MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
The hips are one of those body parts that most of us don't really think about until they're bothering us. When you hit the gym, strengthening your hip muscles specifically probably isn't high on the agenda. But if you're someone who is familiar with that hip ache and tightness that comes along with it you will be happy to incorporate this into your routine. Maybe you've even started doing some stretches to combat that. But actually strengthening the hip area is something that will not only make you feel better, but help you move better, too.
Quick anatomy lesson. When we talk about the hips, we're talking about any muscle that crosses over the hip joint. There are many, including all of the glute muscles, the hamstrings, the inner thigh muscles, and the psoas muscles (deep core muscles that attach your pelvis to your spine). Each of these muscles has some specific roles, but overall, the hip muscles stabilize your pelvis and thighbone as you move. They also allow you to bend at the hips, lift your legs out to the side (abduct), and bring your legs back in toward one another (adduct). Basically, they do a lot, and when they're weak or tight or otherwise not working in an optimal way, you can not only end up with cranky hips, but other body parts may overcompensate and take on too much work—leaving you with other, seemingly unrelated, issues, like knee pain.
Most functional exercises—ones that mimic everyday movements such as squats, hip hinges (deadlifts, for example), lunges, steps-ups—stretch and strengthen your hip muscles in some way. So if you strength train and do a variety of these sorts of movements, you're probably working these important muscles without even realizing it. On the other hand, if you mostly focus on exercise methods that have you doing the same movement over and over again, like running and cycling, there's a good chance your hips aren't as strong as they should be. And that can have a negative impact on not only your workouts, but how you move through life in general.
The following three exercises would be a fantastic warm-up before any workout.
Double Banded Pull Through
- Attach a long resistance band low to the ground behind you. Or, you can also use a cable.
- Stand in front of the band with your feet about shoulder-width apart with a looped mini-resistance band just above your knees. Push your legs apart slightly to actively maintain tension in the band and prevent your knees from caving in.
- Hinge forward at the hips and push your butt back as you bend your knees to reach down and grab the long band between your legs. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings and glutes.
- Keep your chest lifted and back flat as you stand back up, driving your hips forward and squeezing your glutes at the top. That's 1 rep.
- Do 12-15 reps.
- Side Plank With Knee Drive
- Start in a side plank with your left elbow under your shoulder, legs extended, and hips, knees, and ankles stacked. Engage your core, tuck your butt, and make sure your lower back is flat.
- Slowly drive your right knee up toward your chest. Pause for a second, and then slowly extend the leg back out to starting position. That's 1 rep.
- Do 5-8 reps on each leg.
Banded Hip March
- Stand upright with your feet about hip-width apart, core engaged, and chest lifted, with a looped mini resistance band around the balls of both feet.
- Slowly drive your right knee up and out in front of you, stopping when it reaches hip height. (You may not be able to lift that high depending on your current mobility.) You should feel your hip flexors in the lifted leg working, and your glutes on the stabilizing leg working.
- Focus on keeping your foot directly under your knee, your pelvis level, and your standing-leg knee, hip, and ankle in line.
- Slowly lower your leg back down. That's 1 rep.
- Do 5-8 reps on each leg, alternating sides.
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