Adventures in Physical Therapy Week 2: Hip Exercises and Simple Running Drills

Today I will be sharing the first set of exercises that I learned in physical therapy. You can check out this post to read about my gait analysis. These exercises are focusing on hip strength and stability. I’ll also be sharing some quick drills to help with my overstriding, and the stretching and piriformis release that I have been doing. Please read my disclaimer…I am sharing these because I think that they can help most runners, but if you are injured pleased consult with a medical professional before trying any of these. 

pt week 2

 I’ve been doing all the standing exercises barefoot because it helps to develop foot strength! And it’s more challenging to balance without shoes on.

The first exercise is focused on strengthening the abductors (the muscles on the outside of the hip). I learned this the last time I was in PT but realized I had been doing it slightly wrong. You should bend your outside knee slightly, and push into the wall/table that your bent knee is up against. You should feel it in the outside hip area of the leg that is on the ground. Push into the wall for 5 seconds, 10 times on each side. 

abductor strengthening

 The next exercise is also for hip stability and balance. It’s best if you have some sort of unstable surface to stand on. Balance on one foot and use a medicine ball to throw against something that will allow it to bounce back..at PT we have a net type thing but at home I just ask Rob to catch it and throw it back to me:) Another option is to just balance or do one-legged squats. I’ve been doing 30 on each foot.

balance ball toss

 Next up is the bridge with a ball that you can squeeze between your knees. This works the glutes and adductors. I’ve been doing 2 sets of 15 with a 5 second hold. 

bridge with ball

 I’ve also been working on strengthening my adductors using a resistance band. I tied a band to the leg of my table and then made a loop that my foot goes through. Stand on one leg, loop inside foot through the band, and pull foot with band through in front of standing leg, 2 sets of 15 on each side. 

adductors with band

 My PT also has me doing two drills that should help with landing on my mid foot and avoid overstriding. They are ankle hops and jump squats. Both are really hard to take pictures of and I’m not really up for sharing videos of myself:) But they are pretty much how they sound.

For ankle hops, stand with feet hip width apart, and hop quickly without stopping in between, 2 sets of 30. 

For squat jumps, place feet slightly wider than hips width apart, and jump up and back down into a squat, 3 sets of 10.

Finally, I’m also stretching and trying to relax my piriformis. I never really felt like stretching it did a whole lot but I am trying to be a good PT patient and follow their recommendations. These are two stretches I am doing- holding for 30 seconds each and completing 3 sets on each side.

piriformis stretching

 I use a lacrosse ball to roll out my piriformis muscle. My PT also does deep tissue massage for it and ART when I am there. At home I cross my tight leg over the other leg so I can get deeper into the muscle, and sit on the lax ball, roll around and hold any spots that feel really tight. 

piriformis release

The other stretch I am doing is for my adductors– again, 3 sets of 30 second holds on each side. I also move around a bit to get more of a stretch and also go down to my elbows.

adductor stretch

 As I get more exercises to add on I’ll share them, since so many of you seem interested in how I am working to fix  all my running form issues! Besides, it seems like these are great exercises for any runner to do to stay strong and prevent injuries!

Have you tried any of these exercises before?

Have you found any other good ways to release the piriformis?

I’m linking up with  AprilPatty, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run and with Jill and Jessica for the Fit Dish!

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67 responses on Adventures in Physical Therapy Week 2: Hip Exercises and Simple Running Drills

    1. I think the foam roller works ok too but the lax ball really gets in there! And yes all runners can definitely benefit from working on hip strength!

    1. When I’m feeling good I start forgetting to roll it out as often. Did you have any issues with your SI joint? Last night in PT we talked about a theory around that causing alot of my problems. I’ll share more as I piece it all together but just wondering if it was something that was an issue for you.

    1. I have had so many different professionals work on my piriformis and I definitely found that some were better than others! The last time that I had these issues dry needing was able to keep it at bay for over a year, but this time it only helped for a few weeks.

