The hip muscles are very important for performing activities of daily living. The lateral hip muscles help stabilize the knee. A stable knee keeps the knees in line with the foot during the landing phase of jumping and running. We jump and run daily, especially when performing a
movement during sports.
Strong hip muscles reduce the risk of injury. Weak hip muscles can increase your risk of injury, especially sports-related injuries. If you watch individuals perform a squat of deadlift, you will often see their knees caving in during the movement. The caving in of the knees is a sign of weak hip muscles. Another sign of poor hip mobility is if your toes cannot remain straight forward during a squat. What are some strategies you can utilize to strengthen your hip muscles and improve hip mobility?
Hip Mobility Assessment
As I recently stated, one way to observe weak hip mobility is to see if your knees begin to cave in during a squat, or complex movement. Another assessment used to test hip mobility is the Thomas test. The Thomas test is used to see if there is tightness in the hip flexors, quadriceps, or iliotibial band. To perform this test you need to stand next to a bench or bed with your hips contacting the edge, grab a knee and pull it towards your chest as you lie back on the bench or bed. Allow the other knee to relax while holding one knee. If you are able to pull the knee fully to the chest while keeping the opposite leg flat, or the opposite leg is in a straight position or flexed and relaxed then you passed the test. If you are unable to pull the knee to the chest or keep the opposite leg flat, or the opposite leg is turned to the side of the body or the opposite knee is tight then you did not pass the test. If you did not pass the test, there are ways to increase your hip mobility.
Increasing Hip Mobility
The use of resistance bands is an easy, convenient way to increase hip mobility. The resistance bands assist with the ways the bones glide over each other. Place the resistance band laterally close to your forward hip, while performing a lunge position. Then move your knee inward and back or to the side and back, both ten times. If you are performing the exercise correctly you should feel slight discomfort or tension along the hip during the movement.
The use of foam rolling can reduce the stiffness of the hip joint. To perform this exercise, you want to reduce tension along the lateral hips, hip flexors, and quadriceps. You use a foam roller and perform 20 repetitions sliding back and forth along the foam roller for each position. One position consists of lying your quadriceps on the foam roller while rolling back and forth. Another position requires lying your iliotibial band along the foam roller while rolling back and forth. The last position requires lying your hip flexors (higher up than the quadriceps) on the foam roller while rolling back and forth. If you are new to foam rolling, it can be very painful the first couple of times, but over time the exercise will become easier. The use of foam rolling can prevent soreness and risk of injury.
A good way to increase hip mobility is the use of stretching. Stretching can reduce the risk of injury while leading to an increase in performance. Stretching is often overlooked in many exercise regiments but is considered one of the most important aspects of an exercise program. A good stretch to increase hip mobility is the half-kneeling hip flexor stretch. To perform this stretch, you get into a kneeling position, while keeping the chest up and glute tight. You then lean your pelvis forward under your body to force pressure on the back leg. If you are performing this stretch correctly, you will feel tightness (slight discomfort) along the back hip each time.
The hip flexors are very important for proper form while performing everyday activities. Weak hip flexors can lead to improper form and an increased risk of injury. During the squat the most often used cue is “drive the hips back”, but if an individual is lacking in hip mobility, they
have trouble performing this cue. Being unable to drive the hips back during a squat leads to poor form and an increased strain on the back and knees due to overcompensation. If you are experiencing any back or knee pain, and are unable to perform a squat properly, try the Thomas assessment to see if you need to strengthen or improve your hip mobility.