You know when you see a great golfer, dancer, or lifter and you are in complete awe of their movements? It’s like, “why can’t I do that?!. Shakira can move it like no other and I do have to agree with her when she said, “Hips don’t lie.”
Seeing as the body is a complex system, the parts work together. In my opinion, if one can get their hip area to work better then usually their overall movement will improve. There’s a great way that you can test your movements and you have probably heard about it from me before.
Enter the Functional Movement Screen (FMS)! This is a great way to get a baseline on where your movements are and if they are limiting and/or changing your movement patterns. The FMS takes you through 7 movement patterns and it can give us some solid information on what you need to improve and/or what you are doing well. Obviously, make sure you are getting this screen done by a qualified professional.
After performing the FMS on hundreds of people, I would definitely say that hip mobility is a common issue! If you think of your hip mobility, would you say your is great or it needs improvement?
In the FMS, the exercise we use to test hip mobility is the Active Straight leg raise. Most people would think, “Oh, my hamstrings are so tight! I’m never going to be able to do this well!”. The active straight leg raise test is actually to see if the body can perform alternating patterns of hip extension and flexion. These movements can help improve running, jumping, and even back health! Who doesn’t want that?
Most of us probably have a hard time with this because we are sitting often and probably not getting in enough activity. But I promise you that improving hip mobility has also been shown to improve other faulty movement patterns, such as core stability and shoulder mobility. Improving hip mobility may be the key to unlocking proper overall body movement, reduce lower back pain, and strengthen the core musculature.
Read on for a couple of exercises that you can do to improve your hip mobility, which in turn, will improve much more in your body!
The active straight leg raise drill is a great option to improve mobility. Here is how to do it:
- Using a strap or a band, bring one leg up to the beginning of the stretch and hold for a few seconds while keeping the other leg down, straight, and flat.
- Perform 10 leg raises by keeping the down leg as straight as possible but raising it up even with the up leg.
- If the up leg loosens a bit, then increase the stretch, but the down leg needs to return to the ground straight and flat (calf touching before the heel without any turnout) on every rep.
Take your time with this drill and do not rush it. Proper breathing should also be done while performing this drill. Keep in mind that this is NOT a hamstring stretch, but rather an alternating pattern of hip flexion and extension. Both legs are equally important. It also has a core component if done properly.
Once you have gained some mobility, it is now time to put some functional movement on top of it. The single-leg deadlift is one of the most transferable movement patterns to help improve hip function, walking, running, and jumping.
To learn the single-leg deadlift:
- Take a PVC pipe or dowel and place it behind your back, vertically.
- If your left foot is staying on the ground (the working side), your right hand will be holding the stick (palm toward you) in the curve of your neck.
- Your left hand will be holding the stick (palm away) in the curve of your lower back.
- The stick will be touching the back of your head, middle back, and your tailbone.
- Bend the bottom knee about 20 degrees.
- Keep the knee there and perform the single-leg deadlift, keeping the stick in contact with all three points of the body.
Setting up like this will allow you to perform a proper hip hinge movement with a neutral spine. This is very important as it helps lock in the core musculature.
Once you have mastered this movement, it is time to add some load to make the improved mobility and movement stick and get stronger. I prefer holding a kettlebell, weight is relative to each individual, in the hand on the side of the leg going up. This allows for proper hip alignment with the offset weight. If your form is not like it was with the dowel or PVC pipe, go back to that.
For both variations of the single-leg deadlift, 3-4 sets of 5-8 reps will work.
Improve Your Hips, Improve Your Movement
Our sports and activities that we participate in can really make our hips take a beating. Sitting too much and not moving enough can also take its toll on the hip complex. Take the time to improve the quality of your hip flexion and extension and what your whole body feel and move better.