Performance Mobility, Part 1: Introduction And Hip Mobility

Stay the Course

[Author’s Note: This is Part 1 in a five-part series on functional mobility self-assessment and restoration for runners. See also Part 2 on trunk rotational mobility, Part 3 on foot and ankle mobility, and Part 4 on knee mobility.]

Happy New Year! Here’s to another year of running far and–if we can help it–relatively fast.

Running itself seldom requires enhanced motivation or resolve. However, to consistently perform the ancillary tasks–stretching, strength, and other concepts we know can improve our running–is often as difficult as the toughest New Year’s resolutions out there.

What’s worse, it’s difficult for runners to know what exactly to do and why. Strength training is great, but there’s a lot of stuff out there. The same for stretching, although for most runners it tends to be even less enjoyable and may even come at a cost. A scientific-literature search of “stretching and running” yields a depressingly opaque palette of data. Some studies show benefit while others show outright detriment via loss of speed, power, and tendency toward more injury! (The nerve!) Thus, more often than not, the individual runner’s consensus is ‘the null approach.’ That is, do nothing and hope for the best.

However, before swearing off stretching forever, allow me to present a new concept, something I call performance mobility. Simply, what mobility do we each need to run in a consistently strong and efficient way? And then, how do we best (with unlimited wants and limited resources) develop and maintain it?

“Stretch What You Need To:” Performance Mobility Defined

Ask any successful veteran runner about the key to sustainability, and what they’ll tell you (explicitly with words, or implicitly with results) is consistency: doing the same thing (in a philosophical sense), day to day and year to year. Consistency breeds fluidity, more output for less effort, and sustained momentum–the axioms of endurance success. Implicit with consistency isn’t just X miles at Y pace Z times a week. It is also how you run: how the body moves, arms and legs, hips and shoulders, one foot in front of the other. Consistent performers have consistent body language.

Consistency is king and so, therefore, is consistent mobility.

As a medical professional, runners constantly ask, “What should I stretch?” Here has been the evolution of my answer over the years:

  • Early years: “I don’t know!” This was based on the equivocal, confounding literature on stretching.
  • Middle years: “Stretch what you need to stretch!” Only half tongue in cheek, this notion was based on treating individual runners: through clinical experience, determining mobility needs for specific running issues. In doing this work, consistent patterns began to emerge.
  • Today: “How are your ‘mobility metrics?’”

‘Mobility metrics’ are self-assessment tools for determining if we have the mobility necessary to run efficiently. They cover body systems that, like running, are whole body:

  • Feet and ankles
  • Knees
  • Hips
  • Spine
  • Shoulders

For each body group, there is a running-specific mobility test. In performing each metric, runners should ask themselves:

  • Do I have full mobility?
  • Is the mobility equal on both sides of my body?

These measures of performance mobility represent my best estimate of the foundational mobility required for high-efficiency, peak-performance running. From there, what happens next is simple. Got the mobility? You’re good to go. Coming up short? Get to work! Suddenly, stretching is no longer a burdensome chore. Instead, it’s as important to training and racing as putting on running shoes. Moreover, deficits of performance mobility will be instructive: range-of-motion loss is often a sign of stride inefficiency, especially when mobility loss is asymmetrical.

In 2017, we will outline five mobility metrics: what they are, what they mean to your running (why they are vital for peak performance and problem prevention), and how to maximize and maintain them. In doing so, our goal is to help you develop performance mobility as an important tool for efficient, joyful, and sustainable running.

[Author’s Note: This article is Part 1 of this five-part series on performance mobility. Part 2 and Part 3 have now also been published.]

The Hip-Mobility Metric

The hips are everything in running–the true powertrain of the stride. How well our hips move can provide the best information on stride integrity. If the hips lose motion (and, in turn, strength), overuse injuries can quickly occur, above or below. As such, having full and equal hip motion is crucial for both top speed and injury prevention.

Details: Lie flat on the floor, hug your knee to your chest/armpit.

