As we continue to chat about hip stability and strength, we have to take a minute to reflect on how much we reply on our hips for speed and power.
One very common misconception is about exactly where the “power” in your stride comes from. Most people picture power being generated in the running stride when the foot pushes off the ground. It’s true that we get power from our legs, but in the mental image that most people carry with them, that major “push” comes from the quads, much like a leg press.
we can’t deny that we need strong legs but this this mental image of running power leaves out a major contributor: the hips. If you looked at your watch and saw 3:51:40 with one mile to go in a marathon, you’d start driving your legs and pushing off harder each stride to try to make sure you finish under the four-hour mark.
Generating power at the quads is fine, but focusing on that to the exclusion of hip power proves to be a big problem.
When you drive hard with your quads on the leg that is pushing off, you’re inevitably going to be “reaching” forward with your other leg, which is still swinging through the air. When that leg hits the ground, your knee will be excessively extended and your foot will be landing further in front of your body. This is over-striding, and you can’t start pushing off again until that foot is behind your center of gravity (around your belly button), so that time spent waiting is essentially wasted.
If you try to shorten your stride, you won’t be generating as much power! Fortunately, there is a way to generate long, powerful strides without reaching forward with your lower leg and overstriding, and that is by focusing on hip drive.
A strong drive backwards using the hip muscles to extend the leg and “drive” into the ground will provide a good increase in stride length without it turning into over-striding. Take a look at the glute muscles in a sprinter, they have some serious muscles in their rear for propelling them forward at ten meters per second or faster.
Your ability to move fast hinges upon your capacity to direct force into the ground, and neglecting the component of that force that comes from the hip extensor muscles is short-changing your stride.
Improving your hip strength and drive should give you noticeably more “pop” in your stride when you are running fast. In addition to our hip strength exercises, incorporating some bounding and skipping a few times a week will go a long ways towards improving your ability to generate power from the hips!
Day 14 exercises: Hips – Modern Mom video – watch video below
- Side Leg Pulse
- Side Bicycle
- Leg Stir
- Big Circle
- Hot Potato
- Back Butt Press
- Forearm Plank – :60
- Pigeon Pose
Bonus: Drills and Strides– After your hip strength work and before you set off for you run, start with bounding and lateral skipping drills then do 6 x 100M strides. Then set off for your run.
Why: Bounding increases foot, calf and hamstring muscle power and develops single-leg stance stability necessary to maintain fluid running form while fatigued.
How: On a flat or very slightly downhill slope, alternate thrusting into the air off one leg in an exaggerated skipping motion. The focus should be on a powerful leap into the air and a quick (but not super fast) cadence. Your arm motion should be synced to the opposite leg’s action, holding steady for the brief moment while you’re off the ground. Do three to four reps of 10 leaps on each leg.
Why: This drill develops lateral strength and agility necessary to stabilize the body and maintain single-leg balance during forward running motion. Specifically, this drill works the glutes, hip flexors, tensors, abductors and psoas muscles in ways that are otherwise neglected in forward running.
How: With an upright torso and level head, move laterally in one direction by alternately bounding with your legs spread and your legs together. You’ll probably need to swing your arms overhead in an opposite pattern to maintain balance. Do two to four 50-meter reps to the left and right, facing the same direction for each lateral movement.
Speed Work: 3-4 x mile
Speed Work is essential to getting faster, but it also helps us improve our breathing and our ability to run longer distances. This weeks speed work is all about mile repeats. Don’t try to run your fastest during the first mile. Choose a pace and stick with it, then try to increase your speed just a tad as you move through your repeats. Done correctly, your last mile should be your fastest.
For our longer distance runners, don’t skimp on mile 4. You know who you are…and so do I! 😉
- 1 Mile warm up
- 3 – 4 x Mile – increasing or maintaining speed throughout each repeat
- 1 Mile cool down
- Total of 5-6 miles with warm up and cool down being slowest!
When you’re done for the day and before you move on to other things, take time to stretch! Run through our 7 Key Stretches for Runners then throw in the hip specific stretches below to ease and pain and open up your hip flexors.
Happy running Crew! 🙂