Avoid Patellofemoral Pain with Hip Strengthening Exercises

Female runners are twice as likely to experience patellofemoral pain (PFP) than men. PFP is one of the most common running injuries that occurs when the thigh bone rubs up against the back of the knee cap.

patella_femoral_syndromeIt takes a while for PFP to kick in, but when it does, it can be so painful that runners have to stop. The pain desists almost immediately, but the long-term effects can have debilitating effects similar to osteoarthritis. Essentially, the rubbing together of the thigh bone and knee cap causes a breakdown in cartilage. If you have weak arch supports and your knees collapse inward when you run or squat, then you’re a likely candidate for PFP.

In a recent study out of Indiana University, Director of the Motion Analysis Research Laboratory Tracy Dierks examined the effects of strengthening the hips in female runners as a way to prevent the onset of PFP. The results show that hip strengthening exercises reduced PFP dramatically and improved the runners’ gaits.

“The results indicate that the strengthening intervention was successful in reducing pain, which corresponded to improved mechanics,” said Dierks, associate professor of physical therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. “The leg was going through more motion, suggesting that the (pain) guarding mechanism was reduced, and coordination or control of many of these peak or maximum angles in the leg were improved in that they were getting closer to occurring at the same time.”

This is the first study to study hip strength and gait changes during periods of extended running. Four female runners were tested in relation to another control group of four female runners. These runners were without previous injury and had received no instruction on proper running form.

Over a six-week time period, minute measurements were taken of the motion and rotation of the hips, knees and shins during prolonged running. The participants were also given a set of hip strengthening exercises to perform twice a week for 30 to 45 minutes. These included such exercises as single leg squats with resistance bands.

After the six weeks, increases in joint angles between the foot, shin and thigh were shown, which translates into a significant improvement in the movement between the hips and knees.

Most of these exercises can be performed at home with the aid of a resistance band. Together with single leg squats, lunges, squats and some stretches like Pigeon Pose, try adding these exercises to your routine:

Beginner

Hip Abductor Exercise – wrap a resistance band around your ankle and make sure it is securely fastened to a fixed object. Standing with feet should-width apart, lift your leg out to the side and repeat for 12-16 reps.

Hip Flexor Exercise – with the resistance band still around your ankle, turn your back to the anchor point and raise your straight leg up in front of you and repeat for 12-16 reps.

Advanced

Single Leg Raise Squat Combo – standing with feet shoulder-width apart, lift one leg up to a 90-degree angle, then bend the supporting leg to take you down into a single leg squat. Try raising yourself up without bending the extended leg. Repeat for 12 reps, then switch legs.

Skater’s Lunge – standing with feet shoulder-width apart and one foot on a small towel, slide that leg out to the side, bending the opposite leg down into a lunge. Repeat for 12 reps, then switch legs.

 

Source:

Indiana University. “Stronger hips improved running mechanics, lessened knee pain, research finds.” ScienceDaily, 2 Jun. 2011. Web. 7 Jun. 2011.

How to Increase Endurance for Runners

If you’re a runner, you’ll want to add weight training to your exercise program to increase endurance.

How to increase endurance for runnersThere are a number of things that a runner strives for and one of them is endurance. During a long run, muscles become fatigued. This is particularly true in the feet, where after a long session of running, the arches actually relax a little and you become more flat-footed as a result.

When the muscles fatigue, this slows down your pace. Your feet lose their spring and remain in contact with the ground for longer periods of time. One way to alleviate the fatigue in your feet is to strengthen your legs in the gym.

Recent research out of Northumbria University shows that when legs are strengthened with weight training in the gym, the feet are slower to fatigue and this increases speed and endurance in the runner.

The researchers tested a group of 10 expert male runners to see which muscles fatigued the fastest and it was the hamstrings. Once these powerful muscles begin to tire, they send signals to the lower legs to slow down.

By performing a few exercises twice a week, you could greatly improve your endurance and running performance.

Weight Training for Runners

Deadlifts – Stand in front of a barbell and squat down to pick up the weight. Straighten your legs and your back as you come up to a standing position. Return the barbell to the ground and repeat. 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Squats – Holding a barbell behind your neck, lower yourself down into a squat. Power up through your heels and repeat. 3 sets of 10-12 reps.

Lunges – Holding two dumbbells at your sides, step forward with the right leg, dipping down until you reach a 90-degree angle. Return to center and repeat on the opposite leg. 3 sets of 10-12 reps each leg.

Running to Lose Weight

Running is one of the most effective ways to reduce weight gain, which affects the lives of millions of people worldwide.

Running helps in fat burning and reduces more calories per minute than any other type of exercise. The best part of running is all you really need to get started is a good pair of running shoes, a slot of time and the will power and stamina to get up and go.

It’s important to develop a proper running program in order to increase your running stamina. As you start out as a runner, you will find yourself running for a bit, then walking, then (as soon as you see a car coming!) running again until you build up the stamina to run the entire time. Pace yourself and maybe just start out with a 20-minute run, gradually increasing your time as you progress and your strength develops. Great progress can be made in as little as two weeks, where you should notice you’re walking less and running more.

Strive for an ultimate goal of running for 30 minutes. Once achieved, you should incorporate interval training as it increases endurance and supports weight loss by burning more calories during the running phase. Interval training will increase your V02 Max and improve your heart rate. Set challenging goals for yourself that will place more demand on the body, burn more calories and get you closer to your weight loss goal. With interval training, you will develop cardiovascular endurance so that you can run for longer durations.

Stride and gait are very important for runners. Many make the mistake of running with too wide of a gait, which places a lot of stress on the hip and knee joints. An efficient running stride is about 180-182 foot-strikes per minute. This is a comfortable pace that increases efficiency and reduces the risk of injury. You can gradually change your stride by being disciplined and patient, along with practicing it proper technique daily.

A shorter stride will serve you better in terms of increasing your physical fitness level and using your energy efficiently. For this, lean forward and make sure that your feet land close to your body. Another option is to defy gravity, which is done by reducing the contact time between the foot and the ground. In simple terms, it means that pull your foot up as soon as it touches the ground without bouncing too much. Some plyometric training will help to perfect this technique and will steer you away from a landing-standing-pushing momentum, which is cumbersome and will slow you down.

In order to perfect your stride, you need to minimize your bounce. Avoid an up-and-down motion. Instead adopt a forward motion as this will help you conserve energy and help build speed and momentum. It also helps reduce injury and aches and pains. If you bounce too much, you’re placing too much stress on the vertebrae, particularly in the neck. You can also add sprints to your training that will condition fast-twitch muscle fibers. This conditioning and training also increases stride efficiency and power. Hill running and cross training can also be incorporated into your running program.

By the time you master the perfect way of running, your waistline will have shrunk substantially! As you lose the excess fat, you will feel energized and become more active. Running will become easier and your goals will shift from losing weight to staying fit. Remember, all you need is a pair of running shoes and the great outdoors.

Originally published @ FITLODE.COM