Ask The PT: How to Activate Your Core and Hips – Level 2

Strengthen and balance key running muscles with these exercises. That is, after you’ve mastered Level 1.

I am somewhat surprised by the response I received from the Level 1 program, designed to combat the muscle weakness and imbalances that contribute to running injuries. Runners (of all ages), triathletes, and even coaches have emailed me wanting to know when Level 2 will be up. Well, wait no longer!

This workout program includes 9 activation and strengthening exercises. Be sure to read the detailed instructions and to watch the video to make sure you’re doing them right.

Ground rules are still the same and even more important as the exercises get more challenging. Here’s your refresher.

Hip and Core Muscle Activation Program: Level 2

Tip: For each exercise, activate your deepest abdominal muscle, the transversus abdominis, by lightly pulling your navel towards the spine without moving your pelvis.

What you need: Chair or bench

What you do: Repeat each exercise up to 20 times; eventually progress to doing 2 sets of each exercise. Complete the program everyday, or as frequently as you can.

For the first four bridge exercises, concentrate on these instructions.

  • Your feet should be directly under your knees.
  • Stay tucked in!!
  • Hips are always level – that’s the whole point! Keep your knees straight and ankles relaxed.
  • Focus on the butt squeeze while lifting.

1. BRIDGE

2. BRIDGE INTO STEPS

3. BRIDGE INTO LEG RAISE

4. BRIDGE INTO LEG RAISE AND LOWER

  • ADVANCED: Once you’ve mastered exercises 1 through 4, progress to placing your hands behind your head, instead of alongside your body. Without arm assistance, it’s way more difficult!

For the next two extension exercises:

  • Stay tucked in!
  • Only raise your leg to parallel with your body, NOT higher (or back will arch).

5. KNEELING LEG EXTENSION

6. KNEELING HIP EXTENSION

For the planks:

  • Your body should be in a straight line, with your shoulder blades against your ribs.
  • For side plank holds, bend your knees if it’s difficult at first.
  • Keep your body fully aligned: don’t bend at the waist, and keep your arm extended straight with your hand facing forward.
  • Hold for 30 seconds; progress as strength increases.

7. FRONT PLANK HOLD

8. SIDE PLANK HOLD

The final exercise is a precursor to a single leg dead lift, which you’ll do in Level 3. This is a step up from the “hip hinging” exercise in Level 1.

  • Remember to hinge at the hip, like a seesaw — with your knee straight on the lifting leg and without turning out your pelvis!

9. CHAIR- OR BENCH-ASSISTED LEG RAISE

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