Improving your hip mobility

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It’s time to work on that hip mobility of yours so you can start breaking it down at your local night, super market or even at work!  So to start with the issue, we need to identify exactly what is a hip mobility issue, which we can identify by going through a quick test, formally known as the Thomas Test (Yep, That’s a click through link on how to go through the test).

Squat University

Did you have checks in every box of the ‘pass’ column?  If so,  you show adequate hip flexion mobility. However if you had any checks in the ‘fail’ column for this screen, you have a hip mobility restriction.

So if you didn’t pass the test lets begin with going through a sequence of things before we walk away with improved hip mobility and it starts with the 4 step process of:

1. Mobilize
2. Foam Roll
3. Stretch
4. Posterior-Chain Activation

Mobilization: A restriction in joint mobility should be the first area to address.  During the Thomas test, a “pinching” sensation felt in the front of the hip when pulling your knee to your chest indicates possible impingement.  shutterstock_1074188606.jpgThis sensation is felt when the femur hits the joint “blockade,” halting the movement at the hip joint. These types of restrictions will not resolve with conventional stretching and foam rolling.  Therefore, any pinching sensation in our hip joint must be addressed first before moving onto possible soft tissue stiffness.  

Distraction joint mobilizations assist with the way our bones glide over each other.  A joint glide is sustained while the athlete actively moves into the specific range-of-motion we are trying to improve.  During the squat, the end of our femur glides backwards in our hip joint as our thigh moves towards our chest. These types of mobilizations (simply termed mobilizations with movement) have been used for years by physical therapists. The goal is to alleviate any painful or pinching feelings deep in the joint.

Foam Roll: Once joint restrictions have been addressed the next step is to clear up any soft tissue stiffness. This starts with using a foam roller.  I usually recommend people spend at least 2 minutes on each area they are trying to address.  Our goal with the foam roller is to decrease the stiffness the Thomas test was able to expose.  This means addressing our hip flexors, quads, and lateral hips.  Start by moving slowly up and down the lower leg muscles until you find a tender area.  Pause on this area and ‘tack it down’ with your bodyweight for ~10 seconds before moving again.


Soft Tissue Stretching:  Once foam rolling is complete, stretching the muscles is the next step.  My first go-to stretch for opening up our hips and improving our mobility prior to squatting is called the “Runners Stretch and the Brettzel Stretch”.

Posterior – Chain and Activation:   The inability to properly activate the posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings) during the squat is a common finding in athletes.   For this reason I recommend to perform a quick exercise to prime these muscles after addressing their mobility issues.

The movement I want to show you today is called Unilateral Abduction.  The layman term for this exercise is ‘banded lateral kicks.’  To start place an elastic band around your ankles.  I like using the mini exercise bands from Perform Better.

Next assume an athletic single leg stance.  Once in this position, push the hips backwards and allow the chest to move forward.  This small movement allows us to engage our posterior chain and remain balanced.  The cue I like to use for every squat (even small ones like this) to solidify this idea is: “squat with the hips – not with the knees.”

Once we are in position, kick the non-stance leg out to the side and back in a slow and controlled manner.  The distance the leg moves out to the side is not our main concern. Focus on keeping the stance leg in a stable and unwavering position during the entire exercise.  This exercise not only primes the glutes for the squatting we will perform after, but will help address core and knee stability problems.

Just like that your hip problems could be solved!


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