It’s all in the hips – this could cure many injuries

Runners who are looking for the cause of their foot, ankle, or knee pain may need to look higher. Weak hips are often the culprit behind patellofemoral syndrome, Achilles tendinitis, and iliotibial-band syndrome, according to Reed Ferber, Ph. D., director of the University of Calgary's Running Injury Clinic. "Inadequate hip muscle stabilization is a top cause of injury in runners," he says. "The hips need to be strong to support the movement of the feet, ankles, and knees." In 2007, Ferber conducted a study of 284 patients who complained of leg pain. He found that 93 percent of them had weak hip muscles. After putting these people on a targeted strength program, 90 percent of them were pain-free within six weeks. Those exercises (shown here) are now a major part of Ferber's practice. He recommends doing them daily after you run. Start with one set of 10 reps and gradually increase sets so that you're doing three sets of 10 by your fourth day. You should see improvement in two weeks. If you don't, Ferber says to see a doctor because the cause of your injury may lie elsewhere. SEATED HIP EXTERNAL ROTATORimage001 1. Attach a resistance band to the left end of a bench and loop the other end around your right foot. 2. Keeping your knees together, lift your right leg out to a count of two, then release back down to a count of two. 3. Repeat on the other leg. STANDING HIP FLEXORimage002 1. Put your right foot in the resistance band and turn so you are facing away from the band's anchor. 2. Keeping your right leg straight, lift it forward to a count of two, then release it back down to a count of two. 3. Repeat on the other leg. STANDING HIP ABDUCTORimage003 1. Anchor a resistance band to a stable object. 2. Loop the other end around your right foot so the band crosses in front of you. 3. Standing with your left leg slightly behind you, keep your right leg straight and lift it out to the side. Lift it to a count of two, then release it back down to a count of two. 4. Repeat on the other leg. Test Yourself Three ways to determine if your hips need help THE TEST: Do a one-legged squat THE VERDICT: If your knees collapse inward, your hips are probably weak. THE TEST: Stand with your right foot on a step, the left dangling in the air, your hands on your hips. Slowly raise your left hip up, and then release back down. THE VERDICT: If you can't do two sets of 10 reps without holding onto a wall for balance, your hips are weak. THE TEST: Sit on the edge of a bench and lie back. Pull your right leg in to your chest; let your left leg hang down. THE VERDICT: If your left thigh lifts off the table, your hips are tight.    Originally published in runners world September 1, 2009