For those familiar with the ‘Tan’ run in South Yarra you will certainly be aware of the Anderson Street Hill. A long incline that seems to go forever. However, one of the best legs of the run for fitness and we will go into why soon.
For those that haven’t ran the ‘Tan’ which is a 3.8km loop around the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, we highly recommend it. There is plenty of parking on the surrounding streets and lots of nice Cafe’s and restaurants to check out when you’re done!
Now, onto the benefits of hill runs. To be more specific we are going to mainly focus on a key functional benefit of hill runs, that is ‘glute extension’.
Pictured above is the Guteus Maximus, one of the three gluteal muscles. The Gluteus Maximus is the most powerful muscle in the body and the main muscle responsible for hip extension and hip hyper extension. Hip extension is when we are moving our leg back towards our body and hyper extension is when our leg goes behind our body. As you have probably figured out, when we are walking and running we are constantly flexing and extending our legs.
Left leg flexion, right leg hyperextension
If you have read our blog on sitting for long periods of time and how it can impact the glutes, you will already be aware that weak glutes can lead to issues with running and will definitely hold you back from peak performance and function.
In an ideal running position we would keep our pelvis in a neutral position as we extend our leg behind us and our gluteus would be the prime mover of the leg extension with other muscles such as the hamstrings helping out. However if we have muscle restrictions in muscles around the hips such as tight rectus femoris our pelvis is not in a neutral position when we run and we need to move our lumbar spine (lower spine) position and our pelvis also moves out of a neutral position. This can lead to lower back pain and other injury issues. However, that is a big topic and one for another day.
The beauty of hill runs is that it forces us to extend our leg more than we typically would running on a flat surface. It also forces the glutes to do more work than they would on a flat surface. In fact one study on a group of marathon runners engaging in hill runs found the glutes were 83% more active on just a 7% incline. As we are working against gravity, we need to produce more power from our legs and hence there are benefits to a number of muscles in your body. For more information on all of the benefits of hill running check out this article by BoxLife Magazine.
Not only do strong glutes help with better hip extension and hence more efficient movement. Strong glutes will often help to reduce and or prevent lower back pain that can be associated with running. As you may have read in our other articles if you feel like you have weak glutes make sure you are doing those activation exercises to improve the neural connection from your brain to your glutes.
As with everything, all things in balance, so there is no need to do it every day, just aim to incorporate it into your exercise program. We hope after reading this blog you are now thinking about hills in your area you can go and conquer and if you don’t have hills near you, the incline on the treadmill works as well. Thanks for reading and for more tips and advice on functional movement, check out www.functionalforlife.com.au
Warning: The training and instructional content contained on this website should be taken as information and not medical advice. Please consult your health professional before attempting these exercises.