Strengthening and conditioning of the hips are crucial to coordinating movements between the upper and lower body. I know this from years of martial arts and boxing practice.
Many of us with movement disorders suffer from weak lower bodies. People, in general, have poorly conditioned hips. Weaknesses in the hip muscles can also result in lower back pain.
In this post, I address the key muscles involved in our daily activities; major issues and causes; deciding what you need to fix your issues (Assessing Your Problem); and finally, I’ll give you some exercises to remedy some of the issues you may face.
Muscles of the Hips
The 17 defined muscles divide into 4 groups depending on their location.
- Gluteal group – these are the major muscles in your butt basically (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fascia latae or TFL).
- Adductor group – these muscles help you bring your thighs together (adductor brevis, adductor longus, pectineus, and gracilis).
- Iliopsoas group – assists with man everyday activities including walking and running; influences our form in many other types of movement (iliacus and psoas major).
- Lateral rotator group – just as it sounds, these muscles assist in the lateral (away from your midline) rotation of the thigh (externus/internus obturator, piriformis, superior/inferior gemelli, and quadratus femoris).
Major Issues & Causes
Hip pain is a common issue. Many of us sit 8 hours a day or more which wreaks havoc on our low back, hip, and upper thigh muscles.
- serious sports training – extreme training as a kid can result in skeletal development issues as they grow.
- your job – again, sitting too much is the issue here.
- extra weight – added weight means amplified pressure on joints, specifically in the lower body.
- overtraining – a high level of activity may cause hips to become overly tight.
Causes that may/may not be fixable:
Although sitting is a big issue, there are certainly other reasons your hip might be hurting. Severe or unexplainable pain should be referred to a doctor.
Upon assessment, he/she can pinpoint the precise location of your pain. This will help identify the cause, which can then be treated.
Pain, lets say in your hips, that is cause by a disease/disorder affecting another part of your body is called ‘referred pain’.
Some of the possible causes:
- Gynelogical issues (in women)
- Endometriosis (woman again)
Assessing Your Problem
Before pursuing any new exercise, it is always a good idea to take an assessment. It could be either a self-assessment ore one performed by a fitness professional.
An assessment is of the hips, in this case, is necessary to a) pinpoint the exact location of the issue or b) determine what fix would work best.
If you find that your hips are tight (short), they should be stretched (or lengthened). If they are weak (because they are too long or over-stretched), they should be strengthened (or made tighter)
I don’t agree completely with the idea that hip flexors should not be stretched. I do agree, however, that one needs to do an assessment to determine whether the hips need stretching or not.
Check out the video to see how you can test if your hips are tight or weak.
There are several good exercises for improving hip flexibility. Here the best ones. Again, determine if your hips are tight. If not, skip ahead to Hip Strengthening.
This awesome video by GMB fitness pairs up hip flexibility exercises with strengthening ones.
Personally, I have found great relief with the modified pigeon, frog stretch, couch stretch. I have found it easier to kick higher and I have no pain. My hips must have been very tight from an excess of sitting down. As a result, I find kicking multiple times has gotten markedly easier.
Strengthening the Hips
There are multiple ways to strengthen hips depending on your personal preference. I have listed some here, but this list is by no means exhaustive:
- This first video is more of an MMA/BJJ-type format. If you are interested in either of these, there are plenty of videos out there.
- Weight Training
- You should be looking for anything that would strengthen the glutes, adductors, iliopsoas, or the lateral rotators. You are pretty much covering your bases with any leg exercises. I recommend barbell hip thrusts, barbell/dumbbell squats (front or back), deadlifts or walking lunges.
- Bodyweight Training
- I know many people in my community have challenges with weight training. I personally don’t believe heavy weight training offers any substantial benefits and may even be counter-productive if your true intention is to improve your condition. You can do all the exercises above without weight or something you have around the house. Check out this video. Lots of great exercises here!
There are those that would tell you that weight training is better than mobility training. Or some sport is better for building strength than another (Caveat: Gymnastics athletes are pretty strong and mobile.) Always remember that the best technique is the one that you actually do consistently! Keep moving. Do something you love or can grow to love.
I hope you found this post helpful. Be sure to let me know what I can help you with.
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