Happy Hips

This post is for a student who asked about more hip mobility ideas and for all of you who may sit too long/too much (which includes myself as well).

For most of us, we do a quite a bit of sitting in our day. I am no different. I spend time sitting replying to emails, writing blogs, writing client training programs, reading/studying continuing education and sometimes I even sit to relax. All this sitting can make our hips feel stiff and become less mobile.

If we put ourselves in the same shape (read: sitting) for many hours in a day, our body makes adaptations so that shape becomes easier. That doesn’t mean that that shape is good for our health, but our body doesn’t really know that. All it knows is it’s trying to find a way to not work so hard to perform that shape. Our bodies are really smart and efficient that way. They’re always looking for the easy route.

Lack of mobility sets in because our bodies have stopped using certain ranges of motion. We often think of this lack of mobility happening because the muscles get ‘short and tight’, but what’s more is that they also end up weak from a lack of use. This weakness limits our range of motion as a way of protecting ourself from injury.

Example: if I wake up in the morning, sit on public transit, in my car or even bike to get to work, then sit all day at a desk, then commute home and sit in the evening for a few more hours, my knees never really bend past 90 degrees. After many years of doing this, your body has now laid down stiff collagen to make it easier for your knees to stop bending at 90º, which is probably fine until you want to squat deeper than 90º  or to hook your knees on a trapeze bar past 90º.

Now of course, this isn’t everyone. My example is a generalization, but there are plenty of people who do sit for most of their waking hours and this is not good for bodies.

Below you will find a sequence you can do to help feel a bit more limbered up. I like this sequence because it’s a nice bit of every thing. Some soft tissue work, some static stretching, some mobility work and some active flexibility exercises to start to strengthen some of those weak muscles. The sequence won’t fix all the issues, but it will help.

What’s in the Sequence

From Rolling of your glutes, adductors, quads.

  • Important things to remember: breathe throughout the rolling process. Move one inch per second. If you hold your breath or wince, the pressure is too much. Keep a strong plank shape while rolling your quads. Your quads can be rolled both legs at once or one leg at a time. Make sure not to fall down the “foam rolling black hole”: either time your rolling with a timer and stick with 30 seconds on each muscle group or do 3-5 rolls of each muscle group. In most cases, you really don’t need to be foam rolling much longer than that.

Hip Flexor Stretch

  • Set up in 1/2 kneeling with shoulders and hips over back knee and knee of the front leg over the ankle. Contract glute to posteriorly tip your pelvis AKA tip it under like a dog with their tail between their legs. Exhale and depress your rib cage and feel your abs contract, pulling you into more of a posterior tilt. Lastly, press your hands down into front leg to create even more ab contraction.
  • Hold the stretch on each leg for 30-60 seconds

90/90 Stretch

  • Front leg posterior hip stretch. Create stretch via anteriorly tilting your pelvis, hinging at your hips. This will create a bit of a lean forward of your torso. If you feel like you can’t sit up tall you, can post to the side (same forearm as front leg) as much as you need to feel comfortable and not a pinch in your back hip.
  • Back leg hip internal rotation stretch. Spin torso to face back leg. Try to sit on your back glute as much as you can. If you feel a pinching in the top of your back hip, lean backwards as much as you need. Make sure to rotate pelvis as much as you can towards your back leg so that the turning isn’t happening in your spine.
  • Hold each stretch on each leg for 30-60 seconds

1/2 Straddle, 1/2 Frog Rock-Backs

  • Slide straddled leg out to the side and work towards getting your pelvis level. If you can’t yet, that is ok. Adjust hands so they are situated between the straddled leg and the bent leg. Heel of bent leg is pointing in towards your midline.
  • When rocking back, make sure not to allow your pelvis to tip under–keep your pelvis level to the floor. Keep foot of straddled leg planted on the floor.
  • Do 10 Rock-Backs on each side.

1/2 Straddle, 1/2 Frog External Rotations

  • Same set up as before, but now you are rotating the femur in the hip socket. Make sure that as you rotate the femur your hips don’t tuck under. Keep pelvis level with the floor. You want to feel this in your deep external rotators, you should not feel this in the front of your hip.
  • Do 10 rotations on each leg.

Quadruped Side Leg Lift

  • On all 4s (quadruped position), making sure that hands are under shoulders and knees are under hips and spine is neutral (ie., not hollow), core slightly activated, lift leg out to the side, only as high as you can without tipping your pelvis to the side. Two cues I always give are: ‘no peeing on a fire hydrant’ and ‘imagine you have a martini glass on your butt and it’s filled to the brim, no spilling.’ You want to feel this on the side of your hip.
  • Do 10 repetiitons.

Quadruped Clam (knee-only lift)

  • Same set up as above, lift only the knee out to the side keeping the feet touching as if a clam was opening. Lift only as high as you can without tilting your pelvis.
  • Do 10 repetiitons.

Single Leg Hip Lift

  • From Supine (on your back) bring one knee into your chest. Hold it to your chest with your bicep strength, not by scrunching your shoulders up to your ears. Flex both feet and press through heel of the foot on the floor to lift your hips. This is to help you feel the work in your glute.
  • Make sure that the knee into your chest doesn’t lift away while you lift your hips up-try to actively pull the knee to your chest with your hip flexor. You want to feel the work in your glute of the leg on the floor, not in the quad or hamstring of that leg.
  • Do 10 repetiitons.

Child’s Pose Leg Lift 

  • Sit back into child’s pose and extend one leg behind you. The closer your hips come to your feet the more challenging the lift become, so find a position that feels challenging enough, but not impossible. Keep back leg straight by contracting your quad. Contract glute to lift the leg.
  • Make sure to keep your spine flexed, this ensures you are lifting the leg with your glute and not your low back. Also make sure not to push off from the foot on the floor to lift the leg or bend that leg. Sometimes this exercise takes time to get the leg to lift via your glute. If you are having trouble bring hips up a little higher or perform the exercises with yourself situated on a raised surface such as a folded up panel mat.

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like more personal coaching as I do offer in-person and online training.

Feel free to leave any questions or comments you have in the comments below or contact me directly.

Wishing you Happy Hips ~~Theresa