Monday, April 20, 2015

"Abs" of Steel

When you talk to most personal trainers, read any running magazine read scientific articles talking about running injuries they tell you to focus on "the core".  We could write several posts about "the core" and what it truly is defined as and how it is best trained but often most people just think about the "abs" when they are told to strengthen.

We do believe "core" strength is vitally important but we also think that having "abs" of steal when it comes to your hips is also immensely important when it comes to running well and running injury free.  These "abs" are your abduction muscles that are located on the outside your hips.  They include muscles like the glute max, med, minims as well as the piriformis and the other small external rotators.

These muscles are incredibly important for maintaining pelvic position when you run and help keep your hips level. In a research report found that 18.9% of total running energy is devoted to control in the front plane movements.  This can happen because both abduction and adduction occur within that frontal plane.  If we have weak or underachieve hip abductors we cannot control motion in this plane and it can lead to a narrower foot strike and eventually problems down the line with repeated running.

Many research studies have also showed that there is weakening in these muscles in runners who experience injuries compared to those runners who did not.  We recommend just a few simple exercises (see below) to help keep your pelvis in position and get all the external musculature of your hips strong and ready for the repetitive motion of running.  They are easy to work into your other work out routines or to work in as your pre-run warm up.

If you have any questions please let us know and we'd be happy to help.

Check out the exercises below:

Exercises to Start With:
Monster Walks
-This one will get everything working including your glutes and all the underlying external rotators.  These are a go to in order to stay strong and get your hips to help you stay injury free.
-Take forward steps with the band around your knees but focus on moving your feet in an outward rotation as you move forward to activate all these muscles.  Do this while maintaining a mini-squat.
-3 sets of 8-10 steps each leg.

 Hip Abduction
-This is a great localized muscle activator for primarily the glute med/minimus and the TFL.  This should be a staple of every program as well as being a good warm up exercise prior to running.
-Attach the band to something that doesn't move and focus on firing your outer hip as you move your foot away from the starting point.
-Start at 3 sets of 10-12 and work up to 3 sets of burn out

Glute Bridges
-Most everyone, including runners, don't utilize their glutes as much as they need to and they are setting themselves up for injury and robbing themselves of performance.
-Train this exercise by starting with an initial contraction of your glutes before you bridge and then complete the movement.  Your goal at the top is to feel 70% of the work in your glutes and 30% in your hamstrings.  To make them harder switch to single leg.
-3 sets of 10-15

Reverse Clam Shells
-This one works on the smallest intrinsic muscles of the hip and is another good baseline exercise to utilize.
-Place a band around your feet/ankles and lay on your side.  Keeping the hips stacked and the knees together work on separating your feet in a smooth controlled fashion.
-3 sets of burn out.

Hip Muscle Weakness and Overuse Injuries in Recreational Runners
Paul Niemuth

Clin J Sport Med Volume 15, No 1, January 2005

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