Let’s be honest, most of runners are tight! That is why having adequate range of motion at the ankle and hip is vital to running performance and injury reduction. When we lack full range of motion at a joint, not only does performance suffer, but we call upon surrounding joints to make up for these limitations. Oftentimes, this is a great cause of injury. For example, the lack of hip mobility has been shown to place additional stress and be a possible cause of lower back pain.
Why does having proper hip range of motion matter for runners? Step length! Just to clarify because step and stride length are often used incorrectly. Step length is the distance a single leg moves from toe off to heel strike. Take the distance for both legs to complete one cycle and you have stride length. With adequate range of motion at the hips we can in turn step longer with each leg, this will increase the distance traveled with each step. Remember, the longer we are in contact with the ground, the greater chance we have to accelerate the body. The key is to never “reach” to gain distance because doing so causes the heel strike to happen with an extended knee, which in fact decelerates the body.
Conversely, let’s look at step frequency. Another way to increase performance and shave seconds off your time is to accelerate your legs faster. This is great and essential for a big push towards the end of the race, but doing so the entire time is draining and less efficient. Therefore hip mobility is essential in terms of race performance, injury reduction, and overall efficiency. Here are 6 drills that could be a great warm-up to improve hip mobility and improve running performance. All of these drills can be better maximized following a few minutes of self-myofascial release on the foam roller.
Spiderman Lunge (Mobilizes the posterior hip capsule, gluteus maximus and hamstrings)
Triplanar Lunge (Mobilizes the entire hip joint in 3 movements)
1/2 Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch (Mobilizes the hip flexor)
Crossover Lunge (Mobilizes the glut medius/minimus and tensor fascia latae/IT band)
Single-Leg Reaching Deadlift (Mobilizes the hamstrings, gastrocnemius (calf) and gluteus maximus)
1/2 Sit with Rotation (Mobilizes the hip internal & external rotators, as well as thoracic spine)
Garrett McLaughlin is an athletic trainer, personal trainer, and certified active release techniques provider in the Nashville area. He is passionate about helping others not only achieve their health & fitness goals but make them move better in the process. Contact Garrett for top quality advice on improving your running performance and reducing the chance of injury to stay running longer!