The underbelly of many lower extremity injuries
Pick up a copy of any popular running magazine. Page after page, your eyes gravitate toward gear you don’t need at prices you can’t afford. Your eyes scan over a cross-training regimen that promises to prevent injury and propel performance. The most common muscle groups addressed in these articles are, and always will be, core and hip exercises.
From our clinical experience and well-published research, these types of exercise regimens have a significant positive impact on performance and injury prevention. A strong core and strong hips are essential to a healthy and well- balanced exercise regimen.
Then why are you thinking, “I’ve done those clamshells and leg raises every day, but my runner’s knee still pops up every year during AthHalf training”? You’re right; you’re doing your homework, and you’re still getting hurt. So how can you correctly train your hips?
The misconception we see most often isn’t in which muscles our patients choose to cross train, but how. And this is true for more than just runners. In fact, sports which require any amount of rotation or agility (tennis, baseball, football, soccer, basketball, golf, gymnastics, etc…) each have a high demand for hip strength in order to diminish stress to the knees and ankles.
The problem is that the hip and core muscles are most often trained concentrically in an open-chain environment. However, these muscles typically function eccentrically in a closed-chain environment, which is when the hips work to control the legs and torso while your foot is in contact with the ground. The hips are highly adaptable muscles, which means they are very easy to train correctly, or incorrectly.
The commonly prescribed straight leg raise creates an open chain environment because your feet are not touching the ground. This type of exercise trains the hips but not in a functional pattern.
Long story short, your straight leg raises aren’t as productive as a squat for injury prevention and increasing performance. A squat, in comparison to a straight leg raise, requires additional core and hip control with your feet in contact with the ground. Below are videos demonstrating four closed-chain exercises intended to help with injury prevention and increasing performance. For those who are looking for a more technical explanation, I encourage you to watch Michael Griffith’s lecture from the 2016 NCSA National Conference.
Common injuries linked to inadequately trained hips
Low back pain