    1. I thought it was pretty great that some of the same exercises were in your workouts! I definitely need to keep up with these types of workouts even when I am back to running healthy.

    1. Its amazing how many of us runners have weak hips! I am learning even more about how the whole pelvis needs to be stable in order to run efficiently. I wish that staying healthy didn’t need to be so complicated!

    1. I had sort of given up on stretching lately because I didn’t feel like it did anything, but I’m willing to try again if thats what my PT is suggesting! I really feel the stretches more doing them this way!

    1. Its a challenging but fun exercise! I’ve even just tried to do things like brushing my teeth while standing on one foot- and to make it even harder I try closing my eyes!

    1. I love twists like that too! I also feel like my low back gets tight and the twists feel good for that as well!

    1. Glad to hear you are doing them too! I really feel like the standing exercises on one leg are so beneficial.

  1. I think with all of our sitting and such that it is easy to develop tight hips. Funny timing because I literally just added some similar style exercises to my workouts over the weekend. I felt like I was missing some multi-directional movement. Have a great Tuesday!
    Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment recently posted…Yoga AM MobilityMy Profile

    1. It’s true that we sit so much and its so easy to get tight hips! Its always good to change things up once in a while:)

  2. The lacrosse ball hurts so good. My Airrosti doc had me use one in his office after each massage session and I keep it up at home. I found the perfect spot on my leg to target to keep things loose.
    Lesley recently posted…#LikeAWomanMy Profile

    1. Its such a great tool for getting into some of those small muscles that can get tight! Once you find that perfect spot, you just know:)

  3. I am pretty sure I cover all of these exercises with Pure Barre. Just another reason I love it so much! And yes to barefoot – when teaching our kids to walk it’s encouraged to have them barefoot to develop foot strength. I used to get crazy when I saw moms putting shoes on their babies who were first learning to go from crawling to walking. They couldn’t grip the floor and learn to walk!
    meredith @ The Cookie ChRUNicles recently posted…Breaking habits and changing routinesMy Profile

    1. Its funny you said that because I went to Pure barre yesterday morning and was thinking about how so many of the exercises are really similar. I definitely felt all my hip muscles working!

  4. Thanks for sharing! Several of these are things that my PT has recommended, but unfortunately a few of them have dropped off my list of regular activities :-/ So thank you for reminding me of them!

    I hope these are helping you!
    Lizzy recently posted…Training Tuedsay – oopsMy Profile

    1. That’s what happens to me too! After I stop PT I forget about some of the exercises. I’m hoping that posting about them will hold me accountable!

    1. Sounds really familiar to what I am dealing with! And the other piece that we are considering is the SI joint. My PT has noticed that mine is usually a little off when I go in which can contribute to those issues that tend to come and go. I think its a great plan for you to eventually get a gait analysis!

    1. I’m hoping it can help some other runners! I know when I am dealing with minor issues I like to try addressing any weaknesses on my own before committing to PT.

  5. My PT has me doing an adductor exercise and it’s really made a difference in my hip strength. I strap 10lb weights to each ankle, lie on my side, bottom knee bent and top leg straight, toe pointed down, heel to the ceiling and then lift my leg slowly up, 30 times per leg each day. Not sure if I explained that right–I shouldn’t quit my day job.
    Suzy recently posted…Shades of Brown: DarkMy Profile

    1. Oh yes I have done that too and I really feel it- and I don’t even use weights! However, I think the reason we are focusing on doing the standing exercises is so that they directly impact the muscles I use when I am in the stance phase of running. I guess we’ll see if it makes a difference!

    1. Glad you got to see new ones! Its always better to work on this stuff all the time rather than wait until an injury pops up:)

  6. Thanks for posting! I love stretching out my hips, feels so good, but don’t do it nearly enough! I really like these “do it at home” exercises. Even when I take the classes at the gym, I feel we don’t get enough time at the end to property stretch. Thanks for sharing! Have a great day!
    diane@runninrocker recently posted…Write a ManifestoMy Profile

    1. I also love a good hip stretch! I like when I get to a yoga class that happens to be focused on hip openers. Thanks for stopping by!

