I have executed well over a thousand one-on-one training sessions with runners of all abilites. Seeing good and bad, it has become very evident to me that the number one culprit in biomechanical and gait disfunction, IT band issues, knee pain, and over all lack of run stability is a poor firing
glut meduis. This is your smaller glut muscle that is located to the side of your gluts. This is a very important muscle for runners because it helps your lateral stability when on one foot, running. This muscle tends to go dormant through time due to various reason. When this happens and the muscle is not being used very well, you will over work your hip flexors, low back, and place a lot of stress on the quad, which can lead to IT touble.
How many times have you ended a long run and your hip flexors are so worked? Or, have you noticed that you can stretch the heck out of your hip flexors, without much progress? This is because they are being over worked and stretching will not hold until you deal with the problem, poor glut medius activity.
Needless to say, this I feel is the most important muscle for running economy, effieciency, and long term run health. Now let me back up and say that it is my belief this all originates from a lack of foot strength, leading to excessive, unhealthy pronation, which keeps the knee unstable, ultimately not firing your glut medius. OK...that is a mouth full. But I think you get the idea, foot strength lays the foundation, but from my experience, most runners need to activate
the glut medius for proper running performance.
Here is a great way to do it.
Position a flex band around both knees, and then balance on one leg. From this position, perform 3/4 depth, one leg squats. Work up to doing 2-3 X 20-30 reps. These will burn and if you did not understand where your glut medius was before, you will after. To add a performance challenge, perform these on a BOSU, as demonstrated in the images below. These are great to do PRIOR to a run, activating your muscles before you head out.