Goals:

  • Be able to touch thigh to ribcage
  • Opposite (straight) leg should stay complete flat (and slightly lateral)

Common Deficits:

  • Inability of thigh to touch ribs (hip/pelvic flexion loss)
  • Straight leg either flexes or adducts (‘drags in’)

Implications:

Range-of-motion loss at the hip causes relative overuse above and below. But what is worse is when one half of the pattern–one leg flexed and the other flat–is significantly stiffer than the other. This sort of asymmetry is the primary driver of most lower-leg (knee, shin, ankle, foot) injuries, as well as chronic low-back and pelvic pain.

Single Knee Chest

Joe Uhan performs the single-knee-to-chest test for hip mobility.

Restorative Mobility Exercises for the Hip

If you self-assessed and found some stiffness, it’s time to fix it! Below are some stretches to improve your hip mobility.

Upward-Facing Dog and Child’s Poses

To enact these borrowed poses from yoga, first press up and gently drag your body forward into Upward-Facing Dog Pose. Then carefully shift back on your knees and bow into Child’s Pose. These actions provide a stretch to elements of the spine, pelvis, and hips. Perform 5 to 10 times, as needed.

Upward Dog - Side

Upward-Facing Dog Pose.

Child's Pose - Side

Child’s Pose.

Runner’s Lunge

This stretch should be in every runner’s playbook. All it takes is a chair, a couple stairs, a bench, rock, tree stump… you get it. Place a foot onto such object, then drop your hands to the inside of your front knee. Then carefully place your trailing (straight) leg behind, and laterally. Your trail foot should point straight ahead. This is a key hip-flexor muscle and pelvic-joint stretch. Perform 3 to 5 repetitions of 10- to 30-second holds, per side.

Split Hip - Side

Runner’s Lunge viewed from the side.

Runner's Lunge - Rear

Runner’s Lunge viewed from the rear.

Side Lunge

This stretch helps free up the hips from the side. Assume a wide stance, then gently straighten one leg. Apply a gentle force to the straight leg with your hand on top of the thigh to feel a stretch in the straight-leg groin. This helps stretch the adductors, and elements of the hip and pelvis. Perform 3 to 5 repetitions of 5- to 30-second holds, per side.

Side Lunge - Side

Side Lunge.

Single-Knee-to-Chest Stretch

I put this one last for a reason: it will be easier after performing the previous three stretches. Using both hands, flex your knee toward your armpit. To enhance mobility, perform a “contract-relax” action by pushing away with the knee, resisting with the arms, for three seconds, then relaxing and “taking up the slack”, closer to the ribs. Perform 5-10 contract-relax stretches per side.

In subsequent columns we will outline the other mobility metrics, but the hips are where it all begins. Get them moving to kick start your new year of running!

Single Knee Chest - Top

The Single-Knee-to-Chest Stretch viewed from the top.

Single Knee Chest - Side

The Single-Knee-to-Chest Stretch viewed from the side.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Did you pass Joe’s test for hip mobility on both sides of your body?
  • What kind of flexibility training or stretching do you engage in, if any? Do you find that it helps you in specific ways? If so, can you describe them?
Joe Uhan

is a physical therapist, coach, and ultrarunner in Eugene, Oregon. He is a Minnesota native and has been a competitive runner for over 20 years. He has a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology, a Doctorate in Physical Therapy, and is a USATF Level II Certified Coach. Joe ran his first ultra at Autumn Leaves 50 Mile in October 2010, was 4th place at the 2015 USATF 100K Trail Championships (and 3rd in 2012), second at the 2014 Waldo 100K, and finished M9 at the 2012 Western States 100. Joe owns and operates Uhan Performance Physiotherapy in Eugene, Oregon, and offers online coaching and running analysis at uhanperformance.com.

There are 48 comments

    1. Joe Uhan

      PRE-run, for sure. The moving parts must move properly prior to running.

      Again, this is a difference between *joint* mobility — where joint segments MUST move properly for optimal function — versus *muscle mobility*, where there’s a fine balance between healthy stiffness (and power) and pathological range of motion loss.

