The hip joint is a highly mobile joint, second only to the shoulder joint. This mobility provides tremendous movement options at the joint and consequently, one of our major goals when designing most fitness programs is to include exercises that train the hip joint across all three planes (i.e. sagittal, frontal and transverse) and to perform the primary movement patterns possible across this joint.
This provides mobility, stability, strength and depending upon the exercise program, may improve total body power, particularly explosive power from the hip joint. This week we will feature four excellent hip exercises (and there are literally dozens), that will strengthen the hip joint, improve mobility and stability. These exercises will concentrate on all of the most probable actions at the hip joint including flexion, extension, abduction/adduction, and internal/external rotation. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
Hip Exercise #1 – Squats/Lunges – both of these exercises flex and extend the hip joint. Squats are performed, in one of dozens of variations, with both feet planted on the ground at some point, where lunges, regardless of front/back/side/diagonal positions, require the legs to be staggered apart in some fashion and may have the trailing leg heel elevated depending upon the position chosen. The quadriceps (hip flexors and knee extensors), hip flexors (i.e. iliopsoas, etc. including the rectus femoris, one of the quadriceps muscles that crosses both the hip and knee joint), gluteus maximus/hamstrings (i.e. hip extensors/knee flexors) create the movement pattern at the hip joint. The hip abductors and adductors, primarily assist the major muscle movers in stabilizing the femur in the ball and socket joint.
Hip Exercise #2 – Dead Lifts –engages the gluteus maximus and hamstrings extremely well when performed properly. The hinging must occur from the hip joint and the spine must remain rigid particularly as the external load increases. Even when just utilizing body weight and performing a dead lift, this is still an excellent hip exercise requiring “nose to toes” core engagement as well. Dead lifts and squats/lunges are all very functionally oriented exercises that are generally great additions to most exercise programs.
Hip Exercise #3 Standing Hip Abduction/Adduction – the hip abductors/adductors are small in comparison to the major movers mentioned in the first two exercises. However, while these muscles primarily work as stabilizers occasional isolation exercises are warranted. The hip abductors move the femur away from the midline of the body and the hip adductors move the femur toward the midline and these muscles work in opposition to one another. Standing positions require more “nose to toes” core engagement; however, if standing, in most cases due to the body’s position in relationship to gravity, external load provided by Velcro cuff resistive tubing, and cable/pulley systems, are more effective at training both the moving side and the stabilized side.
Hip Exercise #4 Wood Chop – this exercise requires the entire body to move when performed properly. Any swinging/throwing/hitting activities require the hips to internally and externally rotate permitting smooth energy transmission from lower body to the torso. Without proper hip motion, including pivoting off the feet during the rotation, all swinging/throwing/hitting activities may be impaired. Wood chops may be performed with or without external resistance.