You may recognise the presence of a hip drop in your own running gait. Perhaps you’ve run behind a fellow athlete who’s hips seem like they would be more at home on the catwalk!
A hip drop occurs when the body is unable to provide adequate stability while we’re being supported on a single leg, as happens during stance phase of running gait. This lack of lateral stability at the hip allows the pelvis to drop sideways towards the non-weight bearing side.
Typically, glute medius is one of the primary muscles which should provide this lateral stability at the hip. However, the oblique abdominal muscles and quadratus lumborum of the lower back also play an important role.
When a hip drop is present in a runner’s technique, the sideways drop of the pelvis can crease increased tension through tissues such as the iliotibial band, which can lead to ITB syndrome, and increased demand on muscles of the lower back, which can lead to lower back pain when running.
In the video above I discuss this common running technique flaw, often referred to as a Trendelenburg Gait.
Hip Drop Running Form: Poor Lateral Stability
It was in one of the first articles on this website that I wrote about the importance of training all three planes of motion for us runners. This is despite the fact that running itself (at first glance at least) looks like a very linear movement pattern.
While running forward in a straight line looks to be a linear action, dig deeper and you can observe what’s happening joint-by-joint with every stride. You’ll see that loading occurs in the forward-and-back (sagittal) plane, side-to-side (frontal) plane and rotational (transverse) plane.
When it comes to the hips. We know that the majority of the movement during running gait happens in the forward-and-back plane. You can no doubt visualise the knee driving forwards, while the opposite leg driving backwards. This can only happen efficiently if the hips are stable and controlled in the other planes of motion.
The Role of Glute Medius in Hip Stability
When the foot is on the ground, supporting us on one leg through mid-stance of running gait, Glute Medius has to work hard to create lateral stability around the hip. This enables us to effectively maintain a level pelvis in the frontal plane.
If there’s a problem with this process, and Glute Med is weak or inhibited, then commonly we’ll see the hip drop running trait that is sometimes linked to injuries such as ITB Syndrome and Lower Back Pain.
Todd Kenyon does a great job of describing this hip drop, amongst other running technique observations in this video of the Elite Women’s field at Boston Marathon a few years ago:
We’ve written before here about “Trendelenburg Gait” and how this lack of hip stability can often be part of the bigger picture when it comes to running injury.
Of course, it’s never as simple as saying that runners who move like this will end-up suffering with X, Y, or Z injury… training errors play just as bigger part in causing injury as biomechanics!
However, at very least, a lack of hip stability and subsequent hip drop is likely to negatively affect the efficiency of a runner.
How to Fix a Hip Drop in Your Running Gait
Fixing your hip drop is a matter of teaching your body to use muscles such as glute meduis to improve lateral stability around the hip while standing on one leg. Exercises such as hip hitches work well to achieve this.
If you’ve noticed that you have a tendency to drop one hip when you run, leading to a lateral shift of the pelvis, there are a number of exercises you can practice. Improve your hip stability and running form will improve along with it.
Having said that this isn’t specifically predictive of injury. If you do happen to suffer with ITB Syndrome, Patellofemoral Pain, Shin Splints, Piriformis Syndrome, Low Back Pain… (you get the point) I wouldn’t ignore the hip drop.
In fact, here are some simple exercises you can use to improve lateral hip stability:
Four Simple Exercises to Correct Your Hip Drop
Here’s a simple routine you can follow 3-5 times weekly for 6 weeks to help improve lateral control of the hip, and reduce hip drop when you run:
- Hip Hitches – 3 sets of 15 each side
- Isometric Glute Med Hold – 3 sets of 30 second holds each side
- Resistance Band Crab Walk – 3 sets of 30 seconds each direction
- Glute Med & Psoas Drill – 3 sets of 10 each side
I hope this helps.
Do let me know in the comments below if you have any questions…