Strong Hips – Strong Body
It’s that time of the year again – time to get back outside and pick up where you left off with your outdoor sports and exercise routines. As you start to thaw out and resume your active lifestyle, it’s important to consider the parts of your body that may have become weaker over the winter months.
Faulty hip mechanics are some of the biggest factors that contribute to not only hip pain, but also pain up and down the kinetic chain – all the way from your spine to your feet. Without the proper amount of strength in your hips, your low back, pelvis, knees, and feet can be subjected to abnormal forces that can lead to acute and chronic overuse injuries. By strengthening these important hip muscles, particularly two called the gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius, you can help control and prevent these abnormal movements and prevent injuries. The trick with hip strengthening, though, is to make sure that you’re strengthening the correct muscles (gluteus maximus and medius), instead of a muscle called tensor fascia latae (TFL). By overusing the TFL, you could make yourself more prone to iliotibial band syndrome, or ITB tightness, which could lead to knee pain and difficulty walking and running. I’ll go through three exercises that are proven to strengthen the hip muscles without overusing the TFL.
1. The Clamshell: this one looks exactly like it sounds. Start by lying on your side with a resistance band or leg weight around your knee. Keeping your heels together, lift your top knee toward the ceiling against the resistance. Then lower your knee back down slowly and repeat.
2. Side-lying hip abduction: this exercise also starts on your side, but your legs are straight. Lift your top leg up toward the ceiling, making sure to keep your top hip rolled forward, toward the floor. Lower slowly and repeat.
3. The Single-leg Bridge: lay on your back with one knee bent and the other straight. You then push through your bent leg and lift your hips up off the floor. Slowly lower back to the floor and repeat.
If you experience any pain or discomfort (other than normal fatigue) with these exercises, consult with your doctor or physical therapist to make sure that your technique is correct and you don’t have any underlying pathology.
By performing these three exercises in addition to your current exercise routine, you can help to prevent abnormal hip mechanics and avoid pain and injury! For more information on strengthening or to develop an individualized program, don’t hesitate to contact your exercise and rehabilitation specialists at Baker Valley Physical Therapy, 523-8888.
Written by Kristina Fleming. DPT
Published March 2013