Stabilize your hips with strong Glutes!

There are 10 muscles in our buttock region on either side that directly act on our hip to provide movement and stabilization. This is without counting the numerous global muscles in the hip flexor, hamstring or adductor groups. Of particular importance are the deep rotator muscles (obturator, gemelli and quadratus muscles) and the gluteus medius and minimus muscles. Through their contraction these muscles help to stabilise the ball and socket joint that forms the hip, and they also help to maintain a stable and level alignment of our pelvis.

 

Without a stable hip joint and pelvis there can be poor lower limb alignment and poor transfer of forces between our limbs and spine when walking, running or doing resistance based movements. This leads to abnormal biomechanics that can alter joint loading not only at the hip, but also the ankle, knee and lower back. Pain or poor performance may result. A common pattern that presents with such weakness is dropping in the knees during squatting and running, with excessive shifting of the hip from side to side. You may not even have hip pain, but the weakness and changes in biomechanics may be causing symptoms in nearby areas.

In order to address such issues, you need to perform exercises that strengthen the hip rotator and gluteus medius/minimus muscles to improve stability of the pelvis and hip ball and socket joint, and restore more normal biomechanics. You may have been given simple exercises to try to achieve this in the past - such as side lying leg lifts, 'clams', bridges or single leg squats. However, these simple exercises are often not enough to develop strong and stable hips on their own. It is important that the exercises employed are sufficiently challenging and functionally specific to your sporting, occupational or recreational pursuit so that these muscles can adapt to the required demands. 

The videos below list a few examples of exercises for developing strong and stable hips in a manner that is functional and challenging, and with appropriate load to provide stimulus for neuro-muscular adaptation. There are many variations and progressions/regressions on the theme depending on your needs and the presence of any injury. 

This exercise strengthens the external rotators whilst focusing on lumbopelvic control in a neutral spinal position. Begin on your hands & knees with a resistance band hooked around your ankle and attached to a pole beside you. Move away from the pole so the band is on stretch and slowly control your leg as the band rotates your leg towards the pole. Return your foot to the start position by slowly rotating your hip to bring your feet closer together.
Use a block or bench approximately 40-50cm high. This exercise is more difficult with a higher bench/block. To do this exercise start by standing side on to the block. Step across your body and up onto the step using your outside leg. Then bring your other leg up onto the block to follow. Step down on the other side of the block by stepping behind your body with the same leg. Repeat with the opposite leg in the other direction. Whilst performing this exercise focus on slow controlled movement and keep a level pelvis and stable knee. Don't let your hip\knee drop in/out and try not to step down in a rushed and jerky fashion.
This exercise is a high level progression to really challenge your lumbopelvic and hip stability and I do not have the greatest form at the bottom of the squat. Stand facing a pole or door frame. As you squat down keep your opposite leg out in front and opposite hand helping with your balance on the pole or door frame. Keep your knee above your foot (don't let it drop inwards or move forward past your toes) and maintain a neutral spine.

Talk to your physio to learn more about developing your hip strength and stabilitiy for athletic performance or reducing pain and pathology. Strong hips sink ships!

The Gap Physio