Improve Your Hip Stability Sure, you need adequate hip mobility levels, but you also need sufficient levels of hip stability. The hip is a very unique joint. Throughout the various ranges of motion, different muscles contribute in varying proportions.
Specific muscles may be very active in some motion ranges but not in others. Some forces have different roles depending on the motion. For example, the adductors assist in hip extension when rising out of the bottom of a full squat; however, they help in hip flexion when raising your leg off the ground from a standing position. During exercise, you usually move in one plane of motion while controlling or preventing movement in the other motion planes. For example, when you perform a Bulgarian split squat, you move up and down in the sagittal plane.
Weak and unstable individuals find it very difficult to control their femur during single-leg movements. They usually end up leaking energy by failing to prevent the femur in the frontal (coronal) and transverse planes. In other words, their femur will move laterally from side to side and will internally or externally rotate throughout the movement, especially at the bottom portion of the action. Ideally, you want the knees to track over the toes in this exercise, which requires sufficient hip stability.
Hip stability becomes more challenging when greater ranges of motion are reached. Since the glutes respond very well to large degrees of action, it’s essential to control the femur and move fluidly while preventing unnecessary movement.
You can improve your hip stability by performing activation work, 5 single-leg exercises, isometric holds, and exercises that move your hips through full ranges of motion. Improve Your Hip Mobility The hips are a ball-and-socket joint which allows a lot of movement. The hips can drive in many directions; they can flex (ex: raise the knee from a standing position), extend (ex: pushing the thigh rearward while walking), abduct (ex: move the thigh outward as in a jumping jack), adduct (ex: move the thigh inward from an adducted position), internally rotate (ex: point the toes towards each other), and externally rotate (ex: point the toes away from each other).
For the glutes to do their job, you need to create an environment that encourages their activation.
If the hips are bound up and can’t move through full ranges of motion, then the glutes will not be able to “do their thang” and demonstrate their strength. The glute’s primary roles are hip extension, external hip rotation, and hip abduction. If hip mobility is impaired in any particular direction, it will most likely result in decreased gluteal activation.
I’ll give you some examples to illustrate this point. Let’s say that your hip flexion mobility is not up-to-par and you have tight hamstrings. When you bend over, as in the case of picking up something off the ground (such as performing a deadlift), you will only be able to go down as far as your hamstring flexibility allows. When it runs out, and the body still needs to go further, it will get you from point A to point B by bending at the spine.
You have the spinal erectors serving as prime 6 movers when ideal movement patterning in this scenario involves keeping the spine stable while moving mostly at the hips. The spine and pelvis are intimately connected with the hips, and the range will pick up the slack and make up for any lack of flexibility in any direction in the hips. If your hips can’t extend past neutral due to tight hip flexors, the spine will hyperextend to take your body where it needs to get in extension.
It’s been said that squatting with tight hip flexors is like driving with the parking brake on. Here’s another example. Let’s say that your hips can’t rotate well, as in the case of a golf swing. Your body has to turn through a considerable range of motion to swing a golf club.
If your body possesses sufficient internal and external rotation in the hips, the body will use that flexibility while it rotates. However, suppose the hips are jammed up and don’t allow for many processes. In that case, the spine will adjust accordingly and increase its rotation, which places tremendous forces on the range and eventually leads to back pain.
This pain will further decrease flexibility and further impair the glute activation, as the pain has been shown in the literature to inhibit the glutes. Mobility and proper muscle activation go hand in hand. You can increase your hip mobility in several ways:
- You can practice self-myofascial release (SMR), which improves soft-tissue quality and eliminates “restrictions” in joint range of motion.
- You can perform mobility drills, actively moving your body into end ranges of motion.
- You can employ various types of flexibility such as static stretching, which involves passively moving your joints into end ranges of motion.
