The 3 Best Hip Exercises For Runners (+ How To Do Them Effectively)

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If you’re only going to do three exercises for your hips, make it these 3 hip exercises for runners.

You may not be fully aware of it, but your hips are phenomenally important for your running ability. Strong and flexible hips contribute greatly to the prevention of injuries whilst you run.

Consider this: the hip flexors, adductors, abductors, and glutes are all centered around one of the largest joints to move when you run.

So it makes sense that if the hips are weak, over-exertion will lead to longer term issues and injuries.

So let’s look at how you can do hip strengthening exercises for runners and improve your hip strength and flexion to improve longevity and injury reduction.

best hip exercises for runners

Why Target The Hip Muscles?

Let’s consider why you target any muscle:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Endurance
  • Athletic performance

All of these essentially are about improving your performance and minimising injury risk.

hip exercises for runners

But why specifically are you targeting the hip muscles? Well a major part of being able to run faster, that people may not be fully aware of, is the motion of hip extension.

To define hip extension: It is the act of forcing/driving your leg backward after it has made contact with the ground. 

Hip extension is performed using the hip muscles, glutes, and hamstrings and is a huge factor in the strength and drive required to increase running speeds and times. Stronger hip and core muscles equal a more powerful hip extension.

Studies have also shown that weak hip muscles are also linked to higher numbers of injuries in regular runners who had imbalanced muscle strength. 

How To Target The Hip Muscles

hip strengthening exercises for runners

The hip muscles, like all muscle groups, shouldn’t be the sole focus of all of your workouts. Your hips work in conjunction with your quads, glutes, and core muscles to provide maximum stability and power.

Because of this, your hips should be worked out equally through hip strengthening exercises for runners alongside all of your other muscle groups for maximum impact.

So in order to provide maximum effectiveness in your workouts, we will look at a few exercises that work your hips through different plans of motion. All of the exercises we will look at can be performed both with or without weights or resistance.

As you continue to improve and carry out the exercises you can start to incorporate resistance bands or ankle weights to really grow and improve your strength.

The 3 Best Hip Exercises For Runners

The 3 Best Hip Exercises For Runners (+ How To Do Them Effectively) 1

The following exercises can be made more difficult with the inclusion of the use of a band or ankle weights to increase resistance.

It is recommended however that you start off without resistance until you are comfortable and confident with the movement. If in doubt, speak to a professional trainer.

The 3 hip strengthening exercises for runners we have chosen will help increase your hip muscle strength across multiple planes of motion ensuring that you have an overall even muscle strength development. As mentioned before, muscle imbalance was noted as a key factor in a control group’s level of injuries.

By working muscles, in multiple directions, with multiple different exercises, we can ensure the most balance possible.

Exercise #1: The Side Leg Lift

hip strengthening exercises for runners side leg raise

This exercise will have 2 variations, a standing and a lying down version. Both with their own unique advantages and disadvantages.

To perform the lying version:

  1. First, lie down on a flat surface either your left or right side. Using a mat of some sort for comfort is recommended. Whichever leg is not on the ground will be the one you lift.
  2. From this lying position, keep the chosen leg straight and lift it away from the floor as high as you can go. The leg should move like the hand of a clock, with your hips being the point of rotation in the center. Hold the leg at the top for 1-2 seconds.
  • Lower the leg back down but keep it 1-2 inches off the floor/the other leg.
  • Repeat this motion up to 15 repetitions for 3 sets.
hip exercises for runners side leg raise standing

To perform the standing version:

  • Stand in an open space with room to lift your leg fully to the side if possible.
  • Keeping one foot flat on the floor and using your hands to balance on another object if necessary, lift one leg out to the side, keeping it straight the entire time. Again the leg should move like a clock hand, coming from the hips.
  • Hold the leg at the highest point you can comfortably reach for 1-2 seconds, then lower it back down again.
  • Without touching the floor with the lifted leg repeat the upwards motion for up to 15 repetitions for 3 sets.

Exercise #2: The Glute Bridge

hip strengthening exercises glute bridge

An utter classic glute and hip exercise!

The glute bridge will help work your glutes as well as the stabilizing muscles around your hips.

This can be performed with both feet flat or with one leg raised.

You can also add in a resistance band above the knees, and consciously hold tension on the resistance band.

For even more added difficulty, you can keep both of your feet on a Bosu or exercise ball.

glute bridge hip exercises for runners

To perform the glute bridge:

  • Lay flat on the floor on your back and bring your feet in towards you and place them flat on the floor around 8-12 inches away from your bottom. Keep your hands out to the side slightly to stabilize yourself.
  • At this point, you can choose to perform the movement using both feet or by raising one up so that the foot is held higher than the other knee, with the leg at a 90-degree angle. 
  • Driving through the heel of the foot (or feet) on the floor, push your hips off the floor until your quads and body are in a straight line, with your only shoulder blades as the other point of contact with the ground.
  • Hold the raised position for 1-2 seconds before lowering yourself back down again.
  • Repeat the motion for up to 15 repetitions for 3 sets. If using one leg at a time, make sure to do the same number of repetitions on both legs.

Exercise #3: Donkey Kicks

Donkey kicks will help you focus on your glutes and hamstrings as well as your hips so that you can build the entire muscle chain evenly.

donkey kick starting position hip exercises for runners
Donkey Kick, starting position
donkey kick starting position hip exercises for runners
Donkey Kick, full extension

How to perform the donkey kick:

  • Pick an evenly flat space on the floor and drop down onto all-fours (knees and hands) keeping your back straight.
  • Pick your right or left leg, to begin with, and keep it bent at 90 degrees for the duration of the movement. Lif, it slightly off the ground without moving the rest of your body.
  • Kick your chosen leg back and up towards the sky. Keep the leg at a 90-degree angle throughout the movement. Some variations may have you kick the leg back and straighten it as well. The choice is yours.
  • Lower the leg back to its starting point keeping it slightly above the ground.
  • Repeat this movement for 15 repetitions on each leg. Do this for 3 sets.

A simple variation on the Donkey kick can be performed to more directly target the hips and lessen the use of the glutes and hamstrings. 

To perform the variation simply set up as before on your hands and knees and raise one leg slightly. However, this time, instead of raising your leg out behind you, raise your leg to the side instead.

Imagine a dog raising its leg out when nature calls and you’re pretty much on the right path.

Next Steps In Your Running and Mobility Journey

hip exercises for runners

Not working out your hip muscles is going to put you at a serious disadvantage and risk for injuries and issues down the line.

Looking for more hip stretches? Here are the 8 Best Hip Flexor Stretches For Runners

Of course, you should work all of your muscles in your core, hips, and quads so the exercises discussed here should be done in conjunction with other regular exercises such as those in our bodyweight exercise for runners article.

If you plan on running for a long time into your future, you should be making time to work hip exercises into your workouts. They are simple and easy to do and will keep you in the running game for longer.

Related article: The 6 Best Bodyweight Workouts For Runners 

Related article: The 6 Best Core Exercises for Runners

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Marathon and Beyond magazine ran from 1996 to 2015 and brought in-depth long-form articles to distance runners everywhere. Marathon Handbook is now the proud custodian of the Marathon and Beyond archive.

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