Hip muscle loads during running at various step rates

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2014 Oct;44(10):766-74, A1-4. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2014.5575. Epub 2014 Aug 25.


Study design: Controlled laboratory study, cross-sectional. Objectives To characterize hip muscle forces and powers during running, and to determine how these quantities change when altering step rate for a given running speed.

Background: Hip musculature has been implicated in a variety of running-related injuries and, as such, is often the target of rehabilitation interventions, including resistance exercises and gait retraining. The differential contributions of the hip muscles to the task of running are not well understood, and may be important for recognizing the biomechanical mechanisms of running-related injuries and refining current treatment and prevention strategies.

Methods: Thirty healthy participants ran at their preferred speed at 3 different step rates: 90%, 100%, and 110% of their preferred step rate. Whole-body kinematics and ground reaction forces were recorded. A 3-D musculoskeletal model was used to estimate muscle forces needed to produce the measured joint accelerations. Forces and powers of each muscle were compared across step-rate conditions.

Results: Peak force produced by the gluteus medius during running was substantially greater than that of any other hip muscle, with the majority of muscles displaying a period of negative work immediately preceding positive work. The higher running step rate led to an increase in hip flexor, hamstring, and hip extensor loading during swing, but, conversely, substantially diminished peak force and work during loading response for several hip muscles, including the gluteal muscles and piriformis.

Conclusion: Increasing running step rate for a given running speed heightened hamstring and gluteal muscle loading in late swing, while decreasing stance-phase loading in the gluteal muscles and piriformis. These results may enable clinicians to support and refine current treatment strategies, including exercise prescription and gait retraining for running-related injuries.

Keywords: gait retraining; hip injury; modeling; running injury; step rate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration
  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Hip / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / physiology
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Running / injuries
  • Running / physiology*