Did you know that there are 17 muscles in your hips? They’re big, complex joints that are surrounded by a lot of tissue to keep them strong and supple. Whether you’re a workout warrior or occasional exerciser, your hips need regular upkeep. The right blend of flexibility and strength can bulletproof your hips for years to come.
STEP 1: STRETCH
Most people have tight hips, period. Lots of sitting at a desk or in a car can cause the hip muscles to tighten up, so daily stretching can help you run faster, lift heavier and move better in general. Even if you have adequate hip flexibility, it’s worth your while to learn to stretch your hips properly. There’s a big difference between stretching the muscles (that’s good) and stretching out already loose ligaments (that’s not good).
KNEELING GLUTE MOBILIZATION
This move stretches the back of the hip capsule to improve hip flexion and internal rotation.
- On all fours, move your left foot behind the right knee.
- Keep your front knee in line with your hips. This keeps the stretch on the muscles and protects your knee.
- Stick your butt out directly to the right. You should feel a stretch in the side of your hip/butt.
WALL HIP FLEXOR MOBILIZATION
This exercise stretches the quads to improve hip flexion and knee flexion.
- Brace your abs, and squeeze your glutes so your lower back doesn’t arch. You want to stretch your quad muscles instead of your hip ligaments.
- If you can’t reach your back ankle without twisting your shoulders, wrap a band around your ankle and hold the band instead.
HALF-KNEELING ADDUCTOR DIPS
This move stretches the groin to improve hip mobility.
- Keep your hips straight ahead. Imagine that your hips are headlights and shine them down the road.
- Push your knee over your pinky toe. Don’t let it cave in toward your big toe.
STEP 2: ACTIVATE
Some of the muscles in your hips like to do more work than others. Sometimes, less-than-optimal movement patterns can overwork certain muscles, leading to hip and lower back pain. Learn to activate the right muscles with these drills.
SUPINE BRIDGE MARCH
This move teaches you to use your glutes and hamstrings to extend your hips, instead of your lower back.
- Squeeze your glutes the whole time to take stress off your lower back.
- Keep your heel on the floor. If your heel comes up, your quads take over the movement.
This uses your glutes to externally rotate your hip instead of your tensor fascia latae (which is at the top of your IT band). This leads to happier hips and knees.
- Make sure your lower back isn’t overly arched. Brace your abs like you’re making a six pack.
- Don’t lift your knee too high. If you feel it in front of your hip pocket instead of your glutes, you’re lifting too high.
This move teaches you to extend your hip without using your lower back while also lifting your arms. These are tough and require superb core control.
- Keep your leg long and low. Kicking too high will shift stress to your lower back.
- Imagine dragging the nonworking hand and knee toward each other. This will turn on your abs for a rock-solid core position.
STEP 3: STRENGTHEN
Now that you’ve stretched your hips and activated the right muscles, it’s time to make those muscles strong and stable. Single-leg exercises teach your hips to move much like they would while running and require plenty of coordination, making them the ideal choice to bulletproof your hips.
SINGLE-LEG ROMANIAN DEADLIFT
This exercise teaches the glutes and hamstrings to stabilize the hips. It also teaches you to hinge through your hips instead of your lower back.
- Grab the ground with your foot. This will prevent your knee from caving in and your hip from shooting out to the side.
- Don’t reach for the floor with your arm. Keep your armpit tucked in tight as if you were trying to keep someone from tickling you.
BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT
This fires up the glutes to stabilize the knee and promotes balance and coordination.
- Let your knee come forward slightly but not too much. You should have a fairly straight line from your knee to your ankle.
- Point your knee at your pinky toe. Don’t let your knee cave in toward your big toe as you squat down.
This move teaches your hips to be strong while your groin is in a stretched position. It can make you more resistant to groin strains while also providing a weighted stretch.
- Keep your toes straight ahead. Opening up your feet is considered cheating.
- Sit your butt to the wall behind you. Don’t try to stay too tall, or you’ll put unwanted pressure on your lower back and hip ligaments.