  1. Theo Battaglia

    Hi Joe!
    I am a big fan of your column, unfortunately became even more of a fan now that I really need your insight. I’m having problems with my hip, specifically the left side psoas (proffesionally diagnosed), since early december. As I can’t run pain free since, I halted running for a while. Since I also swim and bike, I am focusing on these sports and on streching and strength training for the psoas. As I have not identified any strength issues in this muscle (can easily perform the Ice Skater and other psoas specific strength workouts) do you think the pain can be caused by overstretching? Or should I halt swimming and biking for a while?
    Thanks!

    1. Joe Uhan

      Hi, Theo-

      Sorry to hear about your hip pain.

      The psoas area is really complicated: it’s a muscle that originates on the lumbar spine (if not the bulk of the thorax as well) and can become dysfunctional as a result of a spinal issue. Additionally, it sits on the inside of the abdominal cavity, so even visceral issues (old injuries, scars, surgeries) can create issues with the psoas.

      I’d have to evaluate you in-person to give any opinion at all, but I would be VERY interested in the mobility and function of your spine and pelvis, and while this stretch can impact that, you might need additional evaluation/treatment to these areas in order to improve.

      I like these folks:

      http://www.naiomt.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=page.viewPage&pageID=770
      http://www.instituteofphysicalart.com/index.php/ipa/world/view/

      Good luck, -Joe

      1. Theo Battaglia

        Thanks for the resources Joe, but I’m writing from Brazil, so regarding pt I will have to find a local solution… lolol.
        Are there any test I can take to self evaluate spinal and pelvic mobility and function?
        Thanks again!

    1. Joe Uhan

      Nope.

      “Practice dictates theory, more than theory dictates practice.” ~ Nassim Nicholas Taleb (“Antifraglie” — http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/)

      “A push-off problem on one leg creates landing stress on the other” ~ Joe Uhan, as an adjunct to Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

      That said, you might find some peer-reviewed works that show a relationship between knee pain and hip extension mobility (published by my former boss, Sean Roach, PT). Feel free to Google Scholar “hip mobility” and any sort of joint pain and report back: I’m sure those results would be worth sharing.

  2. Paul

    I’ve been intuitively doing some of these stretches for ages. They just feel good. The runner’s lunge I do a few times a day when the opportunity presents itself. Knee to chest I like to do in bed while falling asleep. No idea if these times are optimal. I go by the adage that the best time for an exercise is the time that you will do it.

    I doubt there are papers showing efficacy. What is efficacy in this context – faster race times? Fewer injuries? More flexibility? More enjoyment? This type of thing is not easy to study scientifically.

    1. Nelson

      Efficacy would be an increased range of motion at the joint (in this case, the hip).

      A good book on the subject is Jay Dicharry’s Anatomy for Runners.

      1. Joe Uhan

        I’ve seen Mr Dicharry’s book on running anatomy and it wasn’t particularly useful. Like most, he identifies the what and how of every relevant joint motion…yet, like most texts and sources, fails to create any correlation between WHAT to stretch and WHY (how that particular mobility relates – directly or indirectly – to running issues).

        The best I’ve seen is Michael Yessis’ “Explosive Running”, which covers some mobility, but a lot of helpful strength measures and exercises!

        1. Nelson

          Thanks for the book recommendation! I’ll be sure to check it out.

          In fairness to Dicharry, though, there’s a whole section in his book where he describes tests the reader can perform to chech the mobility of each relevant joint (relevant to running, that is), the issues decreased mobility can lead to, and provides exercises to improve mobility or stability in that area. Then another section full of corrective exercises to improve soft tissue mobility, stability, and strength.

          Not unlike this article. Which is great, btw. Keep them coming! Regards.

        2. Michael Hall

          I would echo the thanks on the book recommendation as well as the defense of Dicharry’s book. He certainly seemed to very clearly spell out the “what” as hip flexor mobility and the “why” as it relates to impeding (optimal) gait mechanics. That said, I was left wanting for add’l ways to improve hip mobility and this post does a nice job of complementing his recommendations and enhancing my hip flexor mobility toolbox.

          My question is around the duration of the stretch. What is your view on the importance of holding stretches 3-5 minutes over 10-12 week period to truly lengthen the tissue?

          Thanks for the help!

          1. Joe Uhan

            My question your is, why? Forgive my ignorance (and there’s plenty of it), but why are you wanting to “lengthen tissue”?

            In Part 2 next month, we’ll talk in more depth about what, exactly, we’re trying to stretch in “Performance Mobility” — and on the whole, it’s less about soft tissue (muscle-tendon) length than the ability of one bone to move on another (joint).

            Given that, unless you have a pathological tissue contracture (usually secondary to a traumatic injury or disease process), I don’t know why it would be useful (and not detrimental) to do long-hold stretches to “lengthen tissue”.

            1. Joe Uhan

              Additionally, it’s worth noting that the studies showing *negative* performance outcomes from stretching, are those involving increasing tissue length (e.g. making a muscle longer). The findings: longer tissue = weaker tissue.

    2. Joe Uhan

      The efficacy would link, in particular:

      1. Hip extension active/passive range to any sort of impact/landing injury (plantar, achilles, shin, ankle, ITB, for starters)

      2. Hip *separation* (the maximum angle of hip extension of the push-off leg + the forward-driving leg) magnitude versus incidence/severity of impact/landing injury (with velocity controlled).

  3. Doug K

    all of these exercises have been part of my maintenance since a low back problem with a bulging L5/S1 disc in 2005. Physical therapy including these exercises has kept the pain at bay – they certainly have been effective. Back pain returns after neglect of the exercises..
    Typically can manage with once a week for long periods, occasionally will need to do 2-3 times a week.

    1. Joe Uhan

      Thanks for sharing, Doug.

      Another quote: “The best exercise is Living Well” ~ Joe Uhan

      On one hand, during heavy training, there is a tendency to stiffen. That said, if we’re **moving efficiently** during our day (running and non-running) seldom is much exercise necessary.

      There are two bits of feedback for Performance Mobility, if you’re deficient:

      1. Time to fix it
      2. Why?

      So my questions to you is, what are you doing, day-to-day, that’s re-stiffening your hips? Unless you’re >60 with imaging-confirmed arthritis, it is likely you’re doing things (or not) during your day to stiffen your hips and back, related to:

      – sitting (to much, or poorly)
      – walking (stiff, failing to extend the hip or forward-lean)
      – running (over-striding: landing in front of your body; failing to fully extend your hip)

      On the walking front, here is a great article on walking efficiency that I’ve used probably a hundred times over the past two years. Really nice pictures on how all of us should walk (and run!)

      https://www.ultrarunning.com/featured/how-to-increase-your-walking-efficiency/

  4. AJW

    Great stuff OOJ and all of these have been part of my life since my hip surgery back in September 2015 and likely will be for the rest of my life. Great to have the column back for another year!

    1. Joe Uhan

      Thanks, Andy! Same to you.

      Let’s hope “The Bosses” keep me around, given the late deadlines and “mysteriously not-sent drafts”! :-p

      Writing this column has been a great opportunity to test my theories and ideas, and help folks with many of the same issues. with which I’ve struggled.

      1. AJW

        Yeah, the bosses can be tough to deal with. But we both know there’s really only one boss and if you keep her happy you’re good.

        And, I hear you on the deadlines thing…Thursdays in my house are pretty rough:)

        Hope to #seeyouinsquaw if not before

  5. J james

    Articles like this are problematic because they are not scientific. Where is the data? Advice like this needs to be quantitatively proven or else it is anecdotal. Show me even a qualitative (analytical and theoretical) hypothetical rationale and I might consider this. Frankly the dismissive tone towards data in the beginning gives this article an anti-intellectual tone.

    Responsible medical advice reviews the literature or provides new insights using reliable, controlled data based on the scientific method.

    Just as an example, I don’t have full mobility all the time, but I almost always do after I run. I have learned from experience that mobility is not an indication of serious injury.

    1. betscharts

      Elections like the US-elections are problematic because they are not scientific. Where is the data? … He man, live and running is mainly try and error, not about data. If you try these excercises and they work for you, that is fine. If they do not work for you, just forget abou it. Why getting angry? Are you hungry? ;-)

    2. Adam

      I disagree that Joe’s article is irresponsible without an attached literature review. I’m not sure that is the nature of this article or this site. Readers interested in supportive evidence could use this article a jump-off point to perform their own Google or PubMe search.
      Demanding evidence for any and all types of advice is not realistic. Medicine is full of advice and treatments that are not rigorous studied – especially in rehabilitation. This should not automatically disqualify this type of advice. Researchers are tackling bigger questions than whether or not the hip flexors are put on stretch when the hip joint is extended.
      Additionally, Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) has it’s own biases that limit it’s reach and is littered with a history of “studied” advice that ranges from poor to disasterous. How many of us remember using margarine instead of butter because EBM told us fats were bad? They were half right – trans-fats are bad and margarine is full of them. A more deadly example would be the initial hormone replacement therapy advice given to women that lead to increased incidence of cancer, heart disease, and stroke. It took over a decade to fix this advice and many women’s lives were shortened. Overall the goals of EBM are noble and in the long run should produce excellent outcomes. But that process is an evolution of evidence and blindly following or demanding evidence is no guarantee of a good outcome. Ultimately it is up to the user/patient to decide if the risk outweighs the reward.
      For another fun example of the limits of evidence check out this “research” article:
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26769034

    3. Joe Uhan

      Well, shoot, I should’ve saved the “Practice dictates theory” for Mr James!

      I strongly recommend you read Taleb’s book, “Anti-fragile”, which, in part, talks about where predictive rules and theories come from. Conversely, it also covers the folly (and various biases) of medical research. But most – and best of all – he talks about the power of “Tinkering”.

      The evidence is in treating roughly five hundred different runners, in person, and another 50+ remotely. And like any other theory, it is formed, adjusted and optimized based on repetitive application.

      That, by definition, is science; not simply numbers in a journal — which are great, but due to the vagaries of statistics — very often fail to grasp the big picture.

      1. Joe Uhan

        I will add two things:

        1. This metric is based on the Modified Thomas Test, which is a research-substantiated test of hip mobility: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=%22modified+thomas+test%22&btnG=&as_sdt=1%2C38&as_sdtp=

        2. I’d welcome open discourse on the merits – or fallacy – of these metrics: that sort of discussion, too, is part of the scientific process.

        But to dismiss these concepts because they’re unpublished is not a valid argument for “not scientific”.

        1. J James

          Thanks all for the replies.

          I appreciate the critical feedback and I can see it is not as black and white as I initially insisted.

          The additional nuance and information is also interesting.

          I will say that EBM is wrong so often because it is actually science and statistics done wrong. Read “Bad Science” by Goldacre. There is no good reason to be distrustful of quantifiably supported treatment methods per se.

          Although I do recall a study where they wanted to gauge whether intra-muscular stimulation was effective and the cohort was so small by the end (due to dropout rate due to how painful it was) they couldn’t draw any significant conclusions – and I swear by IMS.

          1. Pete

            J

            Also read “Bad Pharma” by Goldacre – it explains why EBM fails. Negative studies (those that fail to prove a treatments’ efficacy) often remain unpublished and so cannot be included in any further meta-study, thus skewing any EBM evidence.

            The best test I can see for the treatment in this article is to try it as an experiment of one – I’ve never felt worse for a light stretch.

            1. Joe Uhan

              Good point! Light consumers of published studies often fail to recognize that while there might be “X number” of studies published…there may be “10 or 100x” of research that goes unpublished, because the findings don’t jibe with the beliefs of the researcher, the publication…or the financial backers.

              Perhaps the most important part of a study is to sift through and read who funded it, or the principals.

              Lastly: “Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Absence”.

