Hips are the key to the explosiveness in your kip, the load bearers in your lifts, and the antagonist to your core (and let’s not forget that CrossFit is a core-to-extremity sport!)
Hips also just happen to be a good indicator of longevity as we approach old age.
This is why it’s so important that your hips are strong and mobile now so that we can make sure that they stay that way as we get older!
Here are three exercises that you can do regularly, boost your hip health.
Why Hip Health is Crucial
The hip is one of the more complicated joints in your body; it consists of bones, tendons, cartilage, and ligaments that shorten and lengthen the surrounding muscles allowing you to run, jump, and squat.
The role of the hip is to support the pelvis and core in order to form a strong base for the legs and arms to move from.
Holding poor positions for long periods of time, shortens and weakens hips, which makes it suboptimal for engaging in exercise.
Tight hips are often expressed as lower back pain and result in serious injury.
To decrease this risk, and to be able to continue to move independently, it’s important to make sure that your hips can stabilize your core and move with fluidity, especially as we age.
A flexible hip is a happy hip and so our first mobility drill will be a static stretch commonly known as pigeon stretch. Performing the stretch correctly opens the hip joint by stretching your thighs, lower back, and glutes, while simultaneously lengthening the hip flexors and groin.
These areas take the brunt of the heavy lifting that we do in CrossFit, which is why it’s crucial that they function properly.
How to do it:
- Start off on all fours with your knees below your hips and your wrists below your shoulders.
- To feel the stretch on your left side, bring your left knee just behind your left wrist and extend your right leg behind you.
- Sit back into this position by keeping your hips and chest pointed forward and melting your right hip flexor towards the ground. From here you can stay upright or hinge forward, lowering your head, chest, and arms to the ground.
- To feel this stretch more intensely in your left outer-hip, inch your left foot forward, bringing it closer to your right wrist.
Work up to 2-3 sets of 60 seconds each side. Breathe deeply and relax into the stretch.
90/90 Transitions Drill
This next drill is for improving movement of the hip joint within its capsule.
Doing this helps to strengthen internal and external rotation while your hips are in flexion and extension, which are particularly essential functions for squatting lunging.
How to do it:
- Sit tall with one leg bent in front of your body and the other leg bent behind. Adjust your position so that both knees point forward and each form 90-degree angles with your shins and thighs. You can extend your arms out in front of your chest to help maintain tension through your upper body, or you can support yourself with your hands on the ground if necessary.
- Your leading leg should be perpendicular to your body, as the outer thigh as well as the inner thigh of your trailing leg rest on the floor.
- Be sure to keep your shoulder blades tucked and your spine in a neutral position. The goal is to sit on both hips equally and to be able to change sides without needing support from your hands.
- Initiate transitioning to the other side by rotating your body towards the back knee. Drive the trailing knee into the ground as you begin to rotate the leading knee externally. As you reach the limit of your external rotation, begin internal rotation of the trailing side until you return to the initial position on the opposite side.
- Maintain good posture and control the transitions to make the most of this exercise.
Work up to 3 sets of 5 reps each side.
Variation adding hip flexion
Quadruped Hip CARs
Hip CARs or Controlled Articular Rotations help to develop your motor control, especially approaching your hips’ end range of motion.
Being able to move with control through a sufficient range of motion reduces your risk for injury by making it more likely that you won’t overload or compensate with other parts of your body.
This exercise is great for exposing weaknesses and seeing improvement as you continue to work on your hip mobility and stability, so I highly recommend that you record yourself doing it every once in a while.
How to do it:
- On all fours, find a neutral spine position.
- Lift your left knee up and out so that it is becomes parallel to the floor.
- Think about tracing circles with your knee as your hip moves in its socket. Draw your circles as big as your range allows while maintaining a neutral spine.
- Lower your knee behind you to return to the initial position.
Perform the movement slowly and controlled. Video is speed up for size purposes.
Complete 3 sets of 5 reps in each direction on each leg. As seen previously, this drill can also be performed from a standing position.
Having strong and healthy hips goes beyond being able to squat or deadlift more weight (though it doesn’t hurt!).
Your hips connect your legs to the your core, making them a key source of power and stability while training and when engaging in day to day activities like walking, running, and climbing stairs.
Strong, balanced hips can improve overall posture, and prevent common injuries related to the back and lower body.
If your low back, knees, or hamstrings often feel restricted or tight, take it as a sign from your body that your mobility and flexibility are lacking.
As we all know, hips don’t lie.
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