Host: Dr. Matt Minard

Episode Summary

Dr. Matt Minard, the owner of Learn 2 Run, is a Physical Therapist who enjoys both the physical and mental benefits of running. He is passionate about helping others run safely.

In this episode, Dr. Minard discusses strength training for runners, explaining the role of the hip muscles and pelvis in running, and how training can be tailored to increase the efficiency of these structures to increase speed.

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Strength Training for Runners: Glutes

Top Takeaways

  • “A strength training routine for a runner should look very different from a soccer player…we want to be specific in our approach”
    – [Dr. Matt Minard]
  • “The muscles lift your body; they hold your body and they lower your body”
    – [Dr. Matt Minard]
  • “We always have to think back; is this how we use that muscle and are we challenging it more?”
    – [Dr. Matt Minard]
  • “Ideally you want to sit with your hips higher than your knees, that puts a lot less stress on your low back and on your hips”
    – [Dr. Matt Minard]
  • “Don’t strengthen your hip flexors”
    – [Dr. Matt Minard]

Episode Highlights

  • [00:56] Introducing Strength Training; the hips.
  • [03:44] 3 functions of muscles.
  • [07:07] Basic anatomy of the hip.
  • [09:04] The stabilizing action of hip abductors in running.
  • [13:32] How to strengthen the “Queen Glutes”.
  • [18:06] The Hip Extensors.
  • [22:17] Ways to challenge the glutes.
  • [26:47] The Hip Flexors.

Episode Notes

The focus of today’s conversation is Strength Training, a broad topic that will be broken into 3 episodes for in-depth understanding.

Strength training was one of the methods highlighted in our last episode as a way to increase speed. This episode will explain more about the hips, and training the muscles how they are used in running, as well as more than they are used in running. Muscles are responsible for all forms of movement, and the purpose of strength training is to enhance movement.

Muscle functions

There are three specific functions of muscles:

  • lifting or concentric activation
  • holding or isometric action
  • lowering or eccentric action

When you run, you are lifting, holding, and lowering your body repeatedly. If you push through the balls of your feet through the ground, you start to lift the body, then hold in that position before you lower yourself. This forms the basis of training the muscles for running.

Hip Anatomy

Hip Muscle Anatomy

The hip joint is the point where the femur bone inserts into the pelvis, containing the front muscles for hip flexion, back muscles for hip extension, and side muscles for hip abduction. The muscles outside the hip:

  • gluteus medius
  • gluteus minimus
  • tensor fasciae latae

Dr. Minard describes these hip abductors as the queen of the glutes while gluteus maximus is the king. The abductors are responsible for stabilizing the hip. These are important because when it comes to strength training, people do exercises that won’t necessarily translate into helping you run because it’s not working the muscle how it is used during running, or to the extent that it’s actually used.

Hip abductors


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To identify the queen of the glutes on the right side of the hip, shift your weight towards your left. Place your right hand on the outside of your right hip. Slide back slightly while lifting your right foot off the ground and tap the ground to your side as in side-stepping. This is called hip abduction and you will feel the glutes firm up. This motion however is not used in running as these abductors are used to stabilize the hip.

From your previous position, even out your weight between the right and left. Pick your left foot off the ground. You will feel the hip abductor muscles on the right hip firm up. This reveals its function of stabilizing you on one leg while the other is off the ground when running.

Clamshells are often recommended to strengthen the queen hip muscles, however, they do not necessarily train the muscles how they are used in running, making the exercise not very beneficial.

Strengthen your hip abductors for runners

A better approach to strengthening these hip abductors is to train while standing. Performing a single leg stand engages the muscles. Typically, weakness of a muscle on one side causes the other foot that is off the ground to drop. To challenge the muscles, hold a dumbbell in your opposite hand while standing on one leg. It is important to avoid tilting. Tilting or twisting one leg to maintain balance are ways the body tries to compensate for a weak muscle rather than utilizing it, which is counterproductive.

Another way to challenge the muscle is a Farmer’s Carry. Walking with a weight in the left hand creates an asymmetrical force pulling the left side down towards gravity, forcing the right side to control your balance and not give in to gravity.

Fitness bands

Mini bands are also another method that can be used. Use them while standing on one leg with the band around the ankles. Note that the further the band is from the hip, the more challenging the exercise. Twisting or tilting to compensate means that you need to reduce the intensity by moving the band higher. You may also need to change the resistance.

Hip extensors

Among the hip extensors, the hamstring muscles are often overlooked. They are very helpful in running and should be strengthened. To find this muscle, while standing on both legs, shift your weight towards your left. Place your right fingertips on your right butt cheek. Then tap the ground behind you with your right leg. You will feel the muscles contract. To engage this muscle how it is used in running, push back against the ground with your right leg in that same position while lifting the left leg. This creates a forward movement via hip extension, happening continuously when we run.

Strengthen your hip extensors for runners

People in a gym doing step up exercises

To challenge the glute muscles, you can do a single leg step up which strengthens the gluteus medius. Holding a weight in the hand opposite to the leg that is stepping up is a way to challenge the muscles more.

A glute bridge can be made more challenging by taking up a position on your back with knees bent. Then place your hands on the front of your hips and apply downward resistance to engage the core while pushing up against yourself. You can amplify the resistance by placing a gallon of water or a dumbbell around your hip. Additionally, kicking one leg up in the air while driving through the ground can increase the challenge.

Hip flexors

As for the hip flexors, Dr. Minard does not recommend strengthening exercises.

  • It is not very strong in forward movement
  • The hip flexor is at such a mechanical disadvantage that it has to work hard to flex your hip.

In many cases, when runners have pain in front of their hip, simply learning to not use their hip flexors when running gives great relief. Notably, sitting all day can cause adaptive shortening or tightening in front of the hips, leading to pain. Tightness of the hip flexors can limit hip extension which is pivotal in moving forward. As such, the best exercise for the front muscles of the hip is lengthening, not strengthening.

Need a visual?

Check out the exercises discussed here.

To vote on the next topic that will be discussed follow Dr. Minard on Instagram or send him an email. For professional help with running smarter, safer, and faster, check Dr. Minard’s online membership on his website.


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