During my time as an endurance athlete--training for marathons, an ultra-marathon and Ironman--I've been completely injury-free (minus my freak cycling accident that wasn't my fault). I train six days a week for 11 months of the year and have another month that is light training/ full of rest. I credit my success not only to a smart, slowly-building training plan, but also to an ongoing strengthening routine for my core and hips.
As a Personal Trainer and Pilates instructor, I've also successfully used these hip strengthening exercises (below) or something similar with many different populations--other athletes, pre and post-natal women, individuals with limited ability to perform leg exercises that involve flexion/extension of the knees, etc. In all cases, including my own, I've witnessed great results. By performing hip strengthening exercises, my clients and I have achieved better balance, less fatigue over long distances, an easier time performing everyday activities, more stability of the pelvis (which means more balance in the body overall=less injury). Don't believe me? Try them and you be the judge.
Or watch on YouTube: http://youtu.be/pL8FSUbr3NA
Hip Strengthening Series = 4 parts (watch video explanation first):
-Come onto your side and stack the legs on top of one another. You should be making a straight line with your body and both hips bones should be parallel (not opened up toward the ceiling).
-Your head can rest on the bottom arm or you can be on your forearm for more work in the upper body. You can rest the hand on the floor for more balance or on your hip for less.
-Lift and hold the top leg (feet are pointed or flexed) ~30 seconds or until you feel the muscles (gluteus medius mainly) start to work.
Part 2-Perform foot taps in front of the base leg and behind the base leg without shifting through the hips.
-To make it harder don't actually tap the foot but hover it right above the floor.
-Perform ~20 taps OR one set of 20 taps and one set of 20 hovers.
-Keep the top leg at hip height and flex both feet.
-Take the top leg from hip height and pulse a few inches higher then bring the leg back down to hip height. Perform ~20 reps or until you feel a little bit of a burn.
-Keep the top leg at hip height once more and make a bicycling-type motion with the leg.
-Minimize any rock in the pelvis as you move the leg. The smaller the motion, the easier it is to control.
-Perform ~10-20 reps both forward and backwards.
Then for phase two of my workout today, I had this face (my husband and training partner--Chris Dwyer) alongside of me while I logged a vertical mile on the stair stepper. Partner workouts are always better!