The #OnTheBlueMat Blog
HOW TO: BUILD STRONG HIPS
STRONG, MOBILE HIPS ARE INVALUABLE.
Build strength in your hips and improve the way you move in almost all activities with this simple & effective exercise that you can do at home.
Performing exercises like this one may look more like ‘rehab‘ than training, in fact, the opposite is true. Training to build strength and increase range of motion in this way, actually works to mitigate the risk of injury – which is why we call these ‘Prehab‘ exercises, ie. Pre[vent]+[re]hab. This style of training really is invaluable for building a body capable of anything.
Our hips should be the most powerful part of our body. The power we can generate with both our lower and upper body is heavily dependent on how strong our hips are. But thanks to a life spent in a chair, or indeed improper form when we exercise, many of us have much poorer hip function than we ought to have.
In fact, if we dedicated more time and effort into improving the mobility of our hip muscles, we’d see much greater returns in the quality of every other physical output. With better hip function, we’ll run better, lift better, squat better – move better.
HOW TO PERFORM THIS STANDING BENT LEG HIP FLEXION EXERCISE.
Watch the video tutorial below for a great variation of a standing hip flexion exercise. Make sure to follow the directions below too, to make sure you don’t skip any details.
In this blog, we’ll not only walk you through a valuable routine you should add to your workout we’ll also take a deeper look at the anatomy and function of the group of muscles that we call “hips” and the benefits of giving them the attention they deserve.
While you’ll get the maximum benefit from doing this exercise under the watchful eye of an expert coach, and with the proper equipment, but you can also make a few adjustments to try it at home, which we’ve detailed in this guide.
1. Gather your apparatus
You’ll need an elevated surface (something a little above knee height), two yoga blocks, and two exercise sticks.
DIY version: Not everyone has this kind of gear lying around your home. We’d highly recommend getting these things eventually, but in the short term, you can use things you have at home, such as the side of an armchair chair, thick books, and even the shaft of a broom or mop, provided you can get it back in!
It’ll pay dividends to buy yourself the above equipment for future use though!
2. Assume the starting position
Set a yoga block on top of the elevated surface, in line with one of your legs. Raise the foot on that side and place it flat on top of the yoga block. If this height is beyond your range of hip flexion, you can remove it, or indeed add another if you can flex further. Your raised knee should be bent and now in line with your chest. Adjust your standing leg to make sure your posture is straight up.
3. Add the second block and stabilize your stance
Take the second yoga block and place it between the thigh and torso of the leg you’ve raised. Use the sticks to steady your stance. Now you’re ready to contract your muscles and begin the exercise.
4. Press the sticks into the floor.
Press the sticks firmly into the floor to distribute your weight evenly away from your core, i.e. causing “irradiation” as Anna says in the video.
Sherrington’s Law of Irradiation:
“A muscle working hard recruits the neighbouring muscles, and if they are already part of the action, it amplifies their strength. The neural impulses emitted by the contracting muscle reach other muscles and ‘turn them on’ as an electric current starts a motor”.
5. Press and contract
Press your raised foot into the yoga block or the surface it’s resting on with moderate to full strength, for 3 or 4 seconds.
Next, contract your knee towards to chest and squeeze the block which you’ve wedges there. Again, do this for 3 or 4 seconds.
6. Remove the support block and lower your foot back to the surface
If you’re on your own, you’d be better off prodding the support block away before raising your knee to your chest. When its out of the way, lower your foot flat onto the elevated surface.
Do this slowly and with full control.
7. Raise, squeeze and lower again.
Now without the support of the yoga block beneath your foot, raise your knee and squeeze the thigh into the chest again, pressing it against the resistance of the block. Hold this for 3 or 4 seconds before lowering it again.
Repeat this movement for 5-6 reps, each time holding for 3 or 4 seconds before lowering.
Switch to the other leg and repeat the set.
WHAT EXACTLY DO WE MEAN BY THE ‘HIP’?
The hip is a joint. Its primary function is to support and stabilise the weight of the body in both static (eg.g standing) and dynamic (e.g. running) activities. The movement of the hip is articulated by more than 20 different muscles.
These muscles are divided into different groups: The gluteal group, located on the back and side of our buttocks; the adductor group, which can be found in our groins; the iliopsoas group, which begins in our lower back and merges in the thigh; and the lateral rotator group – a group of small muscles which connect our hip joint to the upper femur, or thighbone.
This is the core group of muscles which motorize the hip joint, but add to that the hamstrings and quad muscles, which also play a huge part in hip mobility.
This is what we talk about when we talk about the hip muscles. Each of these works together to provide us with a range of motion from the hips, and it really is about time we started taking better care of them through hip flexion exercises.
AT A GLANCE: THE BENEFITS OF TRAINING HIP FLEXION
Improved posture and injury prevention.
As we spend so much of our lives nowadays with unengaged hips, the muscles around them weaken, shorten and tighten up. This forces our posture forward and rounds the shoulders, bringing the head too far forward in turn. All this out of line posture wreaks long term havoc with the neck, back and legs. It also leaves us susceptible to injury when we do engage in physical activity, particularly in the lower back and knees. By doing the right hip flexion exercises, we help to maintain good posture, and this, in turn, helps us maintain good form when we move, preventing avoidable injuries.
Increase range of motion, flexibility and mobility.
The better the range of motion we have in our hips, the better we can move in general, and the more hip flexion exercises we do, the better our range of motion will be! Mobility differs from flexibility, in that it is active, whereas the latter is passive, but the right exercises help us to improve both. While there are plenty of stretches we should do to increase the passive flexibility of our hip muscles, we should also improve their strength, giving us more control over how we can move.
Improved performance and all-round strength.
You might be a runner, a powerlifter, a yogi, a gymnast, or just a regular gym-goer chasing better overall health and wellness. Whatever physical pastime you pursue, having strong and stable hips will improve your game. You can run faster, lift more and stretch further.
A FINAL WORD
If it’s been a while since you’ve worked on your hips, or indeed if it’s your first time trying a hip flexion exercise quite like this, you’ll probably feel your muscles firing from the very first rep. This is a good sign, since at least now you’re engaging muscles that, when well developed, help us move with incredible freedom.
You don’t have to overdo it in terms of reps. Remember, you’re much better off focusing on quality over quantity for now. Focus on keeping muscular control over your movements throughout the whole exercise, particularly when you lower your foot. By practising good habits like these, you’ll be doing yourself a massive favour as you develop your strength, mobility and quality of movement in the future.
We hope you’ve learned something new and useful by reading and watching. If so, give it a share and spread the word. If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment!
If this Blog has helped you in some way, please give it a share and help spread the word. If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment below. Thanks!
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