Every time you take a step, you should be able to properly shift into your hip during single-leg stance. That is just simply normal human gait.
Running is essentially a normal walking gait pattern sped up.
Photo via Orthobullets
We must toe-off and heel strike, just like when we walk. As we transition into single-leg stance (mid-stance), our anterior gluteus medius fibers and adductors must accept the weight shift of our center of mass over to the stance-leg side.
These muscles are hip internal rotators. We need internal rotation when we are in mid-stance because those muscles properly stack the pelvis over the leg when we shift our center of mass. This is essential for proper gait mechanics.
To put it simply: If you can’t feel those muscles going through a reciprocal gait drill for two minutes, how do you expect those muscle to hold up after 10 minutes of running? 20? 30? 40? An hour? You can’t.
That is why the following drill is a mandatory screening for my running athletes.
If you can’t assume and maintain proper single-leg stance, a plethora of compensations can happen. Muscles will take over the roles of weaker ones that can’t hold up over the course of a run. That’s how injuries happen.
The Drill Every Runner Should Do
1. Place a 2-inch block underneath one foot (a thick weight plate works fine). Place your left foot on it and feel your heel, big toe, and little toe fully on the block.
2. Shift your left hip back and pull your left knee in slightly. You should feel the muscles on your left inner thigh and left outer hip (buttock) engage.
3. Side-bend your trunk to the left, feeling your left abdominal wall engage.
4. Keeping your left outer hip (buttock) muscle engaged, slowly bring your left arm and right leg back as your right arm comes forward. Tap the ground lightly with your right toes.
5. Next, slowly bring your right leg and left arm forward as your right arm goes back. Tap the ground lightly with your right heel.
6. Continue this sequence for two minutes, or until you feel the inner thigh or outside hip no longer engaged. It is imperative you stop when those muscles shut off, or you will be training a compensatory pattern.
Once you can do two minutes or more without feeling those muscles shut off, you’re in good shape to run.
If you ever feel any other muscles start to take over and you cannot immediately correct it, stop the drill there.
One of the best ways to address you not being able to perform this drill for 2-plus minutes on each leg is simply performing it regularly and aiming to build strength in these positions.
I recommend runners perform this drill at least three times per week for three sets of 2 minutes on each leg.
Photo Credit: Orthobullets, Nikada/iStock