  6. Luke

    Ultra-running as a whole is chock full of anecdotal evidence. It’s rare to see something beyond n=1 experiments, if that – there’s a robust body of ‘I’m not a doctor, coach or PT and haven’t really tried alternatives but here’s what I think makes sense’ too. It’s true that if Joe comes here and tells us he’s personally helped dozens of people recover from injury and enjoy longer careers of running with improved economy by improving mobility, that’s still anecdotal, but it’s something I’d find worth reading and paying attention to. Efficacy studies etc improve advice like this for sure, but well-reasoned arguments with underlying basis in human physiology and kinesiology supported with anecdotal evidence is surely advancing the discussion in the right direction!

    1. Joe Uhan

      Thanks, Luke-

      And I might add, I use another rule to help guide my treatment in runners:

      “If it’s good for Everyone Else, it’s good for runners”

      Therefore, the techniques that help my retiree/septagenarians walk better, decrease back pain, and improve functional strength…also tend to be those that affect optimal running. Likewise, what is good for swimmers, sprinters, shot-putter, and martial artists is, interestingly-but-not-surprisingly, good for runners.

      Thus, the total N of subjects that have gone into such theories numbers more like 5000-7500.

      We’re all humans, and tend to respond, in kind.

  7. Andy DuBois

    Do these static type tests accurately reflect dynamic range of movement in running ?

    Does a limited passive rage of movement affect dynamic range of movement ?

    Does static stretching affect dynamic range of movement ?

    My understanding is no , possibly not and probably not

    It seems you are still in the camp of static stretching helps ?

    Interested to know why other than it works for people I have treated

    1. Joe Uhan

      Andy-

      1.) It’s the best passive stretch we’ve got. There are some active ones that can be done (by a skilled professional on an athlete), but active ROM self-assessment are tricky

      2.) YES. If you can’t move, you can’t Move.

      3.) …but not necessarily the other way around. You might have passive motion, but the muscle (and more importantly, the brain) needs to know how/have the strength to move through that range (and then, with endurance).

      4.) Only for these “foundational mobilities”. As I said above, in Part 2 (next month) I’ll differentiate between types of tissue mobility. Spoiler: muscle-tendon length is far less important than the ability of one bone to move on another (joint).

      Here’s a fun analogy: You’re trying to close a door, but it’s stuck — or very difficult to push closed (or pull open). In our analogy:

      Door: bone
      Hinges on door: joint (cartilage, ligaments, joint capsule, fluid)
      You: muscle (moving the door)

      **If the hinge is rusty***

      Who’s dysfunction is it? The pusher/puller (the muscle?) or the hinge (joint)?

      Performance mobility aims at making sure those hinges are well lubricated. :-)

      1. Andy DuBois

        Thanks for the reply Joe – my understanding is that passive and dynamic range of motion is different – i.e. you can have more dynamic and less passive. A good example is quads when running fast – a passive quads stretch can show up less range of movement than exhibited when running fast and heel kicking the bum.

        As you know its not really about the muscular tendon length – its about the control we have over that .

        Have to disagree that static stretches can have much impact on dynamic range of movement though – as you say – you might have the passive range of movement but without the strength to control it your brain isn’t going to use it , therefore need to train the range of movement actively for it to transfer to dynamic movement

        Just havent seen enough evidence that static stretching has many benefits in dynamic movement and plenty to the contrary

        Assessing dynamic range is certainly more complex but dynamic stretching is not that complex and I think that is where we are heading , ditching the list of passive stretches that many PT’s hand out and moving towards customised dynamic stretches that utilise three planes of movement

        Just my 2 cents worth

  8. sam bosworth

    Most of the power we use running is generated from spinal rotation The best way to prevent hip pain/tight hips is to disengage the glutes (and pretty much the legs in general) so the power and direction of the spine can get to the legs unhindered. If you stop using the glutes to run/impede the spine, you won’t have any hip mobility issues.

    1. Joe Uhan

      Sam,

      That’s certainly an interesting idea. On my reading list (for too long) is “The Spinal Engine”, by Serge Gracovetsky, who (I believe) exposes this notion.

      However, while spinal mobility (and with it, coordinated pelvic and scapular mobility) is crucial, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone to agree with your “glute disengagement” argument (the least of which would be Chris Powers (http://scienceofrunning.net/?page_id=47) who I think “gets it” the most about running mechanics in the big-time physio research world.

