| Article written on February 12th, 2017 at 7:24pm | Follow Garrett on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram |
Stability at the hip joint is an important characteristic for optimal alignment, lower limb mechanics, and performance. But, how do we train this to effectively see carryover in running, sport, and everyday life?
One of the biggest problems I see are people strengthening the hips when trying to improve stability. Yes, strength does matter to proper function and mechanics of the hip joint. But, we can’t just strengthen a muscle or muscle group and expect it to improve it’s role within a movement pattern. That is why each of the following exercises do not strengthen in isolation but rather train alignment and joint control.
With so many exercise choices available to target hip stability, my favorites are those that rely on maintaining a controlled joint position for an extended period of time. Yes, stability should be present throughout the full range of motion. But, giving the body time to anticipate and adjust to create an optimal environment is a beneficial starting point.
Here are 4 of my favorite bang for your buck hip stability exercises:
1/2 Kneeling Chop and Lift
The 1/2 kneeling chop and lift is an exercise that relies on a stabile base of support which is challenged with a moving upper body. The contrast between a stationary base and moving upper body really paves the way for creating a stabile environment.
Have you ever incorporated any 1/2 kneeling positions within your training? Essentially it’s holding a lunge position with the back knee on the ground. The key to this exercise is to set-up in an aligned lower limb position and never falter throughout the thoracic rotation. The heavier the weight you move with the upper body, the more challenging it will become to maintain a solid 1/2 kneeling position.
Split Squat Iso Hold
The split squat iso hold is one of my go to lower body strength and stability movements, or lack thereof. Most people dread this exercise since it becomes very challenging as you increase weight and hold for the desired amount of time.
When you try this exercise for the first time, it’s important to place emphasis on the set-up. That means both legs aligned on either side. Then slightly lift the back knee off the ground, maintaining the front thigh no higher than parallel with the floor.
One common issue I see is people have a hard time pushing through the discomfort and end up standing higher than recommended. Complete for 30-seconds for 2-4 weeks before dropping the time to 15-seconds with added resistance.
Singe Leg Static Row
Since the last two exercises focus primarily on hip stability in the split stance position, it’s important to teach stability on a single leg. I do find value in traditional balance exercises, but if we can incorporate some other movement that disrupts our positioning, stability is further enhanced.
During the single leg static row, ensure you are standing on one leg while rowing with the opposite arm. The key is to maintain alignment on the stance leg without allowing the knee to collapse inward or lose balance. Throughout the hold, the greater the resistance used while rowing will further increase the challenge on hip stability and control.
Not only is this exercise good from a stability standpoint, but it ties in the connection between opposite shoulder and hip. Since this cross pattern is essential in various forms of locomotion, such as crawling, skipping, and running, runners may benefit greatly with it’s carryover to the road.
Single Leg Deadlift
By far, one of the most valuable hip stability movements is the single leg deadlift. Although it may be the best, I often do not start people at this level because it requires a solid foundation of hip strength and stability first. That is why the exercises listed above, along with the hip hinge, should be prerequisites.
From a function standpoint, being able to balance on one leg with good hip stability and control is important. But, can this be maintained while moving through hip flexion and extension?
The Ironic thing is I find many runners who cannot complete this movement successfully, but still run mile after mile. In those situations I question if they possess the necessary amount of balance, stability, and control needed to run efficiently with good mechanics. I would assume not.
Remember, creating better stability at the hip is important but does take time. It’s not incorporating the most difficult exercise that we need but consistently training those that just slightly exceed our ability level that creates lasting results. Only once optimal stability and control are demonstrated do we progress to the next level. If you spend the time to train these characteristics effectively, more efficient movement and joint mechanics are soon to follow.
By: Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART