Our hips are one of the most complex lower-body anatomical regions. They are a system of ball-and-socket joints, tendons and muscles responsible for walking, running, sitting down and standing up. If you’re looking to maintain healthy mobility into old age, it’s important to ensure you keep your hips in good condition.
A 2013 study in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy highlights the strong correlation between hip mobility and various issues of the lower back, knees and ankles. “Restricted mobility can consequently have deleterious effects not only at the involved joint but throughout the entire kinetic chain.”
As their bones become brittle with age, the elderly are susceptible to a broad range of hip conditions, which in turn limit mobility and can be a precursor to other health issues. Health issues such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis can also weaken the hips.
So, how can we work to keep our hips ship-shape for the long term? “It’s crucial for you to have good hip mobility, not only for sporting performance but also for day-to-day life,” says Adam Fulat, Dubai-based fitness instructor. “A simple restriction on range of motion at the hip can magnify itself over the years to become a significant issue, particularly if you spend a lot of time sitting. So it’s pivotal that you rediscover the mobility you were born with.”
Fulat says healthy hips can check off multiple fitness boxes. “Improving your hip mobility will not only develop your athletic performances, but can help prevent lower back pain/injuries as well as boost explosive movements. It will help your movements more efficiently and allow you to assume effective body positions in all sports, therefore increasing athletic performance and decreasing risk of injuries.”
Up your game
For people who enjoy sports such as football, which relies heavily on good hip mobility, Fulat recommends three basic movements covering mobility, stability and strength. “The 90/90 stretch can assist the body in building strong internal hip flexors. It stretches many muscle groups at once, so it’s very efficient.
“The Cossack squat is a great movement for all lifters and exercisers to restore hip function and increase hip stability and mobility.”
Finally, for strength, he points to the weighted hip thrust. “It’s a glute exercise designed to enhance your strength, speed and power by teaching optimal hip extension.”
As the hips are engaged for a number of important core and lower-body exercises – including planks and squats – it’s important to avoid common errors in your movements, explains Fulat, as he points out two of the more frequent ones he sees in his clients.
“Mistake one: Sticking your glutes too high in plank. It’s a common mistake with painful results. Sticking your posterior above your hips creates an arch in your lower back. This causes you to overwork your hip flexors, which tighten over time.”
Another problem occurs when gym goers collapse their knee inwards during squats and lunges – two of the most important leg exercises (with or without weights). “The next time you do a lunge, check your form. Is your front knee caving in toward your big toe? After a while, this creates much internal rotation in your hips, which can cause pinching on the inside of your hip joint and that can lead to inflammation.”
The right tools
Fulat says there is a large variety of equipment that can be used to build hip and lower-body strength. “Lifting free weights is the most convenient way to strengthen your muscles and become better at mostly everything you take on.
“Both free weighted exercises and machines have their pros and cons. Weighted machines can be useful for beginners by teaching proper form, whereas free weight exercises are great at strengthening the body and stabilising the muscles, especially the hips.”
Reducing the burden
It’s well known that hips play a crucial role in supporting our body weight during activities such as walking, running and jumping. Here, personal trainer Adam Fulat points some basic exercises that can strengthen the muscles around your hips.
“The best movements to build the strength within your hips are ones that mimic everyday movements such as squats, hip hinges (deadlifts, or for example), lunges, steps-ups.