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Improving Hip Function for Running and Performance

Do you experience back pain while running? Do you have a history of hamstring strains or tightness? Perhaps you are limited in hip extension.

The hips play a crucial row in many daily activities including walking, bending, and squatting but it is also a very important component of the running stride. Hip extension occurs when the thigh moves behind the pelvis during a walking or running stride. This movement is responsible for the forward propulsion of the trunk.

There are two important factors contributing to hip extension, the flexibility of the front of the hip (hip flexors) and strength of the back of the hip (mainly glutes and hamstrings). One of the main reasons many of us lack this essential movement is the amount we sit daily. A sedentary lifestyle leads to tightness and weakness of the hip structures as the hips are held in flexion while in these positions.

A limitation in hip extension can lead to compensations such as an increase of anterior pelvic tilt and lumbar lordosis during running which can lead to injury. Also, if the glute muscles are not the main driver of hip extension the hamstrings may step in to compensate. This can lead to hamstring injuries or tightness, back pain, and reduced performance.

The prone hip extension test is a quick and easy way to test your ability to extend the hip.

Prone Hip Extension Test

· What does it test for? Ability to activate the glute muscles (butt muscles!) to extend the hip

· Why is it important? Extending the hip backwards is vital to propel the body forward in running. If there is a decreased range at the hip or decreased strength in the glutes the body is forced to use other strategies for propulsion that may lead to injury


o Increased lumbar or back movement.

o Increased hamstring activation.

o Absent glute contraction.


o Increase the flexibility of the quadriceps and hip muscles

o Strengthen glutes by performing glute bridges or bird dog exercises.

How to improve hip extension?

When completing this exercise, you may feel tightness in the front of the hip or notice you are twisting the pelvis as compensation. If this is the case, addressing hip flexor flexibility may be the best place to start.

Another common finding is tension in the hamstrings. If this is the case the gluteal muscles are most likely not engaging. To fix this direct training for the glute muscles would help.

Check out the video below to help improve the flexibility and function of the hip.


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