Why It Matters
As you run, you're effectively alternating between single leg stances—left leg, right leg, left leg, right leg—mile after mile, day after day, week after week, year after year.
Without strong hip abductors, the hip on your non-planted side of the body drops and increases the forces on the IT band and knee of the stance leg. If you put in enough miles while running like this, overuse injuries will eventually result.
More: How a Strong Core Can Boost Your Triathlon Performance
This is why core strength for runners has little to do with "six-pack" abs and everything to do with strong hips.
Here's a simple test to check the strength of your hip abductors. Find a full length mirror. Stand on your right leg. Lift your left leg off the ground. Asses what happens to your left hip by answering these questions:
- Does the left hip drop?
- Do you lean your upper body to the right side to compensate, which can raise your left hip in the process?
- Does your right knee dive inward?
If you experience any of these results, this is a sign that your right hip abductors are weak or not properly firing.
Exercise to Fix Hip Abductor Weakness
Lying hip abductions—also referred to as "Jane Fondas" or side leg raises—can be completed at home in a few minutes.
Begin by lying on your right side. Stack the left foot on top of the right foot. Dorsiflex and slightly pigeon toe the left foot (this is the position to keep your foot in for the leg raises). Now squeeze the left hip muscle (gluteus medius) to raise the left leg as high as you can. Lower the leg back down in a controlled manner. Repeat.
Perform 1-3 sets of 8-12 reps per leg. Or, perform 1-3 sets of 20- to 40-second intervals (doing as many reps as possible during those intervals). Remember to perform the raises in a controlled manner, taking the leg through your full range of motion.
Adam Hodges, PhD, is a USA Triathlon and USA Cycling certified coach, as well as an American College of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer. For a complete library of functional strength videos for runners and multisport athletes, visit his website at www.alpfitness.com.
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Adam Hodges, PhD, is a USA Triathlon and USA Cycling certified coach, as well as an American College of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer. For a complete library of functional strength videos for runners and multisport athletes, visit his website at www.alpfitness.com