Matt Phillips is a Running Injury Specialist & Video Gait Analyst at StrideUK & Studio57clinic in Sussex. You can follow Matt on Twitter: @sportinjurymatt
TARGET MUSCLES: Rectus femoris (lengthen) and Gluteus medius (strengthen)
SETS & REPS: 12 repetitions (each leg)
TEMPO: Slow and controlled
FREQUENCY: Morning mobility exercise and/or include in dynamic warm-up
For some runners, this ’tilting’ movement will not come easily as it requires a coordination of muscle recruitment that your body may not be familiar with. You may need to practice the movement lying down (tilting your pelvis so your lower back touches the floor) in order to engage the necessary muscles, and then try it again in a kneeling position.
Running propulsion relies on recruitment of the powerful muscles on the back of the leg, such as the glutes and hamstrings. For many runners, there is a tendency to favour the use of the muscles on the front of the legs, (i.e. the quadriceps), probably because they are naturally stronger and used more in other activities, like cycling, squat jumps and burpees. This may explain why some runners, particularly those who are just starting out, develop pain in the knees.
The ‘kneeling pelvic tilt’ can be a great exercise to relax the quadriceps and engage more with the posterior glutes. It can easily be done first thing in the morning and incorporated into a warm up (by adding them to a dynamic lunge). In contrast to the typical ‘pull your ankle up to your backside’ quad stretch, the kneeling tilt allows you lengthen the rectus femoris (the quad muscle that crosses the hip joint) without excessively arching the lower back. Result: more control and more engagement of the gluteus maximus (buttock) muscle.
Get down into a kneeling lunge position, front and back knees at 90 degrees. Make sure the back foot is up on tip toe (as seen above). Note how much tension you feel up the back leg, from the knee, up the thigh and across the hip. Chances are you will not feel much tension yet.
Put your thumb on the front of your pelvis and fingers on the back; now slowly tilt the pelvis upwards so that your thumb moves up and the fingers down. Make sure the rest of your body does not move. The front knee should stay at 90 degrees. This upward tilt will typically cause a stretch sensation up the back thigh and/or across the hip and a contraction in the gluteus maximus muscle. The degree of sensation will vary from runner to runner. Maintain the sensation for three seconds and then slowly lower back to your original position.
Back in your original position, how does your body feel now? The tension up the back thigh will have reduced, the buttock will be less contracted. Slowly repeat the upward tilt and feel these areas change.
Perform 12 repetitions in total then swap