Hip Internal Rotation: Two Exercises to Improve Hip Mobility

Hip internal rotation in running gait

In this article, I’m not only going to show you some simple exercises you can use to improve your hip internal rotation, I’m also going to explain why internal rotation of this hip is such an important aspect of your running technique…

A little while ago, I published an article about the importance of hip extension when it comes to running gait, particularly looking at the movement compensations, and potential running injuries, that can occur when our hip mobility is limited.

Equally as important as a runner’s ability to extend the hip, is their ability to internally rotate the hip in an extended position.

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 of running gait is unfortunately overlooked.

Why is Hip Internal Rotation Important During Running Gait?

Here’s a quick thought experiment for you to follow-along with…

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.

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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.

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.

How to Improve Internal Rotation of The Hip

In the video below Kelly Starrett 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.

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

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Last updated on March 2nd, 2021.