Sunday, April 14, 2019

It May All Be In The Hips

*Very nice hip extension, Prefontaine leading Viren
Last week article was all about reducing your injury risk to stay healthy so you can keep training consistently.  Training consistently allows you to improve. For those of you who participate in races, this week's article will discuss how to improve your athletic performance with another simple exercise.

The biggest muscle we have in the human body is the big and very strong gluteus maximus muscle (there are also two smaller gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles). The gluetus maximus muscle extend our hips. This is evident when we're climbing stairs, running up slopes and especially if you're having to sprint for the finish line.

My patients who run tell me they often go to the gym to do strengthening exercises as well to get stronger. Often they are told by their personal trainers to make their quadriceps stronger. Nothing against making the quads stronger, but if you're hoping to improve your sprint performance by doing lots of squats then you should consider another exercise.

Researchers studied whether training the gluteus maximus or the quadriceps stronger was more effective for performance found that the hip thrust exercise (for gluteus maximus) more specific and better gains transferred to running/ sprinting (Gonzalez-Garcia et al, 2019).
Hip thrust (also called bridging)
What exactly is a hip thrust? The easiest way to do it is lying on a firm surface with your knees bent and lift your buttocks (also known as bridging). You can add resistance by doing it with a elastic band around your waist to make it more difficult. In the hospitals, this exercise is often given to patients who are recuperating from surgery.
Single leg version on unstable surface
To progress, you can bridge on an unstable surface like a gym ball with both legs followed by single leg (picture above).

If you're in the gym, while facing upwards, you can rest your arms and neck on a bench and bridge with your knees bent. I've also seen gym rats resting a loaded barbell on the hips to make it more difficult.

All the above described exercises are all suitable and good if you want to make your hip extensors (gluteus maximus) stronger. However, they are all done lying down, i.e. in a non weight bearing position. In running, you are definitely upright and not lying down.
Starting position
Hence, my preferred way to make the gluteus maximus stronger is in a standing position with an elastic band. Lean forward slightly with your back straight and straighten your right leg against the resistance of the elastic band. Repeat with good form until fatigue and do the same with your left leg.
Extending the R hip
I find that this way of strengthening the gluteus maximus is more specific and mimics the running posture. Strength gains are more easily transferred.


Gonzalez-Garcia J, Morencos E et al (2019). Effects Of 7-Week Hip Thrust Versus Back Squt Resistance Training On Performance In Adolescent Female Soccer Players. Sports. 7(4): 80. DOI: 10.3390/sports7040080.
*Taken from page 46 and 47 with my iPhone X from one of my favorite books "The Olympians" by Sebastian Coe with Nicholas Mason.

You see Steve Prefontaine leading Lasse Viren in the 1972 Munich Olympics with brilliant form! Excellent hip extension, Viren with his R hip, Prefontaine with his L hip. Both were wearing Adidas at this Olympics.

Prefontaine would later be the poster boy for Nike while Viren would do the same for Asics.

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