      That said, I’d love to hear more about that, or why any of this material is otherwise wrong. One of my favorite quotes:

      Great Science is about folks like us with “bold ideas, but [who are] highly critical of their own ideas: they try to find whether their ideas are right by trying first to find whether they are not perhaps wrong. They work with bold conjectures and severe attempts at refuting their own conjectures.”

      I guess that’s what I’ve been doing for 8 eight years, and counting…

      1. sam bosworth

        Joe
        My approach has been developed through 50 plus ultras, lots of yoga, lots of personal training and lots of figure drawing. It is my opinion that when the glutes are engaged they impair the pelvis/hips from utilizing the counter rotations of the spine’s vertebrae. Running is essentially a vertical crawl with some balance- if ya watch a baby crawl those legs just kinda follow. I used to get really nasty piroformis pain engaging my glutes to run, particularly hard tempo runs. I theorize this is because 1) having a muscle (glute)enagaged at or near the point of impact would jar and potentially “tweak” the various glute muscles. And 2) those stringy little external rotator tendons are quick to get inflammed to the point they hit that delightful sciatic nerve hanging out back there. My experience has been the more I relax my glutes, focus on excentuating/utilizing my spine’s rotation (it has a lot of power-it’s twisting four directions at once) with a precise arm swing the faster and easier I can hit those tempo runs. And I have zero glute pain now. And it does seem logical that the spinal and CNS knows where it wants to set the legs without some butt muscles help. Hahaha I love this stuff I’m working on a thesis/book now:)

  9. Pete Colagiuri

    Joe, there’s a (very) big difference between using experience in the absence of research support and ignoring research evidence to the contrary. And repeating a quote on practice dictating theory (complete with reference for the quote, which I found ironic) doesn’t somehow rank experience over research evidence.

    Advocating static stretching to improve mobility was a clinical concept from three decades ago, proven to be incorrect by a large volume of research over the past 15 years. Using static stretches to reduce injury risk has also been discounted by research, in large well-designed and repeatable studies. And before it’s suggested that we can advocate for it as there’s no harm in it, pre-exercise static stretching has been linked to decreases in running economy and performance.

    Your comments on hip mobility as a key player in running and using some self-testing to monitor mobility are great, and this article should help improve the collective awareness of the issue. But when it comes to solutions, the info is outdated and contradicted by research as well as current clinical teaching.

    References include:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25933060
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10694106
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26929476
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19918196
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23588487

    1. Romanair

      “Advocating static stretching to improve mobility was a clinical concept from three decades ago”
      Your really argue static stratching does not improve mobility?
      I think Joe talks more about a healthy mobility and the need to do something if thats not the case.
      “Using static stretches to reduce injury risk has also been discounted by research”
      If you only refer to lowering the inury risk by static stratching as a pre-exercise intervention (as you solely refer to in your references), I agree.
      Finally, as bad research has been discussed priorily, reference 3 is an example I wouldn’t cite. They got less than 8 subjects per group and include both limbs in the statistical analysis (!inter-correlation https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16391248)

      1. Joe Uhan

        The big problem with most of these studies is they’re imparting a stretch input to large groups of people that “don’t need it” — they don’t have clinical range of motion losses.

        On the whole, many aging and sub-elite ultra-trail runners (read, like: 90% of iRF’s readership and the sport, on the whole) suffer from a clinical degree of range of motion loss. And these Metrics are designed to help each runner self-assess and correct, as needed.

        Conversely, these Metrics are designed to PREVENT any stretching detriment: “if it ain’t stiff, don’t stretch it!”