Increase Your Core Stability The word “core” has been a big buzzword in the past decade. The experts debated what exactly comprises the core, with some believing that the body consists of muscles that lie between the pelvis and ribcage. Others believe that the core consists of powers between the shoulders and knees. Most people would agree 7 that the abdominals, obliques, and erector spinae are “core” muscles. Some believe that the glutes, lats, hip flexors, and scapula retractors serve as “core” muscles. Some even feel that some of the neck muscles are “core” muscles.
Small muscles are essential for core stability, including the multifidus and quadratus lumborum. Many like to use the terms “inner core” and “outer core” to describe its function. The inner core consists of muscles that form a cylinder and help create intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) which protects the spine by pushing up against the range under load and buttressing against dangerous forces. IAP is a good thing for spinal stability. The diaphragm up top, multifidi in the rear, pelvic floor at the bottom, and transverse abdominis in the front and sides form the cylinder (with some of the internal oblique and erector spinae fibres contributing as well).
More “global” muscles help create spinal stability by directly resisting motion and by “co-contracting,” which compresses the spine to make the spine rigid and more difficult to bend. These “outer unit” muscles involve the rectus abdominis, the internal and external obliques, the erector spinae, and more. You need to understand that core stability, which is the ability to keep the spine in the neutral position and prevent “energy leaks” in the range such as rounding or hyperextending, is a critical component to gaining strength.
The saying, “You can’t shoot a cannon out of a canoe” is very appropriate here. If you want to exert maximum strength or power, you need a stable base from which to fire. The core needs to lock down and prevent excessive movement so it can transfer force from one part of the body to the next and allow for proper movement patterns. You can improve your core stability by performing core stability drills from various directions.
Strengthening the core from multiple directions will ensure that you have balanced core strength and have sufficiently developed the core muscles needed to stabilize the body and allow for the demonstration of maximum power. 8 Improve Your Motor Control is your ability to regulate and direct the control movement mechanisms. The brain and nerves organize the body’s joints and muscles into coordinated, functional movement patterns and detect stimuli from the environment to respond accordingly.
As your body changes position and interacts with the ground and the load, tremendous amounts of coordination and balance are required to maximize strength and power production.
Motor control blends mobility and stability to control your joints through entire spectrums of motion. While all aspects of training will improve your sensorimotor control, in general, you need to increase your “kinesthetic awareness,” which involves the tensioning of muscles in response to proprioceptive feedback based on space and time to maintain balance and control. Many individuals are utterly oblivious to their mechanics, and they rush through their dynamic warm-up without realizing that this portion of the routine is ideal for focusing on form. By focusing on quality (how you perform the movements) rather than quantity (how many sets and reps and how much weight you use), you can improve your motor control, which will allow you to get stronger over time.
Learn Proper Exercise Form There are subtle ways to make the glutes “do more” during exercises. Employing these methods is essential because although strong glutes spare the spine, they won’t help you if you’re not using them while you move. 9 It’s okay to lean forward a bit in the lunge for variation as research shows that it increases glute activation. In general, the deeper you go in a squat, the greater the glute activation. Furthermore, the more comprehensive your stance in a squat, the greater the glute activation.
While many women can squat deep with a wide stance, most men cannot. They have to choose between going wide or going deep. Wide stance squats can beat the hips up over time, so it’s essential to incorporate variety into your training.
You should know how to perform many different squats, deadlifts, bridges, and single-leg exercises. You should also know the different bar positions for the squat and deadlift: low bar, high bar, front, Zercher, snatch grip, clean grip, neutral grip, and behind the back. You should know the difference between a full squat, a parallel squat, a front squat, and a box squat.
You should know how to deadlift conventionally, sumo-style, out of a rack, and with a trap bar. You should know how to perform hip thrusts in different manners. You should know how to perform a single leg squat, single-leg Romanian deadlift, single-leg hip thrust, and single-leg back extension. After you’ve gained experience, you’ll understand that there are specific rules that pertain to good lower-body exercise form - sit back, keep the chest up, push through the heels, keep the knees out, and keep an arch in the low back.