Trail runners encounter more steep downhills than the average road runner, due to the nature, popularity, and intrigue of running on mountainous courses. But what goes up must come down, and descending can feel tough on the knees. But are your knees really to blame for knee pain? Bronsa Swint of On the Ball Fitness explains that the knee is “just a joint that doesn’t have much motion and it’s caught between hips and ankles… hip dysfunction, weakness, tightness, or ankle-foot dysfunction… that’s going to affect the knees.”
So if you’re suffering from running-related knee pain and you suspect that the problem may be originating in your hips, check out this video of three hip exercises that will strengthen your hips and don’t require any specialized equipment.
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Captions can be turned on in the video, or you can read the transcript here:
Hi, my name’s Bronsa. My personal training business is On the Ball fitness here in North Seattle, and I get a lot of questions about knees hurting when people run downhill, afterwards. So I thought I’d just talk a little bit about how really the knee is just a joint that doesn’t have much motion and it’s caught between hips and ankles. So if there’s any kind of hip dysfunction, weakness, tightness, or ankle-foot, [hip] dysfunction or weakness, that’s going to affect the knees. So I thought I would just start with three exercises that you can do anywhere for your hips and your glutes.
So the first exercise is called the “hip lift and dip,” and it’s helping you strengthen as you’re decelerating. All you need for this is a step of any height. You’re going to be standing on one leg. The standing leg is, I don’t want to say “locked back,” but it’s certainly not going to be going up and down. What we’re trying to do is be able to hike this hip up and then drop this hip down with control. So a lot of times when I see people able to hike it up, but then they just like let it go. So it’s just a slow up and down movement, totally working this back glute medius up and down. So again, not bending your knee going up and down, but actually using your hip muscles to get that hip as high as possible and low as possible. I’m thinking two sets of fifteen would be great.
Okay, so the second exercise is called “wall bangers,” and again, working on hip strength and decelerating. Most injuries happen when you’re running decelerating, we’re not strong in that, in that movement pattern. So you’re going to stand off a wall, about six to twelve inches. I’m having this be my wall today. Make sure that your feet are parallel to the wall and make sure they’re parallel to each other so no toes out. You’re going to put your hands out and you’re going to fall back, bend your knees, and you literally are going to tap that wall. So you’re rotating your hips out, slowing down the movement as you go, rotating out each time. Now if you want to ramp this up, you can hold a weighted ball in your hand and you could push it out each time or even a hand weight that you’re holding on either end. But anyone can do this even grandma. It’s a great strengthening for hips.
The last exercise today is something that you do on the floor, so maybe not in your office. But it does work one leg at a time which is really, really important, especially for runners. So you’re going to start on your back and you’re going to make sure that your feet are close enough that your hands can touch your heels. There’s three variations to this. One is, hug one knee to your chest and then you’re going to lift up and again control down. Lifting up, control down. When you’re in this knee hugging position you’re not going to have the range of motion that might have in another motion. Another alternative is to cross one leg over the other and bridge up, and again slowing down. Just want to make sure that you aren’t rotating your hips in any direction, that you’re just going straight up and straight down. Now if you have strong hips and so your hamstrings are in great shape and super flexible, then you can try the straight leg, like this, and push up and down, up and down.
So those are just three simple things to do. I would like to remind you that you need to have variety in your strength training, you don’t want to do the same things over and over and over again. But those three things might help you understand if one hip seems weaker, tighter than the other. Certainly it can help answer some knee issues. So I would just like you to remember that knees are just caught in the middle between sometimes dysfunctional hips and dysfunctional feet and ankles. So always look beyond the knees if that’s something you think you have going on. I’m happy to answer any of your questions, you can always message me on my Facebook page, On the Ball Fitness. Thanks!