    2. Joe Uhan

      Hey, Pete-

      Thanks for the comment. I really do appreciate the discourse, but allow me to shoot down all of these articles in about 18 seconds:

      1. Yes, I agree dynamic STRETCHING is good, and arguably better than static, this article about fit, high-school soccer players has zero application to 40-60 year old male ultrarunners who sit at desks all day. They also failed to screen and identify if any individual subject actually had stiffness — the whole point of this Metric.
      2. “ONE” 20 second stretch? One? One. Again, I am a fan of dynamic — and if you read the details of my recommendations, nearly ALL my stretch recommnedations have a dynamic (on/off, contract/relax) element. But again, ONE stretch. Also…no stratification to screen if any recruit had any pathological ROM loss to begin with — the whole point of my metric.
      3. “Hamstring flexibility” is very dicey: a straight leg raise is a pain-provocation test for sciatica, so what’s being stretched? (You’ll soon note there is no metric – and to me thus far – no meaning to – hamstring = sciatic nerve flexibilty). The Hip Metric measures and promotes hip, pelvic and sacral mobility, which is important in running efficiency and injury prevention. Again…most of the restorative exercises have dynamic components, but in stretching *joint tissue*, often higher force, slower stretches are preferred — not simply doing PNF or traction-mobility stretches.
      4. Control = “16 minutes of quiet sitting”, so meditation? the Central Governor model would say any hard work, compared to rest, would cause a performance detriment. A better control would’ve been “sham stretching”. But again, I’m not advocating static stretching…I’m advocating having foundational joint range of motion.
      5. Same argument: painful stuff right before a race = less available resources. Additionally, stretching soft tissue DOES decrease power, and I’m not advocating soft tissue mobility…unless it’s responsible for joint mobility ROM loss.

      …OK that took more than 18 seconds. The take-home:

      1. I agree that static muscle-tendon stretching is detrimental, but
      2. Performance Mobility is more about having founational *joint* mobility, which A.) I failed to fully explain in this post and B.) will be covered next month.

      :-)

  10. Alex G

    Joe, thank you for the article! I was wondering if you’ve ever worked with someone with a hip impingement, and how it’s affected them as a runner. After a year or so of general chaos in my pelvic region (sports hernia, groin strain, stress fracture), I learned that I have a cam impingement on my left side that limits mobility, which led to all kinds of compensations and muscular imbalances (and thus, injuries). By doing some strengthening/mobility work, I’ve been able to run healthy for the last couple of months, but at very low daily mileage, and I fear I may never get back to my long runs and racing ultras. Is there hope for those of us with wonky hip joints?

    1. Joe Uhan

      The interesting thing about “hip impingment” is that it was basically unheard of until about 30 years ago. So, did it just “invent itself”? Is there some mutation causing big femoral heads or big acetabulums?

      This is what I think is the cause of impingment:

      http://www.irunfar.com/2016/04/if-you-cant-do-this-exercise-you-will-get-hurt-hip-stability-and-alignment-for-trail-runners.html

      Consider how the ball of the femur sits in the pelvic socket. Then try to run a few thousand miles with an imbalance (like mine) = ripe for impingment.

      Why I think they’re more prevalent and more diagnosed than ever is that sitting makes it worse — if the hip can’t extend:

      A.) less room in the joint to move in the right direction
      B.) more opportunity for stride inefficiency and imbalance-inducing stress.

      My advice: make sure you’re not imbalanced. It can be difficult to detect, but once you know…you’ll find you do it all the time.

      Lastly: it’s not your hip’s fault…it’s probably yours:

      1. Make no excuses
      2. Blame no one [including “bad anatomy]
      3. Do Something!

      http://www.oregonlive.com/ducks/index.ssf/2016/12/watch_willie_taggart_says_his.html

      Good luck, and Go Ducks,
      -Joe

  11. Justus Stull

    Joe,

    Thanks for some straight forward and direct info. I have read a lot of books and googled all over the internet and have found nothing simple enough to implement which made sense to me until this. It is obvious to me that I have mobility issues especially in my hips but it was not too obvious about what to do about it until now.

    Keep the great content coming!
    Justus

  12. Jurjen

    Hi Joe,

    First of All, thanks for starting up this serie. Looking forward to the calves and ankle edition.

    Regarding the hip mobility the yoga pigeon pose helps me alot in improving my hip mobility. What is your opinion?

    Regards,

    Jurjen

Post Your Thoughts