The hip is a pivotal joint that plays a big role in function of the lower back. Oftentimes, lack of hip extension due to poor flexibility and/or weakness can predispose the body to lower back pain and injury. From another perspective, lack of anti-extension (abdominals/obliques) core control and pelvic positioning will cause the back to be forced into extension during extension of the hip. All of this is undesirable when it comes to health of the spine.
In the video below, I explain how hip extension impacts the lower back. But first, let’s appreciate how mobility and stability must work together to create an optimal environment…
During hip extension, as in basic hip strengthening exercises, walking, and running, the core must reflexively fire to stabilize the pelvis. I often see people in the gym working on glute strengthening with no regard to spine position.
When you extend the hip to a certain point, especially when done forcefully and/or without respecting it’s end-range of motion, the lower back has to extend and the pelvis tips anteriorly to allow this motion. Over time, hyperextension of the hip can lead to increased compressive forces at the lumbar spine and injury. See the picture below as an example of forcing hip extension and how the back is impacted.
Notice how the lower back changes, from more of a neutral and natural curvature at the start, to hyperextension at the finish? This occurs either due to creating false extension of the hip where the lower back is assisting the leg being lifted. Or, poor spinal stabilization and lack of anti-extension core stability, thus leading to excessive lumbar extension.
Take a second to watch the following video. I highly recommend you take notice next time you perform any hip extension movements. Can you isolate the hip while still respecting the positioning of the pelvis and lower back? This is an important concept to reduce the incidence of lower back pain and to also get more from your hips.
By: Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART