Healthy Hips, Mobile Life…
By: Shannon Uppington DOMP, NSCA-CPT
I think Shakira was on to something when she sang “Hips Don’t Lie.” The hips are one of the most important joints in the body and strong but flexible hips are a good indicator of overall health and mobility. Tight and restricted hips can lead to pain throughout the entire body and can cause great discomfort during everyday activities.
The hips allow us to walk, run, squat, jump and essentially move. They carry the weight of almost the entire body and form the important connection between our torso and the ground. The hip is a ball-and-socket joint, meaning it moves in many directions. Although the hip is meant to be very mobile, it is the second most mobile joint in the body next to the shoulder, it is very strong and is supported by many muscles and ligaments. Hip injuries can come in many forms, but nonetheless, they can be very debilitating and poor hip health can have a negative impact on one’s quality of life. Issues with the hip can also cause knee injuries, foot problems, back pain and other pelvic issues. Today, we will take a look at the anatomy of the hip, exercises to strengthen the hip muscles and stretches to improve hip flexibility and mobility.
As mentioned above, the hip is a ball-and-socket joint. It is formed where the head (ball) of the femur (thigh bone) meets the acetabulum (socket) of the pelvis. This area is outlined by hyaline cartilage which prevents the bones from rubbing against each other and allows the joint to move smoothly. Many of the hip muscles also originate or insert in this area. Below, you will see a chart outlining the main muscles of the hip and what actions they perform. Chances are you are familiar with the main hip muscles – glutes, hamstrings and quads, but I have broken it down even further because education is the key to prevention!
|HIP MUSCLES||ACTION AT THE HIP JOINT|
|HIP FLEXOR GROUP:
|LATERAL ROTATOR GROUP:
|ABDUCTOR GROUP (aside from the Glutes):
*Note: The actions listed are those done by the muscles at the hip joint only. Many of these muscles also cross the knee joint, however, those joint actions are not listed above.*
Now that you know the basic anatomy of the hip, let’s learn some exercises that we can do to strengthen those muscles. Weak hip muscles can cause compensations in other structures of the body and can change the alignment of the pelvis and the leg all the way down to the foot. It can also create compensations further up the spine into the mid/upper back and the neck. By strengthening the muscles, we can improve our hip and pelvis stability and can better heal from and prevent further injuries. These exercises can easily be included in your leg day workouts, or in any workout program. Perform them after you warm up or you can even incorporate the exercises without added weight into your warmup to help fire up the hip muscles!
*If you are including these exercises as part of your warmup, do each exercise for 10-12 reps without added weight.
**If you will be incorporating these exercises into your workout, perform each exercise for 8-15 reps (rep number will vary based on if you are training muscular strength, growth or endurance) for 2-4 sets. These exercises can be done as shown or with added weight – dumbbells, barbell, kettlebell, etc. depending on your training level.
Click on the videos to see quick demonstrations of each exercise!
1) Squats – Squats are a great exercise because they work all the main leg and hip muscles. There are also many variations of the squat. In the video below, you will see a simple body weight squat.
2) Reverse lunges – Like the squat, lunges are great because they also work many of the main hip muscles. They are many variations which you will see in this video, as well as in the following two videos. The different variations will emphasize different muscles, which is why I have included several different variations here.
3) Walking lunges – Ah, a true favourite! Here is your second lunge variation. If you do not have the space to do walking lunges, you can do forward lunges instead.
4) Side lunges – This is your last lunge variation. Be careful that you do not overstep and go to wide.
5) Glute/Hip Bridges – This last exercise is great for your posterior chain – glutes and hamstrings. The position of your feet will slightly change the emphasis of the primary muscle for this exercise – feet closer to your backside = more glute dominance, feet further away from your backside = more hamstring involvement.
At the end of your workout, do not forget to stretch! Stretching is super important as it helps with recovery, flexibility and aid in the prevention of future injuries. Just like the exercises above, these stretches target all the main hip muscles. Stretch until you feel a slight discomfort or stretch – be careful not to overdo it. Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds, 2-3 times.
Inner Thigh Adductor Stretch
Lastly, the SpiderTech taping applications are great add-ons if you are suffering from any pain or discomfort in the hips. The SpiderTech Hip Spider, Groin Spider and Hamstring Spider are great pre-cut applications that you can use. The universal I Strips and X Strips are also good choices and can be directly applied to the site of pain.
If you have any questions about the exercises, stretches or the hips in general, please do not hesitate to reach out!
Here’s to healthy and mobile hips,
Shannon Uppington DOMP, NSCA-CPT