was the physical therapy regimen! Silly me, thinking that physical therapy after ankle surgery would involve exercises to strengthen my ankles. It turns out, it’s all about the hips and booty!

hip exercisesTaking the time to strengthen our hips and glutes (specifically, our medial glutes) has a huge impact on our run performance! Weak hips can often be the cause of IT band pain, patellar tendinitis (runner's knee), piriformis issues, sciatica and other common running injuries. But that’s not all! When we run, the glutes hold our pelvis level and steady, extend our hip, propel us forward, and keep our legs, pelvis and torso aligned. This means that when our glutes are faulty, our entire kinetic chain gets disrupted leading to Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, runner’s knee, and iliotibial-band syndrome.

Do I have your attention now? Good! Here are three exercises that will have those hips and glutes burning as you develop some strong and stable support for your run:

1. Clams: This exercise can be done with or without a resistance band (like a TheraBand) positioned above your knees. The trick is to keep your hips stacked on top of one another and really engage the medial glute as you lift one knee off the other, instead of rotating the hip to lift the leg. Try a set of 1 by 20 on each side!

2. Glute Bridge: This exercise can be done with both feet on the ground or you can choose to straighten your legs and rest your ankles on a box or exercise ball for an added challenge. Be sure to squeeze those glutes at the top of the movement and engage your core to protect your back. Try a set of 15 by 5-second holds!

3. Side Shuffle: Using a resistance band positioned above the knees, sink into an athletic stance with a straight back and open chest. As you start stepping to one side, focus on keeping your knees tracking over your fourth toe on both legs! It can be helpful to do this exercise in front of a full-length mirror while you get the hang of it. Try 30 steps to each side.

If you’re looking to strengthen those hips and glutes, try incorporating this routine into your daily training. It only takes about 5 minutes and has some massive benefits for your body and you run.

Amanda Leibovitz is a USA Triathlon Level I and Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level III Coach, and Certified Mental Performance Consultant. She is a Senior Coach with Team MPI who works with a wide cross-section of athletes including age-group athletes, amateur and elite paratriathletes, cyclists and marathon swimmers on both physical and mental preparation. Amanda is an IRONMAN finisher and IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship qualifier. She can be reached at amanda@teamMPI.com.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.