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Friday, February 5, 2010

Friendly Advice Friday -Preventing Injuries Tip #1

As a physical therapist and runner, I am always looking for ways to prevent injury and to help my patients and clients return to their activities in a safe and timely manner. Therefore, I decided to start "Friendly Advice Fridays" on my blogspot and share that information with you. I thought it would be a good way for me to keep up with the latest research while also creating my own "niche" on this blog.

I found the following research article very interesting. It provides a very easy take home message to runners: incorporating strengthening exercises targeting specific hip muscles into your current training regimen can help prevent injuries further down the road. Something I am sure we would all be happy about!

In summary, Research by Niemuth et al. showed a correlation between strength deficits of two very important hip muscle groups and injuries in runners. In the noninjured runners, no side-to-side differences in hip muscle strength were found. Among the injured runners, however, the hip abductor and flexor groups on the involved side were significantly weaker relative to the noninvolved side.

So where are these muscles and how can you strengthen them?

Hip Abductors:

The role of the hip abductors in running is to aid in stabilizing your pelvis during the single-leg stance phase. It prevents your pelvis from dropping down on the side of the free leg. Hip abduction primarily occurs via the gluteus medius muscle as well as the gluteus minimus muscle. (see above picture) There are many ways to strengthen these muscles. You can simply google "glut med strengthening" and a plethora of exercises will come up. I prefer doing them in a weight-bearing position, given that running is a weight-bearing sport. One exercise that I like to do with my runners for increasing glut med strength is the "sidestepping with theraband" exercise.

Hip Flexors

The hip flexors are made up of the Psoas and Iliacus muscles-together, they are referred to as the iliopsoas muscle. The function of the iliopsoas in everyday living is basically to bring the thigh up towards the abdomen. In running, it acts as a major core stabilizer and is the primary muscle for increasing velocity and speed.
One of my favorite ways to strengthen the hip flexors is again by using theraband. Tie one end of theraband around a low sturdy surface and the other around your ankle. Put a bench or box out in front. Step up on the box with the foot that does not have the theraband around it. Drive the knee of the leg with the theraband forward and up in front of your chest. Balance yourself and hold position for a few counts.

In summary, by incorporating exercises for your gluteus medius and iliopsoas muscles into your regular cross training/strengthening programs, hopefully, you can help to avoid lower injuries in the future!

Happy, safe, injury-free running to all!

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