Updated: May 12, 2020
Editors Note: This is the seventh post of our series designed to help you run for a lifetime. If you're tired of dealing with injuries every time you start running and wonder if you're even capable of running pain-free, this series is for you. You can find Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6 in the hyperlinked text.
Standard #7: Hip Extension
Having normal hip extension, in combination with normal hip flexion and efficient squatting form, means you've got full capacity of your hips. As a bonus, when you have a normal amount of hip extension you also decrease the load on your knees. If you've had years of knee pain or back pain as a runner, meeting this standard is critical to resolving your pain. The muscles that run down the front of your hip and thigh, the iliacus, the psoas (in the chart below they're the muscles that start on the spine and pelvic bowl), and the quadriceps (the four muscles crossing the front of the thigh), create a huge load at the knee and passively drag the spine forward if they lack the range to allow the hip to fully straighten.
Lack of normal hip extension creates torturous consequences for your feet, as well. The next time you have the opportunity to watch a road race, watch how many of the runners' legs and feet rotate out as their legs swing forward. As their heels strike the ground it looks like their toes are trying to avoid contact with the ground. If the foot hits the ground on the outside of the heel, it will immediately rotate inward to find stability. The path of least resistance is to slam the ball of your foot on the ground. Do that repeatedly for 3-plus miles day after day, month after month, year after year, and you're on your way to developing painful bunions. Instead of buying a pair of shoes that allow you to continue to run with crappy mechanics, we're going to restore your normal hip extension and unlock the final piece of hip mechanics that allows you to run efficiently. The approach to restoring your hip extension is as brutally effective as it is simple. Welcome to...
The Couch Stretch
You pass this standard if you can achieve the full couch stretch position with your left and right hips. Didn't meet the standard? No worries, just keep working this into your daily cool-down routine and you should notice some improvement in short order. If a week of practicing this mobilization doesn't make any change, you might be a good candidate for some hands-on care in our clinic. Not sure if you're a good fit? You can click the link or call to talk to one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy free of charge today!