When looking at strength conditioning for runners, there are 4 key strength aspects which should be trained:
- Pelvic Stabilisation
- Plyometric Power
In this article, we’re going to explore pelvic stabilisation.
What do we mean when we speak of pelvic stabilisation?
Let’s explore what happens in the pelvis while we run. Pelvic movement happens in three ways, namely pelvic tilt, pelvic dip and pelvic rotation. The movements can be described as follows:
This is the forward and backward movement of your pelvis and is most effectively seen from the side of the runner. You should have a slight forward tilt to maintain good running posture. Excessive tilt can result in discomfort in the hamstrings, glutes and lower abdominal muscles coupled with weak quadriceps, psoas and lower back muscles.
This is the up and down movement of your hip and can be seen from the front (or back) of the runner. If the medial glute and adductor muscles are not strong enough to stabilise the hip through the running stride, there may be excessive hip dip on one or both sides. This is a weakness that is often associated with ITB syndrome and Patellofemoral pain syndrome (Runner’s knee) in runners.
This is the left and right movement of your pelvis and is best seen from a birds-eye point of view of the runner. This movement is required to enable hip extension. If a runner lacks the strength to perform true hip extension, they won’t be able to increase stride length enough to realise their true potential pace while remaining efficient. If such a runner tries to increase pace without sufficient hip flexion and extension, the body will “cheat” by achieving flexion by overloading the rectus femoris and will further achieve extension through arching of the lumbar spine. This could lead to the runner experiencing quadricep tightness and lower back pain.
Why do you need pelvic stability as a runner?
Excessive hip movement during running represents a major injury risk factor for runners. Numerous research findings verify the link between hip muscle strength and pelvic stability and the onset of running injuries. Lower back, hip, knee and ankle problems can be affected by inefficient pelvic and/or hip stabilisation. Additionally, it is very difficult to reach your pace potential without the ability to perform true hip flexion and extension. The body will find a way to make the movement happen using another muscle or joint in a way that was not intended, and that is why it is crucial to ensure sufficient pelvic stability exists to support your body during running.
Don’t worry about thinking of each of these things individually while running. The good news is that, if the muscles required to stabilise the pelvis and hips are strong enough, all of this happens correctly and automatically while you run.
The following diagram shows the muscles that help runners with pelvic and hip stabilisation:
- Iliopsoas (Psoas Major and Iliacus)
- Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL)
- Adductors (Adductor Brevis, Adductor Longus, Adductor Magnus and Gracilis)
- Gluteus Maximus
- Gluteus Medius
- Quadratus Lumborum
The following three exercises target the required muscles to stabilise your pelvic area and your hips and are suitable for all levels of runner:
Single Leg Drop
Muscles used: Iliacus and Psoas Major (Iliopsoas), Quadratus Lumborum, Transverse Abdominis
Lie flat on your back on a mat with both your legs raised towards the sky. Flex your feet.
Slowly lower one leg down to the mat until it is about 2 cm above the mat. The remaining leg should stay in position, raised towards the sky with the foot flexed. Hold the position for at least 2 seconds.
Return the leg slowly to the starting position. This is one repetition of the exercise.
Muscles used: Quadratus Lumborum, Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Adductors, Iliopsoas.
Standing sideways at the edge of a step, keep your legs straight. One leg should be on the step and one leg over the edge of the step.
Slowly lower the leg that is over the edge off the side of the step without bending your knee on the leg that remains on the step. Your hips will drop on the side of the leg that is being lowered. Hold the position for at least 2 seconds.
Return to the starting position. This is one repetition of the exercise.
Hip Flex, Abduct and Extend
Muscles used: Quadratus Lumborum, Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Adductors, Iliopsoas, Piriformis, Pectineus, Tensor Fascia Latae.
Start standing up straight with your feet shoulder width apart. Keep your legs straight during the exercise.
Lift one leg and flex it forward as far as you can without bending the leg or dipping the hips. Hold the position for 2 seconds, then return the leg to the starting position.
Now move the leg to the side, keeping the leg straight and without dipping the hips, as far as you can. Hold the position for 2 seconds, then return the leg to the starting position.
Move the leg backward, keeping the leg straight and without dipping the hips, as far as you can. Hold the position for 2 seconds, then return the leg to the starting position. This is one repetition of the exercise.
Elsabe is a strength coach at Fit.STRONG Coaching. She is a fully qualified, REPSSA registered Personal Trainer who believes that age is irrelevant and fitness is for everyone. She specialises in sports specific training and conditioning, weight loss, rehabilitative exercise and functional fitness. Read more about Elsabe here