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By Susie Fagerholm

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Wed Jun 10, 2020

Most runners at some point will get a running related injury and it is important to be able to decrease your risk of future injuries.  There are many variables that contribute to running injuries with muscle imbalance being one of them.  To maintain proper strength and stability in order to reduce risk of injury it is recommended to focus on the core, lower leg, and foot.  This article will explain the top 5 running exercises to stay injury free.

Hip Abduction

The standing hip abduction exercise applies to running gait by balancing on one leg and recruiting the Gluteus Medius and Minimus muscles (side of hip muscles). In order to decrease strain at the knee and hip while running it is necessary to recruit the Gluteus Medius and Minimus muscles.  The standing leg is the side that will be working the hardest which is similar to when you are running. To perform this exercise, stand on one leg with the stance leg slightly bent and with even hips. Tighten at the lower abdominals and glutes. Bring the free leg out to the side with the foot extended, (hold this position for 3-5 seconds). To make this exercise more difficult, add a resistance band to the ankles.  

Recommended repetitions are 15 with 3 sets. 

hip abduction running exercise
Hip Abduction

Hip Extension

The best way to functionally activate and strengthen your gluts is to practice the hip extension exercise. This exercise correlates with the toe off position in running when the foot and leg are behind you. This phase of running gait is important for forward propulsion and optimizing use of your calf’s, hamstrings, and gluts. To perform this exercise, stand on one leg with the knee slightly bent. Tighten at the lower abdominals and gluts. Bring the free leg back behind with a straight knee and flexed foot. Maintain a slight forward lean with your torso. Hold the leg behind you for 3-5 seconds. To make this exercise more difficult, add a resistance band to the ankles. Later you can work on lifting the back leg off the ground with maintaining level hips. 

Recommended repetitions are 15 with 3 sets.  

hip extension running exercise
Hip Extension

Single-Leg Squat

A proper single leg squat is crucial to staying injury free for a runner.  During the running gait cycle you are on one leg 40% of the time and need to be able to stabilize with your hip to properly support the rest of your lower leg.  The Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, and Gluteus Minimus are the main muscles that coordinate this movement.  To perform this exercise, tighten at the lower abdominals and gluts. Place majority of your weight back at the heel.  Reach back with the hips and do not allow the knee to move forwards.  Maintain even hips and the align the knee with the foot.  

Recommended repetitions are 10-15 with 3 sets. 

Single Leg Squat
Single-Leg Squat (front view)

Pendulum

The pendulum exercise helps facilitate the use of the core and hips when on one leg; correlating to when you are loading yourself onto one leg when running. The main muscles groups that are used with this exercise are Hamstrings, Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius & Gluteus Minimus (back of thigh and hip muscles).  To perform this exercises balance on one leg with the hips square. Tighten at the lower abdominals and gluts. Place even weight at the forefoot and heel. Lean forwards with hands on the hips. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds. 

Recommended repetitions are 10 with 3 sets.

Pendulum running exercise
Pendulum

Doming

A key component to running is to have a strong, stable, and coordinated foot to place your weight onto as you are loading the ground. Practicing the Doming Exercise will help build the small muscles of your foot along with increasing your foot coordination, and stability. The target muscle groups are the intrinsic muscles of the foot and ankle. To perform this exercise, stand on one foot and press all the toes into the floor (do not curl the toes; keep them flat). Lift up at the middle of your arch (creating an arch); feel like someone is pulling a string up from the top of your foot. Hold this position for 10 seconds. If this is difficult to perform try with both feet placed on the floor.

Recommended repetitions are 10 with 1-2 sets.  

Foot doming for runners
Doming

Perform these top 5 running exercises 3-5 times a week per tolerance.  It is recommended to perform these exercises before a run to help facilitate proper form and muscle engagement while running.  Please consult a health professional before performing these exercises.  

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