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Healthy Hips 101

When it comes to the human body, the hips can be thought of as the workhorses of creating movement. Not only do they have the important job of allowing locomotion, but they also have the tricky task of transferring power from the legs to the spine. We also can’t forget that they create a large amount of power on their own.

Related: How can ROM make you fitter?

Like the shoulders, the hips are a ball and socket joint. This means that the head of the femur (thigh bone), sits in a socket of the pelvis known as the acetabulum. Where these two bones meet is surrounded by a variety of ligaments, joint capsules, and muscles that work together to move the hips through its wide range of motion.

“Hip pain is increasingly common with aging and can create much more serious problems later down the road, and don’t just take my word for it, take it from the 2.5 million Americans living with Total Hip Replacements.”

Related: Shoulder Prehab 101

Problems with any one of these muscles, ligaments, or capsules can result in hip pain or restrictions. In CrossFit, nearly every movement we encounter involves the hips creating or transferring force in some capacity, so careful steps need to be taken to keep our hips happy and healthy. Hip pain is increasingly common with aging and can create much more serious problems later down the road, and don’t just take my word for it, take it from the 2.5 million Americans living with Total Hip Replacements. This post will introduce 5 drills that will provide relief for any nagging hip pain and strengthen the joint through its full range of motion to ensure that we’ll keep our hips healthy for years to come.


ADDUCTOR STRETCH

This stretch provides the best relief for hip impingement of any I’ve come across so far, which is a common ailment with how much we sit in today’s society. To start, kneel on a soft surface and extend one leg out long to the side while keeping your torso upright. Then, send your hips back as you reach arms out long in front of you. Go to a point of discomfort in the groin of the extended leg, but not pain. Hold for about 3 seconds, then return to starting position. Perform 10 reps on each leg, or more if you think this one feels as good as I do.

Related: What is Sitting Really Doing to Me?


INTERNAL ROTATION ON BENCH

For this stretch, stand next to bench, and place one knee on the center of the bench. With the leg that’s on the bench, wrap your foot around the edge of the bench. Then, walk your standing foot forward a bit and start to turn towards the leg on the bench to increase the stretch, stopping at the point when you feel discomfort, but not pain. Depending on your own personal hip anatomy, you might feel this on the inner portion of the hip or the upper-outside portion of your hip towards the glute. Hold for 1 to 2 minutes on each leg. If you’re at home, you can also perform this stretch on the edge of a bed or couch.


SUPINE PIGEON

Start lying on your back for this stretch and bring your knees up to a tabletop position. Cross your right ankle onto the left thigh, just above the left knee. Then, grab onto the backside of your left leg and gently start to pull the left leg towards your chest until you feel a stretch on the outside of your right hip and glute region. If you’d like to increase the stretch a bit further, you can also use the right elbow to gently push out on your right knee. Hold for about 90 seconds to 2 minutes, then switch legs and repeat.


HIP CIRCLES

You’ll need a lacrosse tennis ball – or any round object – for this drill that will focus on strengthening your hip through its end ranges of motion. Start on your hands and knees, and place the lacrosse ball on your low back. Slowly start to raise your right knee out to the side, keeping your hips squared off down to the ground to make sure the ball doesn’t roll off. Raise the knee as high as you can, then rotate your hip to point your knee straight behind you. Lower the right knee to the ground, then reverse that same circle (lifting knee behind you, then to the side, then down). Perform 5 circles in each direction with the right leg, then repeat on the left.


GLUTE BRIDGES

Strong glutes are essential for healthy hips, so this drill will target the glutes as well as the hamstrings. Start lying on your back and place feet flat on the ground hip-width distance apart. Walk feet in towards your glutes until your fingertips can touch your heels. Drive heels into the ground to lift hips straight up for the ceiling. Make sure that your knees are staying hip-width distance apart instead of flaring out wide or caving in. Hold for 3 seconds, slowly lower hips back down to tap ground then lift straight back up. Perform 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps. If after doing these a couple times you’d like to increase the challenge, feel free to lift one leg at a time, but keep the hips squared off to the ground still while you do this.

–Jay Alexander

Coach/Trainer

jay@crossfitslipstream.com