Runners unite! I know this is a long series, but I promise the knowledge you’ll gain from it (if you put it to good use) will be worth many more years of much healthier running and training. We continue on in our series with another standard for you to pass. The last post discussed hip “flexion”. Here is the next one.
Standard #6: Hip Extension
Meeting this standard means that you can press your hips into full extension. It is important for runners to take care of their quads and hip flexors for healthy hip function and minimizing the damage done to your knees.
Many runners have hip issues. The front of the hip, or anterior hip, is an area of trouble typically. Dr. Kelly Starrett uses the car analogy, which is a great. “A runner who doesn’t take care of business when it comes to poor movement patterns and the consequential shortening of the quadriceps and hip flexors is doing the equivalent of playing gas-o brake-o with a car. Keep one foot on the brake (heel striking) while you jam the other down on the gas pedal, and then, when the RPMs are hot, let go of the brake, sending the car lurching forward like a rocket. Then repeat. Do this long enough and you’ll set the wheels on fire (your knees)”.
At running shoe stores all over, the gait test is popular for assessing your biomechanical tendencies to match you with the correct shoe. The “looping” as I like to call it (runner with pink laces below), is a commonly seen pattern in runners. Even some of the best runners in the world do it. So you should too right? Wrong. They pay the price in pain and a shorter career than they otherwise would have. This “looping” is hard to explain. As one foot plants on the ground, the other foot has swung forward to become the new position of support. It’s an outward rotation of the foot as the leg swings it to the front. Instead of the foot going straight forward and back, the toes turn to the outside (in the backswing) and the foot is swung up. If you are looping you’re missing one or more elements of good, powerful hip function. The muscle tissues at the front of your hip, the hip flexor and quads, are short, tight, and mashed up, which robs you of proper hip extension and the ability to maintain internal rotation of your upper leg. This puts the tissues of your knees and ankles through an ugly beating. Shoes and orthotics don’t fix this problem, and it should be considered a death sentence for your future as a healthy runner. If you sit a lot throughout the day, then working toward achieving and maintaining this standard is going to require extra care. First and foremost:
- Sit as little as possible.
- Do the Couch Stretch (below) every day. This stretch opens up tissues that can be all jammed together in the hip flexor and upper quad. It can help alleviate patella tendinitis (runner’s knee) and help hip and back pain. Go into it slow, as this is a deep stretch for those that spend the majority of their day. Try to get your leg perpendicular to the wall (though some might not be able to do this yet). It is also a great plantar flexion stretch on the leg against the wall. Squeeze your glutes once you are in position as well as your abs. Hold for 1 minute on each side: repeat. This mobilization is much more productive than the classic grab your foot while standing quad stretch. It’s a guide through the depths of ball-and-socket anatomy, working on the deep tissues around your hip joints.