Considering the amount of time most of us spend sitting, properly preparing your hips for workouts is essential to maintaining good mobility and performing at your best. I’ve assessed and observed many individuals who complain of chronic issues in the low back and/or knees; it almost always comes down to dysfunction in the hips.
Here are my 5 favorite ways to get your hips moving nicely. Use these to warm up for a workout or to work on mobility during a rest day.
#1 - C.A.R.s (Controlled Articular Rotations)
CARs is simply a protocol for putting your joints through a full range of motion. When it comes to joint mobility, if you don’t use it you WILL lose it. There are two that I like to use for hips, but these can apply to every major joint in your body.
First is a sumo stance hip circle. Stand with your legs straight and feet well outside shoulder width. Keep your torso rigid and do 4-5 big circles in each direction, like an exaggerated hula hoop motion.
The second is for each hip separately. Hold on to a wall for stability and lift one knee as high as possible. Keeping that height, swing the knee out to the side, then internally rotate your hip until your shin is facing away and is parallel to the ground. Reach your leg back to straighten and reverse it back to the starting position. Do 3-4 reps per leg. Make sure not to compensate by arching your lower back! Here’s a video example:
#2 - Russian Baby Maker
Silly name, potent stretch. I like to do 1-2 of these during my warm-up for about 30 seconds each time. The key is staying active and not just trying to sit down into a squat. Stand shoulder width or wider and focus on creating space in your hips by forcing them apart. Keep a flat back and lengthen your spine. Video example: https://youtu.be/nV5q_iJhCq0.
#3 - Banded Walks
Another staple in my daily warm-up. Working with hundreds of people over the years, I’ve seen a serious lack of strength in the hips and medial glutes (ahem, RUNNERS!). Get yourself some mini-bands or a Sling-Shot Hip Circle. I promise you won’t regret it.
I recommend this for any of my clients who come to us complaining of low back pain or have trouble getting their glutes to activate when lifting. With the band just above or below the knees, assume an athletic stance (knees and hips bent, butt back over heels) and take big steps side to side. The idea is to drive your knees apart and avoid letting them cave. Do this for 10 reps per side and your butt will start to burn!
#4 - Spiderman Lunge
If you are short on time for a good warm-up, crawling variations are awesome. One in particular I like for the hips (and legs, in general) is the spiderman lunge. Pick a distance, such as 50 ft, and take big lunging steps while keep your body pressed close to the ground. Spend a few seconds in each lunge to let the movement sink in.
#5 - Cossack Squat
The Cossack squat is basically a side lunge. Start in a very wide stance and shift your weight to one leg to perform a full depth squat on that one leg. Make sure you push your butt back and try to keep the foot flat on the ground. The free foot can come up a little if needed. Remember, we are trying to load the hip rather than push on the knee.
Video example: https://youtu.be/JuyWIzWjrnE. Also, you can add this as a weighted movement to your accessory work!
Here’s to healthy hips and better performance!