Shakira's song "Hips Don't Lie" is true—especially when our hips are in pain. Without giving much thought to them, we use our hips every day—when we walk, stand, sit and workout. In fact, there are few times when we are not using our hips. Every time we rotate or move our trunk or feet in any way, our hips are involved.

For example, imagine standing and holding a baby or being at the gym ready to do a standing bicep curl. In these instances, the hips and legs play a crucial role in stabilizing the body, so we can hold the extra weight. As with any movement, the more our muscles are stabilized, the more efficient our body will become and the lower the risk of injury.

Hips play a greater role in exercises such as squats, lunges, running and while playing soccer, where the hips and legs need to coil and spring instantly when a player stops and sprints in the opposite direction. Many other sports—such as ice hockey, basketball, lacrosse and tennis, to name a few—need stable hips in order to skate, jump or stop and start quickly.

Are You Putting Too Much Stress on Your Hips?

If your hips are not working properly, other movements and muscles will suffer. Your hips are able to withstand a great amount of stress, but if they are used improperly, an uneven amount of stress can be transferred elsewhere in the body where it is not meant to go. An athlete will still be able to stop and start, jump or skate, but will do so less efficiently and with less power, strength and agility. Over time, the muscle that is compensating for the weakened hip muscles will begin to feel tight, decreasing agility and speed, as well as taking longer to recover.

To properly balance and keep your hip muscles strong, try these exercises:

Hip Rotations

  • Lie flat on your back with your legs and feet together, hands at your sides. Keep your feet in a neutral position.

  • Move your right leg across the floor until it is approximately 30 degrees from your left leg.

  • Rotate your right leg and hip outward as much as possible, keeping both legs straight.

  • Hold the position for six seconds and repeat six times on each leg, resting for a few seconds in between sets. Try to increase your rotation each time.

  • You can also do this exercise rotating your leg and hip inward to strengthen a different muscle.

Hip Flex

  • Lie flat on your back with your legs and feet together, hands at your sides. Keep your feet in a neutral position.

  • Flex and push your hips up, keeping your hips level.

  • At the same time, lift your leg straight up in the air about 18 inches. (You should feel the muscles from your hip to your upper thigh contracting.)

  • Hold the position for six seconds and repeat six times on each leg, resting for a few seconds in between sets.

  • You can also rotate your leg inward as you lift it up, increasing rotation with each repetition.

Muscle Activation Techniques

In addition to these exercises, Muscle Activation Techniques (commonly referred to as MAT) can help decrease muscle stress and pain caused by weakened hips. One of the first things an MAT specialist will check for during the initial Range of Motion exam is imbalances and limitations in this area.

Because the hips can affect motion in the lower body, trunk and spine, limitations in the hips can cause problems nearly anywhere in the body. If one of the hip muscles is not working as well as it should be, another muscle will be compensating for it. For example, a sore knee, weak foot, stiff back or tense shoulder can all be caused by the hip. Often the area that we feel pain or discomfort is completely different than the root of the problem.

Starting with simple movements first, the MAT specialist will have the client lay face up on a massage table and rotate their hips through the legs in inward and outward motions. If the client is unable to rotate one leg as far as the other, the specialist will do muscles tests to the interlinked muscles to determine which one has been compromised. The client will be asked to hold certain positions with resistance to determine which muscle or muscles are weakened.

The specialist will then complete precise palpations to this selected muscle. By isolating the muscle and applying light pressure using Muscle Activation Techniques, muscle function can be restored.

In addition, the Range of Motion test will assess limitations by moving the hips in a variety of ways through the legs, both straight and bent, internal and external rotations. Often, just one limitation is focused on in each MAT session, however, the treatment is largely dependent upon the person's individual issues and needs. It may take several Muscle Activation Techniques sessions to fully restore muscle functioning for specific limitations.


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