*Your hips and the atendant muscles form large complicated joints. As the main transfer point for speed and strength your hips are the source of your physical power. Healthy flexible hips and the ability to move through multiple ranges of motion are the key component to superior athletic performance. More importantly, healthy flexible hips are necessary for mobility and the application of strength to daily tasks.
*Hips often go neglected. This is particularly true of men and even worse for those of us confined to office work and a desk chair. Additionally, hip mobility and flexibility tend to decrease with age. Watching an infant or small child playing, bending, twisting, and stretching, from the hips vividly demonstrates how much flexibility we lose as we age.
*Unless you have made a conscious effort to work with your hips, they have tightened up. Neglecting them and the resulting loss of flexibility and range of motion is limiting your athletic performance and threatens your future ability to get around and perform tasks that require applied strength.
*Loosening up your hips and keeping them loose can be difficult. But, just a few moments of quiet reflection, thinking about the important role that these big joints and their muscles play in your life, will have you focused on restoring and maintaining hip health. Use the three types of stretches and exercises discussed below to help you get started.
*Open Up Your Hips.
—Step-overs are the most effective exercise that I have found for opening up your hips. This is a simple exercise to understand. Set up an obstacle, I use a bar stool, but a length of string or a bar in a Smith rack can work just as well. Stand, facing front, with the obstacle at your side. Now, raise your knee in front of you and step laterally over the obstacle. As you step over, the hip joint will open up and stretch. Once your foot touches down on the other side of the obstacle, raise the other knee, bring it in toward the obstacle, and step this leg over. When you finish, you should be standing in the starting position, but on the other side of the obstacle. Now, repeat the exercise by stepping back, leading with the other leg and opening up your other hip joint.
—Fire Hydrants are performed like a dog sidling up to a fire hydrant to relieve himself. Starting position is on your hands and knees. Lift one knee out and up to parallel (or as close to parrallel as possible ) with the floor. Hold this raised position for 2-3 seconds. Return to the original position and lift the leg on the opposite side.
Photo by: dereksemmler
*Drop Into Your Hips.
—Static Raised Lunges are a great way to drop into your hips. Find a step stool to rest your foot on. Place your front foot on the step stool, then take a standard lunge position. Note, you may want to move your back foot out slightly to gain greater stability. Now, place your hands on your hips and let gravity do its job. After 30s, you will definitely feel gravity pushing your torso down into your hips and forcing your muscles to stretch. If you relax and sink into this stretch, you can gain even more flexibility.
—As mentioned in a prior post, relaxed squats are another way to drop into your hips, improve hip flexibility and increase your body’s ability to generate power.
Photo by: Carl Blake
—Upside Down Wall Splits are a good way to prepare for more demanding splits. Like static lunges, with this stretch gravity is your friend. Start by laying on your back, looking at the ceiling, with your legs raised and pressed against a wall. Your body should form a right angle, with your rear end pressed into the corner formed by the floor and wall. Now, let your legs seperate and fall. You do not have to force your legs down to start this stretch. Just lay there as long as you can and allow gravity to do the stretching for you.
—Doorway Splits. For this type of exercise all you need is an open doorway. Position yourself in the middle of the doorway with your legs out to either side and pressed against the wall. Reach into the doorway and use it to pull your body closer to the opening. Once you are in this position, you have several options. You can continue to pull against the doorway to get a good stretch.
You can fold your body forward, lowering your forehead to the floor for a different type of stretch. Also, you can twist and lower your shoulder to the floor. Or, you can remain seated and rotate your torso from side to side. While rotating, try reaching back as far as you can.
Photo by: Army.mil
*After experimenting with the above exercises, you should have a pretty good idea of how much your hips tighten up with age. You have to loosen them up and you have to keep them loose. Use these exercises as a starting point for your commitment to healthy hips now and in the future.
*Working on your hips, will help you make gains in your athletic performance. More importantly, working on your hips is your personal commitment to maintaining mobility and strength as you age. Focusing on your hips is fundamental to your physical performance throughout your life.