Hip mobility is crucial to our overall physical health. Having healthy and mobile hips has numerous advantages, and is not solely required for learning how to Tango! Hip mobility is extremely important for both CrossFit and all board sports. The muscles around our hips perform huge amounts of work and provide the foundations for the agility of our entire body. It is also our hips that deliver most of the force and power from our lower body. It is this force that allows us to run and jump, and any lack of strength and mobility in this part of the body can have an immediate impact.
A lack of hip mobility often leads to poor movement patterns, which in turn can affect our daily lives. The importance of strong and flexible hips cannot be overstressed. If we lose mobility in our hips, our body must compensate and find a different way to move. This compensation often leads to our knees or lower back over working.
Unfortunately, one of the key reasons that leads to stiff hips is in fact caused by what we do daily. Sitting for extended periods of time, working, driving, and keeping our hips in a flexed position. This not only stiffens the hips but can also make them weaker from prolonged positioning. Potential problems can include aches and pains, reduced mobility for certain movements such as squatting down.
Tight Hips and Emotional Connection
Many consider our hips to be the “junk drawer of emotions.” In other words, both our emotional and physical energy can well up and fester in our pelvis. The pelvis is a complex structure composed of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia that enable the body to both stabilise itself and to move. Our hip flexors, which are made up of several muscles, are often very tight as we tend to keep them in one position throughout the day – either due to standing for long periods of time, or sitting down. We seldom let our hips play and explore their full range of motion.
Yogic tradition says that we accumulate a lot of negative emotions in our hips. Our sedentary lifestyles often result in exceptionally tight hips. This translates into an overload of tension on our spine and limits our mobility. By releasing tension in our hips, we can release deep, confined emotions, but it will also ease back pain, knee pain, and allow for deeper breathing from the diaphragm. Yoga offers many hip opening positions.
What can we do about it?
Very slight variations at the pelvis can create immediate advances in performance. By contracting the muscles around the pelvis, we can alter the position of the pelvis and thus the available range of motion. To increase mobility in the hips, it is important to execute movements that challenge the active range of motion in your hips, whilst engaging the core to stabilize the pelvis.
By focusing on these two elements it will allow the pelvis to be repositioned to a more neutral position, thus creating improved mobility within the hip socket. It will also function as a retuning of the muscle tone around the hips.
Here are 5 mobility exercises to help you break up that cycle and move more freely:
1. Goblet Squat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjLBOc_-ZaU
Goblet squats shift the center of gravity forward as we are holding the kettlebell in front of the body. This means we can worry less about balance and allows us to focus more on the deep squat position. By executing a slow negative movement and then pausing and holding the squat at the bottom, it encourages your nervous system to learn the correct position. The added weight will also allow some to squat a bit deeper. This combination will help to unlock some real hip mobility.
2. 90/90 Hip Stretch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Or5MINtRCk8&t=88s
This is a fantastic stretch that will open up your hips and relieve lower back pain. Once you are in the position, extend your back. If you wish to deepen the stretch lean forwards with your chest and try to get your belly button to hover over your knee. When you lean forward be sure to keep your chest up high, this will allow you to get a deep stretch in your lead leg.
3. Couch Stretch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PpBntRdK0o
The couch stretch is a powerful tool that every athlete should take advantage of. Ensure that you keep a neutral spine when performing this stretch and that you keep your tailbone tucked in and glutes activated. This will ensure that you get the most out of this fantastic stretch.
4. Leg Swings https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naW8u72lOzI
Don’t forget that your hips are constructed of a ball and socket. Therefore, your hips love circular motions, in fact it’s what they’re built for. Leg swings teach your hips how to navigate that three-dimensional space and regain control over that range of motion.
5. Hip Flexor Stretch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hmec1bQBQOE
The hips tend to lean forward when they get stiff, particularly when we spend a lot of time sitting down. A lack of hip extension is often caused by stiff hip flexors. Be sure to keep your core muscles tight while performing this stretch, and keep glutes tight.
For those of you who already have very mobile hips and want to challenge yourselves further, I encourage you to try out Ido Portal’s Squat Routine!