Your hips are central to your body’s wellness. They play a huge part in whether or not you move freely. And because much of our movement starts from our hips, imbalances here can cause problems further down the line. Tight, weak, immobile hips contribute to lower back issues as well as knee problems, among other frustrations.
Unfortunately, we also aren’t particularly nice to our hips in modern society. Many common daily habits, sitting in particular, lead to poor hip health.
But, as always, the great news is that the body is always changing, which means that the efforts you start today can help move you toward healthier hips tomorrow. So let’s get into it with 5 reasons you should get hip to your hip health.
1. What Are We Talking About When We’re talking About Hips
To get started in our hipster journey, let’s get clear on what we’re talking about when we’re referring to your hips. Simply put, your hips are the area between your torso and your legs. The pelvic region.
This area contains your hip joint: where your femur connects to your pelvis. It also contains the muscles and tendons around that area: namely your glutes, as well as adductors and abductors (the muscles of your inner and outer thigh, respectively).
There’s also your psoas or iliopsoas muscle, which runs between your spine and femur; it’s one of the hip flexor muscles: those muscles that bring your leg toward your abdomen. Your iliotibial band also starts up here; that’s the large swath of connective tissue that runs along your outer thigh; it's often called the IT band.
All of these parts working together allow you to rotate and move your legs, as well as allow you to change the orientation of your torso to your legs; it's where you bend and swivel your body. This area has a big say in how you walk, run, and get up and down. In other words, your hips are a big deal.
So let’s spend the rest of our time here getting hip to how to take care of this central part of our body.
Moving optimally requires that you have flexibility and a full range of motion; it also requires that your muscles are adequately strong throughout. We recently posted An Ode to Reps: Why to Love Your Gym Workouts, and here’s a place where that really applies.
Doing all of the small and big exercises that help strengthen the muscles and connective tissue around your hip area helps provide the stability, stamina, and power you need to move well throughout the day.
You can certainly find a lot of great exercises if you do some searching around. You'll want to address working your hip flexors, glutes (all of them), adductors and abductors, and hamstrings.
Using a band around your knees for exercises like clamshells and glute bridges are very popular, as are bird-dog exercises. In this helpful blog post from strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco, you'll find some great moves to work the hip flexor.
But as with all gym work, personalized care is really helpful, especially if you’re just getting started or if you have a specific problem you’re dealing with. We’re always here for your personal training needs, including attending to your hip health.
Stretching is important to avoid injury and to maintain a healthy range of motion. And it helps alleviate stiffness and achiness. Even just taking a few minutes every half hour or so to get up and elongate your muscles can go a long way in helping your body feel good throughout the day.
Something to remember, though, is that stretching alone isn’t going to fix issues of chronically tight hips. Strengthening also needs to be part of the equation. Oftentimes, muscles are tight or overworked because they’re compensating for weaknesses elsewhere. Stretching may create temporary relief, but without the strength work, those muscles will go right back to being tight.
Another key part of the hip wellness equation is movement, or dynamic stretching: these are big range of motion movements that also stretch your muscles. An important consideration here is to make sure that you do these gently until you're well warmed up, to avoid any muscle strains.
This short video has a nice selection of common hip mobility movements:
5. Reduce Causes of Hip Problems
This sounds really obvious: just don’t do what causes hip problems in the first place. But the reality is, many of us don’t realize what’s causing our issues, and sometimes life demands that we do things that aren’t the most ideal. Again, thank goodness our bodies are always adapting and changing.
Two big culprits of hip issues are, as mentioned, sitting, as well as general lack of mobility. To be clear, the former does lead to the latter. Sitting a lot leads to weak glutes and tight hip flexors and hamstrings, and this combination is notorious for causing lower back pain. It’s also notorious for causing all sorts of movement issues: for instance, sitting can have a harsh impact on running.
But even if you don’t sit a lot, it’s important to actively maintain a full range of motion in your hips. Practices like Pilates and yoga work wonders here, as does the “nutritious movement” Katy Bowman talks about (which we touched on in our recent post about The Benefits of Balance). Bottom line is that your hips are made to move, a lot and in many directions. Keep them happy by using them to their fullest potential.
That, dear wellness seeker, is it. Now that you're hip to your hip health, go out and make it happen. You've got this.