“It’s all in the hips. It’s all in the hips.” – Chubbs, Happy Gilmore
Chubbs knows what he’s talking about. In my time working in athletic training, I’ve worked with a wide range of athletes – from pros to weekend warriors. No matter what skill level I’m working with, one consistent problem I find is weak hip muscles. Weak hip muscles put excess strain on several other structures on your body, which can lead to injury or impaired performance. Two of the hip muscles that are consistently under-utilized are the gluteus medius and gluteus maximus. Today, we’ll go over the gluteus medius and hold off on its bigger brother, the gluteus maximus, for the next post.
The gluteus medius sits on the outside of your hips, slightly towards the rear. Its main responsibilities are to keep your hips level, move your leg away from your body or collapsing inwards, as well as helping to control leg rotation. Those motions are vital to keeping your legs stable and injury-free:
Luckily, increasing strength in your gluteus medius is fairly easy. Here are three simple exercises to get you started:
Hip hikes – Standing sideways at the edge of a step, keep your legs straight. Slowly lower one leg off the side of the step without bending your knee. Your hips will dip on one side if you’re doing it correctly. Return to the starting position. Repeat this 30 times then switch to the other leg. If you’re doing it correctly, you should feel the muscles on the side of your hips contracting and getting fatigued.
Clams – Lay on your side with your legs bent, almost like you’re in a fetal position. Keeping your ankles together, rotate your knee towards the ceiling. Return to the starting position and repeat 30 times.
Hip Abductions – Lay on your side with your body completely straight. Slowly extend your top leg backwards a few inches. Keeping your leg straight, raise it towards the ceiling, making sure that your toes stay pointed forward. Return to the starting position and repeat 30 times.
Over time, your gluteus medius should get stronger and improve its ability to help stabilize your legs, hips, and core. This will translate into improved performance in sports and a decreased chance of a wide range of injuries.
This information is vital for runners. I had trouble with my IT band over the summer before the marathon (first one) and after working on the hips and strengthening the side muscles, things went back to normal. Now, getting ready to train for the next race, I’m always working on the hips at the gym.
Great article and looking forward to reading Part II. One thing to note, it has been my experience that many people do hip exercises incorrectly. It is one of the joints (and related muscles) that frequently ‘ask for help’ when the load is too high or if the individual has not been properly informed of technique. The body will recruite muscles and movement from other joints to perform the requested movement from the brain with disregard to technique (trust me, I have witnessed people doing exercises incorrectly for year). Hence, consult a physical therapist or fitness professional to help educate you on the proper way to perform exercises.
Great advice with illustrations.
This emphasizes the key to staying fit & running strong.