- Technique and Training
Hip Stretching and Strengthening for More Power and Injury Prevention
Don’t forget your hips when you work your core
In order to realize your full athletic potential and remain as injury-free as possible, it’s vital to keep your hips in working order. Many people will talk about the core and how important abdominal exercises are and forget that, anatomically speaking, the hips should be included in any discussion of the core.
If your hips are in great working order, everything you do will be enhanced. However, if your hips aren’t functionally at an optimal level, you may experience more pain, injuries, and a decrease in your performance.
Keeping your hips in working order includes:
- The mobility of the hip joint, which means being able to move through an optimal range of motion; and
- The stability of the hip, which includes being able to produce and absorb force through the hip joint.
In this article we’ll cover some stretches as well as simple strength exercises designed to keep your hips in great health.
Be sure to review these videos of all of the exercises and progressions so you understand all of the movements and variations.
Remember, with all stretches, move gently through the range of motion and always be able to both breathe and smile while doing them. If you can’t do both, the stretch is too intense for the body to accept the change you’re trying to make and you should stop.
The following stretches will help to increase the mobility of the hip joint so it can move through an optimal range of motion:
- Leg lowers + band: Take a jump rope, superband, or a yoga strap and loop it around the bottom of one of your feet while lying on your back with both legs extended on the ground. Raise both legs up to the highest point that you can, keeping both knees locked out. Once you get to the end point, keep the tension on the strap around the one foot/leg and slowly lower and raise the other straight leg that doesn’t have a strap on it. Over time you’ll feel a release in your hamstrings. Only move in a range where both knees stay straight.
- Kneeling hip flexor stretch: Get into a kneeling/lunge position and raise the arm of the same side that your knee is on the ground. You should feel a stretch in the front of your hips on that side.
- Spiderman: Start in a push-up position and bring one foot up as far towards the outside of your hand that you can. Hold that stretch position until you feel a release and then switch back and forth for a few repetitions.
- Sumo squat hold: With a wider-than-shoulder-width stance, squat down as low as possible and push your knees out with your elbows while staying down in the squat position. Hold as long as you feel comfortable and try to increase the time you can maintain the position until you can hold it for about a minute comfortably.
These exercises will help to increase the stability of the hip joint so it can produce and absorb force:
- Hip circuits: Get on all fours and lift one leg up to the side like a dog on a fire hydrant and rotate it back underneath you. After you’ve completed a few repetitions of that motion, reverse it. Next, straighten that leg directly out to your side and lift it up and down for a few reps, keeping it off the ground for as long as possible during the movements. Lastly, move your leg in little circles both forward and backward in the same side position that you did while lifting it up and down.
- Hip hinge greasing: With your hands folded across your chest, push your hips backwards and lean forward as far as you can while maintaining an engaged back with your knees slightly bent but staying at the same angle throughout the movement. At the end range you should feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings. Move back and forth in this range as you feel comfortable while slowly trying to increase your range over time.
- Floor bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Squeeze your hips and press through your heels to elevate your hips off the ground and hold a straight-line position from your head through your hips and knees. Drop the hips down and repeat.
- Lateral squat: Place your feet wider than shoulder-width and squat down towards one foot with the opposite leg staying straight. Then stand back up to the starting position and squat to the other foot.
Again, it’s important to view all the videos of these exercises so you can see the proper technique—doing any exercise improperly can result in injury. And the next time you think about working your core, don’t forget your hips!