To me, hip strength is as close to a silver bullet that you will find when it comes to body health. Do you have knee pain, hip pain, shoulder pain or neck pain? It could be the hips.
The hips are a bit like scales, if one side of the scales is weaker than the other they don’t support the weight properly and the weaker side is going to struggle to do its job. If one hip isn’t strong it’s not going to be fully functional in balancing the body.
Despite the huge role of hips, not many people put hip strength at the top of their fitness routine and more often than not it’s not even considered. Thankfully, our glute strength has been getting a lot of attention, but we often focus on the Glute Max to get a nice shapely bum. As great as this muscle is, we’re forgetting all the other muscles in that area that give our hips strength and stability, such as the gluteus medius, the TFL and Piriformis.
The hip is made up by a myriad of muscles that hold tension in different angles, in different areas in order to create stability and range of motion:
The Piriformis - from the sacrum to the head of the femur, externally rotates the leg
The TFL - the top, front of the hip bone into the ITB internally rotates and abducts (lifts out to the side) the leg
The Glute Med - the top, side of the hip bone to the head of the femur, stabilises and abducts
The Glute Max - the top back of the hip to the femur and ITB extends the hips allowing for the pushing off movement in walking and running
The Psos - from the spine to the head of the humerus, stabilises and flexes (lifts the leg upwards) as well as internally rotates
I could go on… but let’s have a look in practical terms.
To keep our legs moving without pain or discomfort we want all of these muscles to be in balance. All of these muscles need to be strong and healthy, we don’t want one muscle doing all of the work and throwing the others off balance. This keeps the femur in a healthy position in the hip socket, allowing for easy, free range of motion.
When these muscles are all doing their job you walk and generally move better. When these muscles are at odds with each other, they can overload one leg, one knee, one foot, or load at an angle and cause the rest of the leg muscles from the thighs to the calves to the feet to work ineffectively.
When the hips are strong and healthy it also offers the upper body a solid base. Think of the hips as the base of a jenga tower, if the bottom part is unbalanced the upper is much more unstable. Balanced hips mean a better foundation for the back and even the shoulder and neck.
Good global hip health should be the focus for us all, it should be incorporated into your everyday fitness activities. If you want to know more about the best exercises for your hips, check out tomorrow's blog. If you are concerned about your hip strength or stability ask at your next session with one of our therapists, though if you’ve been in before, I am sure they would have identified any issues you may have - and helped you with some exercises!