Crab Walks - you’re probably doing them incorrectly!
If you’re a runner and you’ve been getting knee pain, then keep reading! This may be relevant for you. Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is a broad term used to describe pain in the front of the knee and around the kneecap. It is sometimes called “runner's knee” because it is common in people who participate in sports. However, it can occur in non-athletes, as well. The pain and stiffness it causes can make it difficult to climb stairs, kneel down, and perform other everyday activities. You might also find that your knee is sore when getting up from sitting at your desk for too long
As mentioned before, it is an umbrella term. This means that there are many biomechanical contributors. Often those with PFPS have reduced strength in their gluteus medius muscle (the muscle on the side of your hip) resulting in decreased stability in the hips. Stability in the hips is so important, especially when running. A great exercise to strengthen the glute medius is the banded crab walk. This is an exercise that you may already be doing yourself or see being done at the gym. Traditionally it has bene done by placing a theraband around the outside of your knees, squatting down and then side stepping.
However, a new study (Lewis et al., 2019) found that band placement around the feet generated the highest amount of gluteal activity without increasing TFL activity, when compared to band placement around the knee or ankles. The TFL is a small muscle that sits more towards the front of your hip. By having the band around your feet, your glutes have to work harder to keep your toes from pointing inwards. An overactive TFL can make it harder for the glutes to work efficiently.
So to correctly perform the exercise, place a small theraband around your feet, tuck your pelvis under and slightly bend your knees. Then side-step, ensuring that your knees don’t come inwards. Step 10 times in one direction and then 10 steps back in the opposite direction. Repeat this 3 times with a 1 minute rest in between sets. You’ll know you’re doing it right if you feel it in your bottom and not at the front of your hips.
Lewis C, Foley H, Lee T and Berry J (2019) Hip-Muscle Activity in Men and Women During Resisted Side Stepping With Different Band Positions. Journal of Athletic Training.
Click on the images below to expand.