Hip Dropping -We Are RUNNERS - Not Models
That Hip Drop Though...
The hip drop is not a swagger you want to rock (no pun intended) - trust me! Hip Drop is a laymens term for Trendelenburg Gait (say that one 5 times!) But really, how do you even pronounce that? I think I'll stick to "hip drop." I'm going to try and explain all of this as simplistically as I can because when I first started researching how to fix mine, all of the information went WAY over my head.
WHY DOES THE DROP OCCUR?
Many runners experience a hip drop as a result of a weakness of the abductor muscles of the lower limb, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus (a.k.a. DA BOOTY!). The abductors include the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fascia lata (TFL). They not only move the leg away from the bodies midline but they also help to rotate the leg at the hip joint. The hip abductors are necessary for stabilization during walking, and one-legged movement. So, because running is basically like hopping back and forth from the right leg to the left leg in a forward motion, it is kind of like a one-legged movement, right?! Right! When those abductor muscles are weak and your entire body weight is shifting from the left to the right, the hip is going to drop as a result of poor stabilization.
Typically, the hip drop comes out when runners get fatigued. For example, during those long runs or near the end of races when your whole body is tired, the hips start to drop to the left and to the right instead of keeping your body and hips in an upright stance. If you aren't sure if you have a hip drop issue, you can quickly and easily figure it out by looking at race photos, having someone video you from behind while running (this is what I make my fiance do), or having someone use the burst feature on the Iphone to capture your running gait as you run past.
What To Look For:
In Figure A, you can see the left and right hips are in a horizontal line. THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE! In Figure B, you can see how that right hip is popped out to the side - almost like a Victoria Secret model strutting down the runway. Now, while these girls are extraordinarily sexy, they are models and we are runners. As runners, that hip popping (dropping) to the left and to the right has the potential to cause injuries such as IT band syndrome. Not only can it cause an injury, but it also causes A TON of wasted energy that your body is using swaying side to side, instead of propelling yourself forward.
Sometimes the hip drop develops from fatigue, but I know that mine developed from what I like to call "Dead Butt Syndrome." You know that common statement we get from all our non running friends, "you have no butt!" Well, let me tell you... I got tired of hearing that I had no buns, so I went out and I made myself my very own set of steel buns! And guess what, YOU CAN TOO! Bring that butt to life!
But, on a serious note.. strengthening your butt and your hips is the most effective long-term solution for kissing that hip drop good-bye! The best way to do this is to start by implementing body weight exercises and add weight as you get stronger.
Combat The Drop
I will tell you what worked for me. I started with body weight exercises with a focus on activating the aforementioned muscle groups. I stuck with this for a good two months before adding in any kind of resistance such as bands or weight. I had no idea how to activate my glutes, so I needed to learn what that felt like first. After really feeling confident in my ability to properly activate the glute and hip stabilizing muscles, I slowly started to add in bands and weight. DO NOT do this by stepping onto a machine at the gym!! The whole point of doing these exercises is to use whole body strength and to be conscious of activating all of the muscles involved (including your core). Some of the machines have a tendency to do a lot of the work for you and that is counterproductive to what we are busy combating!
The little things
Always focus on standing tall with your hips forward. Naturally, when you push your hips forward, your glutes are cued to fire and activate. This is something that I have to continuously remind myself when standing, running and walking. Our bodies have to be trained to do things the correct way. As with learning anything else new, the best way to train your body is with frequency and repetition.
Running is a functional movement so the exercises we do to train for running must also be functional!!
- Stand in front of a mirror. Arms should be by your side with palms facing the mirror. Lift your right knee to hip height and make sure it has a 90 degree angle. Look at your hips in the mirror, are they horizontal? If not, activate that standing leg and glute to push your hips forward. You should feel this in your standing leg and glute. Balance here for 30 seconds and then switch legs. Work your way up to doing 1 minute holds on each leg. Do 5 for each leg.
- Glute Bridge Holds - 3 x 1 minute holds
- Marching Bridges - 3 x 1 minute. Focus on keeping your hips and glutes as stable and activated as possible.
- Standing or Lying Hip Abduction - This is essentially a leg lift with the non-weight bearing leg. A standing hip abduction motion is functional as it engages the core muscles to stabilize your body during the movement. Start off by doing a set of 10 leg lifts on each side. You should feel this in your glute medius. It is very easy to recruit your obliques for this exercise. If you're feeling it in your obliques you're doing it wrong. The booty burn should be on fire in the glute medius region.
- Hip Hikes - standing on a box or even on the stairs with one foot on the stair and the other floating. Using the supporting, standing leg, slowly lower the floating down a few inches and activate that glute of the standing leg to bring the hips back to being level. Do 10 on each side and add more as you gain strength.
This is with a band. I add a tight band to help cue my glutes to activate. You want your hips up and your torso in a straigh line, as shown.
I wish I knew how to do a moving picture here, but I am not that tech savvy yet. You simply march with your feet and maintain stable hips and glutes.
This picture is obviously NOT me. I did not have any pictures doing the hip hike, so this one will do. Thanks google. You can do this on the edge of the stairs (what I do) or on a box.
- Single Leg Squat - this one is an exercise that I find VERY difficult as I have very minimal hip mobility, which is common with runners. I still cannot do a single leg squat without the assistance of holding onto a TRX strap. This is still effective! You have to start where you are at and build strength slowly. For this exercise:
- Stand on a single leg on a box of slightly elevated platform (sometimes I just use a plated weight to stand on)
- Start the squat motion by sticking your butt out - straight back - causing the hip to hinge and the knee should bend
- Continue bending knee as far as you can. You want to maintain good form for this exercise otherwise is could be counterproductive. Only go down as low as you can WHILE KEEPING GOOD FORM!
- As I mentioned, I use the support of a TRX strap in front of me to help maintain good form.
I do these exercises pretty consistently because I do not want to look like a hula dancer whilst running a race or any workout. I also do not want to chance getting an injury by avoiding these simple, quick exercises.
I hope this has helped for those asking!! If there is anything I didn't cover, feel free to reach out. Or, if you have additional questions, I will do my best to answer them!