You love to run! Maybe you love cycling. Or maybe you love BOTH! You've got powerful legs and the need for speed. But, is all that repetitive movement in ONE direction (forward) best for your bod? Could all that constant forward motion be causing you tight hips, overuse injuries and/or under-used muscle weakness? Switching up the movement pattern (side-to-side) may help strengthen those under-used inner and outer thigh muscles, as well as enhance hip strength and flexibility; overall, enhancing your running and/or cycling performance.
Hip strength and flexibility is essential to runners or cyclists because it maintains the power and the health of the muscles from the hip to the thigh to the knee. And chances are, if you're an avid runner or cyclist (or spinner, like me!), then you probably have tight hip muscles. The hip muscles control the mechanics of your knee, so if you have weak hip abductor muscles and poor hip rotator muscle strength, your knee is at a higher risk of injury. Pain in the knee will make it hard to stick with any active hobby, so let's not allow muscular imbalances to get in the way of our exercise high. Time to strengthen the inner and outer thigh, hip extensors and external rotators with some side-to-side lateral movement!
Add these side-to-side moves to your strength training routine to see improvement and efficiency in your favorite forward-moving activities:
Banded Squat Walks
Do this banded move as a warm up drill to activate and strengthen your hips. This is an excellent warm-up move before any activity because it excites the glute medius, hamstrings and hip joint which are a key player in explosive running and cycling.
How to: Place the band (I prefer the SlingShot Grippy ) around the thighs, above the knees. Come into a demi squat and maintain this position as you walk. Step your left foot out laterally and then your right foot. Continue moving left for 10-15 steps. Stand up and pause for a moment before dropping back into that squat and walking right 10-15 steps. Do this 2-3 times through.
Resist the urge to move quickly through this exercise and instead focus on form and quality of movement. This exercise is meant to improve hip and knee joint stability, so use the opportunity to improve movement efficiency and do not bulldoze your way thru it.
Lateral Lunge to Hip Abductor
Strengthen and tone your inner and outer thigh with this combo move. The lateral lunge and leg raise moves the body's center of gravity away from the midline and increase stability in the joints and improves balance through a different plane of movement. The hip abductor is also great for shredding outer thigh fat, as well as firming the booty.
Standing feet wider than hip distance, begin with a lateral lunge, squatting the hip backwards and bending the right knee while keeping the other leg straight. Engage the glutes to power off the ground with the right leg and balance on the left leg with the right leg raised as high as you can hold. Avoid bending at the hip here and keep the torso upright and in line with the standing leg. Softly land back into a lateral lunge on the right side and repeat before switching to the other side.
Take it Up a Notch: Adding an elastic resistance band that sits above the knees will create some extra time under tension for the muscles
Take it Down a Notch: Master each move separately and work on balance and stability
Sumo Squat Crunches
Tighten your inner thighs and lateral core with this body weight sumo squat move. In comparison to the regular squat, the sumo squat (also known as a plie squat) places more emphasis on the inner thigh adductors because of the foot position. Add in the balance challenge of fluctuating body alignment, the core will work extra hard to ensure coordination and that you don't rock back and forth on your heels.
How to: Stand with your feet about 3-4 feet apart and turn your toes out roughly 45 degrees. Lower your body by bending the knees and hips, while keep the core tight and back straight. Once your thighs are parallel to the ground, hold the sumo squat in a static position. Place both hands behind your head and maintaining an upright torso, lower your left elbow to your left thigh in a lateral crunch. Return to center and then alternate the right elbow to the right thigh for 10 reps on each side. Complete a total of 3-4 rounds.
Take it Down a Notch: Master the sumo squat without the side crunches by holding the posture statically for 30-60 sec
Put some agility into those curtsey lunges and you have yourself speed skaters. This challenging lateral exercise tones glute med, hamstrings, thighs and core.
How to: Standing with your right foot forward, step back into a curtsey lunge with your left foot back. Twist toward your forward foot with your opposite hand to touch the ground. Hop to your left foot by jumping off your right foot and lower your body to a curtsey lunge on the other side. Again, the opposite hand will touch the ground as you lower your body. Softly land back and forth into a curtsey lunge picking up speed and explosiveness as your proceed.
Take it Up a Notch: Adding light dumbbells into each hand
Take it Down a Notch: Start with a slower pace and step from side to side instead of jumping
Yes, you get to lay down!!! This move may not look like much to someone watching but it will light up your glute medius. Balance a muscular effort between the pelvic floor and the outer thigh to strengthen the piriformus helps to avoid overuse issues like sciatica.
How to: Place the band (I prefer the SlingShot Grippy ) just above the knees and lie on your side comfortably with your knees bend at a 45 degree angle. Stack the feet with one right on top of the other and lift the top knee open while still keeping the feet connected. Your lower body should look like an open clamshell. Hold for 1-3 seconds at the top and then return to start. Avoid letting the torso or hips rotate backwards as you open the top leg up and focus on squeezing the outside glute to lift. Do 10-15 reps on one side then switch to the other side..
Take it Up a Notch: Increase the time under tension by using a 3:1 tempo working the eccentric (downward motion)
Take it Down a Notch: Start without the band and focus on engaging the outside glute muscle
Bosu Lateral Shuffle and Squat
Do this cardio move for 30-60 seconds for 3-4 rounds and you'll get yourself in your fat burning zone quick. When done with proper form, the Bosu lateral shuffle will improve the flexibility and strength in your hip flexors. If the addition of the deep squat, you will strengthen the major muscles of your legs and hips as well.
How to: Stand with your feet a little wider than hip width apart, toes pointed forward and one foot elevated on the Bosu Balance Trainer. Bend your hips and knees, sit your butt back and take an athletic squat stance. The outside hand reaches for the top of the Bosu. From this position, take a lateral step with the outside foot to the top of the Bosu and the inside foot steps off the Bosu. Stay low in a squat position and switch the hand on top of the dome.
Take it Up a Notch: Place a medicine ball in your hands to add resistance and tap the ball on the floor as your squat on each side of the Bosu
Take it Down a Notch: Master the lateral shuffle on a stable surface like a small riser in an upright position without squatting on each side. Focus on balance and a new movement pattern.
BANDED SQUAT WALKS: 2-3 SETS/10-15 REPS
LATERAL LUNGE TO HIP ABDUCTOR: 3-4 SETS/10-15 REPS
SUMO SQUAT CRUNCHES: 3-4 SETS/10 REPS
SPEED SKATERS: 2-3 SETS/10-15 REPS
BOSU SQUAT & SHUFFLE: 2-3 SETS/10-15 REPS
Site: TRUE Training in Santa Monica, CA
Model: Tara Lyn Emerson, IG @wonderwomzen
Photography credit: Teresita Lorenzo, IG @tarasphotogallery