Hinge at the hip for more efficient running

The idea running stance involves leaning slightly forward at the hip

January 16th, 2020 by | Posted in Training | Tags: , , , ,

iRunFar.com has published an excellent two-part series of articles by Oregon-based physiotherapist and coach Joe Uhan on running posture. As he points out, there are a lot of articles on footstrike, biomechanics and gait and how to strengthen different muscle groups for more efficient running, but what is the best posture for running? That, it appears, is still up for debate. But after analyzing the debate and drawing on his own experience as an athlete, coach and physiotherapist, Uhan has settled on something he calls the “hip hinge.”

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The hip hinge involves leaning slightly forward at the hip for an efficient running stance, which allows the hips to power the upper body forward efficiently while minimizing the amount of stress upon landing. Uhan points out that bending forward at the ankle when running puts undue stress on the lower legs, but bending at the hip eliminates this problem. Bending slightly forward at the hip puts us in an athletic stance with the hips behind the upper body, where they can best facilitate the weight shifting involved in putting one foot in front of the other.

Ideally, you want your body to form a straight but angled line from your back heel to your head. Your forward knee should be slightly bent. (Think of a middle-distance runner’s position at the start line.)

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Gene Dykes at USATF 10K Road National Championship in Dedham, Massuchusetts, April 29, 2018. Photo: courtesy of Gene Dykes

An upright stance, by contrast, in which the back is arched and the pelvis tilted, creates more braking forces, which put more strain on the muscles and tissues of the foot and leg and contribute to injury risk. Running in an upright stance can result in overstriding, you’re actually slowing yourself down with each step. (Uhan is careful to point out that coaches who recommend “running tall” are likely not purposely recommending an inefficient stance, but warning against the tendency, also common in some runners, to slump forward.)

Canadian Mountain Running Championships
Shaun Stephens-Whale at 2017 Canadian Mountain Running Championships. Photo: Emily Setlack

Uhan notes that the hips back, torso forward position is universal in sports. The hip hinge position requires strong hips and core, and should also be used when doing strengthening exercises.

The obvious exercise to encourage this stance is the deadlift. Others are single-leg plyo drills, and uphill hiking.

American marathoner Emily Sisson demonstrates an exercise called, appropriately enough, the hip hinge, here:

Check out Uhan’s excellent articles here.