Strong hip muscles help the rest of your body function at its best.
If you are an athlete, you probably understand the importance of including hip strengthening exercises in your routine. Mobility, flexibility and stability in the hips is crucial to athletic performance, no matter what the sport.
What about the rest of the population? Many of us non-athletes spend the majority of our days seated at desks, driving, or in classrooms, and that can lead to tight hip flexors.
The primary function of the hip is to support the weight of the body. The muscles of our hips provide stability and balance when we walk, run, or perform any activity in which only one foot is on the ground. They also allow the leg to abduct (move away from the midline of the body) and adduct (move towards the midline of the body). Strong hip muscles support the pelvis and core and maintain alignment in the legs.
Imagine a chain. If the hip muscles or muscles surrounding the hip are weak, the knee will move out of alignment and will, in turn, affect the ankle as well as the foot.
Many of us don’t realize that there is weakness in the hip until we feel pain, usually through the leg. Some common injuries related to weak hips are knee pain, IT band syndrome, back pain, shin splints and plantar fasciitis. Hip pain is also pretty common. If you have pain in the hip, it is usually caused by problems with the muscles, ligaments or tendons that surround the hip joint. Hip pain can also be caused by diseases, such as arthritis, or injury, such as hip fracture, which is more common in women, especially those with osteoporosis.
It’s important to see a doctor if you already have pain. If you don’t, now is a great time to add exercises to your routine that focus on injury prevention.
Our abdominal muscles, hips and glutes all work very closely together. They make up our core. The best way to prevent injury is to train all of these muscles with functional movements that mimic the way we move every day. In real life, we bend, squat to pick things up, and move laterally. Therefore, functional exercise should include, squats, lunges, and lateral movements. Bridges are a good beginner exercise that require no equipment, and strengthen the hips, glutes, abdominals and lower back.
To do this, simply lie down on your back with knees bent, arms down at your sides, and feet close to your butt. Squeeze the glutes and lift your hips up to the ceiling. Hold this position for a moment and then lower back down towards the floor. You could advance the movement by doing one-legged bridges. Walking lunges help with strength and balance and a great lateral exercise is lateral walking with a mini-band to help with glute strength and knee stability. More advanced exercises would include plyometrics and weighted exercises.
Angela Fulgieri is the Wellness Experience Director at the Plant City YMCA. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.