    1. The hips and glutes seems to be such a problem area for runners huh? I hope that you strengthening is helping too!

  7. These are great! I’ve done all of them except the bent knee against the wall one. It’s crazy how crucial it is to have strong hips. Mine right side is finally starting to feel a little better after a few weeks of really sticking to my rehab exercises. And I also tried that hip flexor stretch you posted about a few weeks ago that you hold for a couple of minutes. I tend to neglect whatever isn’t bothering me at the time and I think I need to pay more attention to the opposing muscle groups. Now I just need to keep it all up…the hard part haha:)
    Hailey recently posted…Valentine’s Day 2015My Profile

    1. I know what you mean! When I am feeling good I tend to just go with it when really I should be doing this stuff all the time. The knee against the wall one is real good if you do it right! I actually feel my outer hips engage a little bit when I run now which I don’t think was happening before!

    1. Balance is so important for runners! I know they say that running is like a “whole bunch of single leg squats” and when you think of it that way it makes you realize just how key good balance is!

    1. I did some of these exercises after my surgery too, but forgot about them as time passed! Hopefully now that I put them on the blog I will keep up with them over the long-term!

    1. Thank you! There are so many runners with weak hips and injuries caused by hip issues. I also love finding new ways to strengthen my hips, which is why I figured these were worth sharing with others!

  8. Thanks for sharing these exercises! As a runner, I find them very useful (the ones I’ve done- a coupe on here I haven’t, or at least don’t on a regular basis!). I have issues with my left knee a lot. I’m not sure what my issue is technically called (someone told me a while back, and I just don’t remember), but I need to start doing exercises, etc that will help with that.
    AJ @ NutriFitMama recently posted…Snowed In and Fried Tofu for Meat LoversMy Profile

    1. I always hear that knee problems come from hip issues, so hopefully these can help you! I try to do this stuff on a regular basis but its easy to let it slip when you’re feeling good!

  9. Bravo being so disciplined with your physical training. I did a few sessions of personal training after a running knee injury post half marathon. It was a frustrating time. But, once I started doing more cross training (Insanity) and less running, I haven’t had any issues since, when my knee used to get tweaky all the time! The crosstraining also led me to PRs in all my races. I am a firm believer in HIIT style training. LOVE IT!
    Jessica Joy @The Fit Switch recently posted…Write A ManifestoMy Profile

    1. It’s so great that you figured out what works for you! PT can be intense but I think it will be worth it.

    1. That is so smart of you to do exercises to prevent injury rather than waiting for something to go wrong! Hope you like the stretches!

    1. That’s great! Hopefully you have seen improvements in your strength since starting this. It’s awesome that you have kept up with it for awhile, too!

  10. Great exercises! I have problems with hip and pelvis instability ever since I had my second child. I actually had to do PT while pregnant because just walking and getting in and out of the car was super painful because my joints and ligaments got way too loose during the pregnancy. Thanks for linking up with us and good luck on your PT!!

    1. Thanks! That’s pretty crazy how bad your pelvis and hips got during pregnancy. I always hear that after having kids the hips muscles because even less stable.

  11. These are wonderful stretches, especially for runners. When you run, the outside muscles of your hips and knees tend to wear and become sore, which can cause problems later on. I recently started training for a marathon, and these physical therapy stretches will hopefully make running less strenuous on my muscles. Thanks for sharing such great stretching ideas and tips.

  12. As an adult I am out of the house for upwards of twelve to fourteen hours each day. I am also in a wheelchair that entire time. My hip hip flexor seem to tighten up and ache when it is time for bed. Are there exercises that I can do in the morning and night to loosen up my hips?

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