Hip Internal Rotation: Importance in Running Gait

Oct 3, 2013   //   by James Dunne   //   Biomechanics & Running Technique  //  No Comments  //  Affiliate Disclosure  

Some time ago I published an article here on my blog about the importance of Hip Extension in Running Gait. Equally as important as a runner’s ability to extend the hip, is their ability to internally (medially) rotate the hip in extension.

In my experience, runners and coaches often have a decent appreciation for the important role that hip mobility plays in the sagittal plane (hip extension in particular).

However, all too frequently the runner’s ability to internally rotate the hip (transverse plane) during late stance phase in gait is unfortunately overlooked.

Thought Experiment…

While you’re reading this, stand up for a moment. Jump into a split stance, as if you were walking a tight-rope, with feet facing forwards. Left foot forward, right foot back…

For the sake of this demonstration, we’ll use the right (rear) foot of this split stance position to demonstrate the rear leg in gait (walking or running) during mid-to-late stance phase.

Notice how in this split stance (just as in walking and running gait) it’s normal for the pelvis to rotate away from the forward leg (rotating clockwise to face the right in this case). While the pelvis rotates to the right, we still want to see the right foot and knee facing forwards to facilitate good lower limb biomechanics through late stance phase and into swing phase of gait.

To achieve this, with the right hip in extension there needs to be adequate internal rotation available at the hip joint. This allows the pelvis to rotate in the transverse plane (driven by the mass of the opposite leg swinging forward) over the femur of the stance leg.

Without adequate hip internal rotation to achieve this, we see a limit in the runner’s ability to extend the hip, but more importantly we also see a series of “bail out” compensations, which can contribute to some of the common running imbalances, dysfunctions and injuries we see.

Our friends @TheGaitGuys do a great job of listing the common compensations we see in walking and running gait when internal rotation at the hip is limited. Read more here…

They also go on to explain in this short article why it is important to assess internal rotation of runners hips in a run specific position (i.e. assessing internal rotation in hip extension).

We often talk with our athletes about the importance of achieving effective Gluteal muscle activation in running gait. One big factor affecting an athlete’s ability to activate their glutes is their ability to extend the hip properly during running gait.

Put simply – a lack of internal rotation at the hip will inhibit a runner’s ability to extend the hip properly, thus diminishing the chances of them using their glutes effectively.

Release Those Hips!

If you don’t already follow the good work Kelly Starrett is doing over at MobilityWOD, I’d start now!

In the video below Kelly demonstrates a couple of relatively simple exercises to help runners achieve more internal rotation at the hip.

I’ve also been experimenting with this simple ‘contract-relax’ exercise to improve internal rotation of the hip, as demonstrated below by Dr. Josh Renkens of baseballthinktank.com

Try these exercises, and let me know how you get on :)

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About The Author

James has an academic background in Sport Rehabilitation and a special interest in Applied Biomechanics. He currently coaches a large number of Runners and Triathletes across all levels of ability and performance. He's grown a strong reputation for enabling athletes to improve their running performance and overcome running injuries through improving their Running Technique and developing Running Specific Strength.

 

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