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How to improve your hip mobility and running performance





Hip mobility is something that’s largely talked about in the running world. The unfortunate reality is this: loads of runners have poor hip mobility and an inability to use their hips and pelvis as they’re truly designed to be used during running.


To add to that, there’s unfortunately a poor understanding of what mobility truly is and how we can actively improve it, in order to minimize injury/overload risk, while at the same time, improving performance.


And believe me when I say that you can improve your performance and decrease your injury risk by improving the way your hips move. I’ve seen it first-hand with 10’s of my clients in the last couple of years alone.



What do people think hip mobility is?


Let’s cut straight to the point: we only know what we know. In the context of mobility training and programming for runners, this means that the vast majority of the running world implements exercises that others use, because that’s what other runners do.


And look, this seems logical, and we all do it one way or another, be it for hip mobility, nutrition or where we eat out on a Friday night.


There’s one big problem with this: people don’t critically question whether or not these exercises are actually going to do what we want them to do.


Have a really deep think about it for a moment. Do you perform exercises because you know that they help you? Or do you do them because that’s what you learned and because that’s what everyone else does?


If it’s the latter, then let’s change that right now.



What is mobility?


Mobility is the ability to move our joints in and out of positions. This can be passive (e.g. someone rotating your leg to test your hip mobility) or active (e.g. you rotate your leg yourself to test your hip mobility). Often times, mobility contains a degree of resistance also, e.g. gravity.


Here’s where people limit themselves and their mobility improvements, particularly when it comes to long term change: the vast majority of people don’t look at mobility with respect to how we as humans are designed to move.

Let’s take this one step further.



Hip mobility for you as a runner is about improving the mobility, movement and freedom of your hips so that you can run more safely and better.


So, with that in mind, it’s essential that we look at improving our hip mobility by staying relevant to two things:

1. How are our hips actually designed to move?

2. How does this influence how we should and could be running?


This requires a foundational understanding of human movement and biomechanics, whilst also understanding running mechanics, based on the structure and ability of each individual.


This is something that I’ve literally spent years working on, because it’s just not well understood.

When you read those above two questions, all of a sudden it makes you question whether the exercises you’ve been doing have any relevance to those questions.


Question 1 is an absolute must, as it’s a veeery tough uphill battle trying to work against the way we are designed to move.

Question 1 may solve question 2 automatically, but at the end of the day, it’s always a good idea to keep both questions in mind when you’re looking to improve your mobility.


As mentioned, I see these issues day in and day out, and so much so that I actually designed a free daily mobility routine to troubleshoot exactly this problem for runners. You can download that here.




The keys to improving hip mobility


I want you to understand one key thing about mobility: structure dictates function.


What does this mean?


It’s quite simple actually. Your structure, e.g. the position of your pelvis or hip joint, will directly influence and actually dictate the function you have.


In other words, the position your bones are in influences our mobility.


Now, in case the two above questions didn’t quite make sense, now they will.


If your bones aren’t positioned in way that allow you to move fully and efficiently, as you are designed to move, then you’re going to have limitations.


And these limitations may well influence the way you run.



The answer


Improve the position (structure) of your bones and joints and improve the function of your hips and pelvis.


This is exactly why I start with a breathing exercise in the daily mobility routine, as it’s designed to re-orient the position your pelvis and improve your ability to use your hips, particularly when it comes to internally them (this is another topic on its own – I’ll cover that in the coming weeks. Alternatively, reach out to me via email and I’ll gladly explain it to you😉).


Once you improve the structure (position) of your hips and pelvis, you’ll improve your function and likely improve your hip range of motion.


Here’s a visual example for you:



Rib cage and pelvis positions and how they influence our mobility.



This image brilliantly highlights two different rib cage and pelvis positions. These positions (structure) will directly influence the available hip range of motion in all directions (function), due to the position of the pelvis. So if we can re-orient the position of the pelvis (the rib cage will automatically move with it, but that’s another story for another time), then we can automatically improve hip mobility.


Here's an anecdotal example for you:

A few of my clients have had hip internal rotation range of motion improvements of 20-30 degrees after just 2 x 6 breaths in a particular position.


Why?


Because by breathing (and particularly exhaling fully) in that particular position, they were able to successfully change the position of their rib cage and their pelvis, moving them from the picture on the right more towards the picture on the left.


Amazing, right?!


And from there, it allowed us to train that new-found range of motion and to start to integrate it into more relevant tasks, e.g. in standing, loaded exercises, running etc.


Here's a tutorial of that exercise, just in case the thought of simply breathing to improve hip mobility intrigues you. Also, content helps 😉.




Here's a mini-summary to make things more digestible for you.


Improve structure (position)

--> improve function (ability to use joints throughout various ranges of motion)

--> improve ability to move in more complex tasks (e.g. running)

--> improve efficiency and performance.




Taking action


Now that you understand principally, just how you can improve your hip mobility for running, it’s important to consider how you will do this.


If this sounds like a handful to you, then reach out to a specialist who understands human movement and biomechanics, so that they can guide you on your way. This could be the difference between mediocre movement and high performance.


If the idea of this overwhelms you, then feel free to start with this special Hip Mobility For Runners Video Collection (just click here).


One thing I can guarantee is that all of the exercises in that video collection are designed to target key areas and are based on how human hips are designed to move, and more specifically with runners in mind.


Otherwise, just follow the above steps.


Begin with one or two exercises which will re-orient the position of your pelvis and hips, and from there, start to actively move your hips so that when you run, you've got the mobility, range of motion and freedom of movement that you actually need in order to perform best.


Here's two exercises to help you improve your pelvis position, followed by two active mobility exercises to get your hips feeling amazing.




Improve structure






Improve function





Summary


Hip mobility is a big topic for runners and is something that is poorly understood. Many think they know what hip mobility means, but very few know how to actually improve it, both for the short and long term.


In order to improve your hip mobility, ask yourself these two questions:

1. How are my hips actually designed to move?

2. How does this influence how I should and could be running?


Structure dictates function, meaning that the positions of your bones and joints dictate your ability to move and to function (i.e run).


Here’s the order of play to improve your hip mobility:

1. Improve your structure (the position of your bones and joints)

2. Improve your function (train in those improved structural positions)

3. Load in those improved positions

4. Run more efficiently, more economically, load your muscles and joints better, perform better and course, feel a million bucks 😉.


If you’ve got any questions regarding any of this, then feel free to reach out to me at coach.jstahl@gmail.com. I love to educate and help runners and would be happy to answer any questions you have.


I hope you enjoyed it.


P.s for more educational info and tips like this, sign up to the free Run Better Vibe Tribe, where I share all of my knowledge and experiences with runners two times every week. To be part of the Tribe, just click here.

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