Oh the hip! An area commonly upstaged by the trendiness of the core or the injury-prone, attention-seeking knee. It bears all of our weight, yet we give little love to this often disregarded joint. However, it is crafty in it's payback. It will rarely start to ache or pain in the face of neglect. No, it is more ruthless than that. It will start to slowly wreak havoc through the rest of our bodies until we find ourselves spending long nights taping feet and shedding tears over the foam roller just trying to figure out exactly what went wrong.
Now don't get me wrong - I have mad love for the core (as evidenced by my previous three posts), however, 99% of clients I see are more apt to work on core stabilization than hip stabilization - and this is problematic. Even if you are not working the core entirely correctly, or efficiency - there is no argument that you are likely giving this area more attention then the hip stabilizers, and it is primarily because this muscle group is not given the respect it deserves!
Let me fill you in. When you are doing any activity that is weight-bearing (i.e standing, walking, running, skipping, hopping, dancing, skiing, skating, surfing, cycling, Irish jig, etc......) is imparting force through the hip (and foot and knee). The goal for efficient and productive movement is to limit the amount of force transmitted through the joints and maximize the force through the surrounding musculature. Furthermore, we have two broad groups of muscles; global moblizers and local stabilizers. The first is the big muscles that we tend to all know and exercise on a regular basis. At the hip, this would be the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus. The local stabilizers are the muscles that are deeper, smaller and are what protect the joint from undue stress. For most, this is where the problem lies.
Here is a basic test you can try:
- Stand in front of a full-length mirror. Place you feet hip width apart and place your hands at your waist/top of pelvis.
- Slowly lift one foot off the ground by bending at the knee
- When you do this, what happens? Does the hip on the lifted side drop at all? Are your hands at different heights now?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, or resemble my highly artistic, sad-faced image above, you likely have difficulty stabilizing the hip properly. What this means is that when you transmit your weight to one leg, the hip joint rather than the muscles are absorbing the additional force. Now think of how this applies to an activity with much more speed and impact - like running. If overtime your foot hits the ground you are not able to properly support your body weight, your joints and surrounding soft tissues take the toll and this is when injury manifests it's ugly face.
I don't want to get into "hip exercises" that you should do - because to be honest, each of us have different deficits, compensation patterns and general wonkiness that needs proper assessment. There is no "one size fits all" to strengthening. Take the time to get evaluated by a trained practitioner and understand what will be of most benefit for you. I promise that Benji Franklin was on to something when he said, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". True story.
If you want to see the ultimate "hipster" ever, take a looksie at my biggest patient challenge and greatest life inspiration in the video below. Your own strengthening goals will seem like peanuts after this......
Jen has some other pretty awesome videos, so check out her youtube channel here