Don't Forget the Hips

Don't Forget the Hips
Posted on 09/21/2021

Don’t Forget the Hips

Ashleigh Hilligas, ATC

Legend High School

One of the most overlooked aspects of strengthening, speed or agility training programs is hip mobility. Hip mobility is essential to unlocking your full athletic potential. “While the hip joint is meant to be more stable and less mobile than the shoulder joint, it can still be extremely limiting and even harmful if the hip joint lacks its full mobility” (Symmetry Physical Therapy).  When you are able to move your hips in a fluid, unrestricted motion, you are able to get stronger and move more quickly. Unfortunately, in a young population, hip and muscle tightness are a common issue. Our young athletes are still growing and sometimes their muscles are not able to lengthen as quickly as their bones grow, causing them to suffer from muscle tightness. This tightness restricts the mobility of their hips. In extreme cases, this can result in joint or back pain and therefore alters mechanics when running, jumping or weight training.

Running requires good form. If you're using proper form, you have smooth strides and can move easily across the track, court or field. Technique can only take you so far though. To increase your speed you need to be able to propel yourself forward with more force in order to move more quickly. This is where strength training comes in. So even our track and cross country athletes should be integrating some sort of formal weight training program into their routines. Lifting is not only for bulking up. Programs can be tailored to increase endurance for our distance runners or to become more explosive off the starting line for sprinters. 

While strength training, you need to obviously use proper form and lift through the full range of motion.  When you have tight hips, you usually are unable to get into the end position, like squatting to 90* or lower when appropriate. If you are unable to obtain the full squat because your hips are tight, you end up rounding out your lower back and placing stress on your back. “These muscles are susceptible to injury, especially when lifting heavy loads. Thus, improving hip mobility will not only increase athletic performance, but can also help prevent lower back pain or injury and boost explosive movements” (Bridge Athletic). Proper mechanics allows you to lift safely, and reap the full benefits of the lift and become stronger. The stronger you are, the more force you can generate and be more explosive in your athletic endeavors. 

The main goal is to get stronger while maintaining flexibility and mobility, otherwise you end up like one of those body builders that can’t reach over their heads. The easiest way to do this is to find a mobility circuit that works well for you and work through that circuit regularly. What you should look for in a good hip circuit is essentially dynamic movements that stretch the different muscle groups that surround and support the hips. These include the quadriceps and hamstrings, as well as the postural muscles in your trunk.

Dynamic exercises work these muscle groups very well. Some exercises that many of my athletes have benefitted from are quadruped (on your hands and knees) fire hydrants, quadruped knee circles, quadruped donkey kicks, scorpion stretches, starfish stretches, prone (lying on your stomach) knees to elbows and supine (on your back) leg raises. There are obviously different variations in each of these exercises that you can do, but the general concept remains the same, increasing your active range of motion in your hips. Each of these exercises is a stretch for multiple muscle groups while remaining in a pain-free position.

The more regularly a hip circuit is completed, the more beneficial it is to your mobility and flexibility. Hip mobility circuits can easily be integrated into your regular cool down routine, or can act as your starting blocks for a new cool down routine if you do not currently have one. A good circuit should be gentle on the body and will improve your mechanics tremendously. Healthy hips and backs lead to improved quality of movements, increased athletic potential and fewer muscle strains due to inflexibility.

Bridge Athletic. “DESIGNING A STRENGTH PROGRAM: IMPORTANCE OF HIP MOBILITY.” Bridge, 19 July 2017, Accessed 30 August 2021.

Symmetry Physical Therapy. “Why is Hip Mobility so Important?” Symmetry Physical Therapy, 22 August 2017, Accessed 30 August 2021.

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