Previously, we talked about ankle mobility and it’s importance in injury prevention, weight lifting, and kicking mechanics in swimming. Here, we will move on to the importance of hip mobility in athletics. Hip mobility is very important for all athletes, especially for those individuals spending a significant amount of time sitting when they aren’t training. Whether you are working 8-hour days at a desk, or spending hours in class, sitting impacts hip mobility by shortening the hip-flexors and weakening the glute muscles. This post will review why improving hip mobility is important and how to offset hours of sitting with simple exercises that improve hip flexibility.
Hip Mobility: The Importance
The hip girdle area is anatomically complex. There are over 15 muscles that are associated with the hip area, each working together to give the hip joint mobility. As you can predict, having a tight muscle or group of muscles can impede full range of motion. Thus, improving your hip mobility will not only increase athletic performance, but can also help prevent lower back pain/injury and boost explosive movements. Good hip flexibility encourages an athlete to perform movements more efficiently and allows them to assume biomechanically effective body positions in all sports, thus increasing athletic performance. Lower back injury is a common injury among athletes, especially in the weight room when proper technique is not executed. If mobility and strength in the hips are limited, an athlete will then compromise by lifting weight with their back muscles. These muscles are susceptible to injury, especially when lifting heavy loads. Lastly, having a full range of motion in the hips can help increase an athlete’s power. This can be seen through a more powerful dive off the blocks in swimming or jumping over hurdles with greater ease at a track meet.
Improving Hip Mobility
Taking the time to add in a few hip mobility exercises is a simple and easy way to help move toward your athletic goals. First, foam rolling your quadriceps and hamstrings is a simple and easy way to encourage hip flexibility. These large muscle groups originate from the hipbones and thus affect hip flexibility if they are tight. Other stretches include the “Pigeon stretch” demonstrated by Olympian Kim Vandenberg in this BridgeAthletic Video at 3:15, where you extend one leg behind you and cross the other in front helping to release locked-up hips. In addition, the scorpion stretch is a great way to release tension in the hips and is performed in this BridgeAthletic Video at 3:00. Stretching your hip-flexor muscles is vital and can be done by placing one knee on the ground and having the leg at 90˚ with your foot on the ground. Slowly push your pelvis forward until you feel a hip-flexor stretch in the leg with the knee on the ground. Last, the simple butterfly stretch can help stretch your hips and inner thighs.
As a society, we spend hours sitting in a classroom, office, or car, at school or at home, and during breakfast, lunch and dinner. This lengthy time spent sitting contributes to a lack of hip mobility due to tight hip muscles, especially the hip-flexors. Simple hip mobility exercises such as the pigeon stretch or butterfly stretch are great ways to release this tension that we build up from sitting so often. Whether you spend five minutes after your workout to stretch out your hips, or perform these stretches during commercial breaks during your nightly TV routine, five minutes is all it takes. Remember, do the work, day in and day out. The results will come.
1. Brooks, George et al. Exercise Physiology: Human Bioenergetics and Its Applications. McGraw Hill: New York. 2005.
2. Marieb, Elaine et al. Human Anatomy. Pearson Benjamin Cummings: San Francisco, CA. 2012.
For more information on sport-specific strength training, check out our piece on muscular hypertrophy.