Our body’s frame is made up of hundreds of bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. As you know, our muscles contract and lengthen as they move our bones, all of which would not be possible without joints! There are a few different types of joints, and they each perform a different action. The simplest is a hinge joint, which only moves in one direction. Your knees, fingers, toes, and elbows are hinge joints. The saddle joint, as in the thumb, ankle, and wrist, are examples of gliding joints. The spinal column is made up of synovial joints. The most versatile joint is the ball and socket, found in the shoulder and hip.
The hip is the most flexible of all the joints (except for maybe the shoulder) and can perform in multiple planes of motion. Unlike your knees, ankles, fingers, or elbows, the hip joint can flex, extend, abduct, adduct, as well as internally and externally rotate. The hip also supports our body weight and the force of our largest and most powerful muscles of the hips and thighs. If you start to lose the strength and/or flexibility of this joint, you will soon begin to experience problems not just in your hip but also your low back and knees. The hip is meant to be a mobile joint while the knee and lower back are meant to be stable.
The most common cause for decreased strength and range of motion through the hip is too much sitting. We were not meant to spend our days sitting. A sedentary lifestyle will lead to muscle atrophy, shortening of your ligaments and tendons, and a decline in balance. In response to the immobility of the hip joint, the low back and knees will begin to be stressed. This typically causes people to move even more infrequently, which leads to low back and knee problems. Low back and knee pain are the two most common complaints we hear with new clients. Your trainer can help you improve your strength, balance, and proper function of this very important joint. In the mean time, here are some tips to help keep your body functioning properly:
- Move! If you have a desk job, get up each hour to stretch your legs.
- Take the stairs. The Gluteus Maximus is the strongest, largest muscle in your body. You need to keep this muscle strong in order to support your lumbar spine and stabilize your knees.
- Stretch the muscles of the hip in all directions. Don’t just stretch the hamstrings and glutes. The muscles responsible for adduction and abduction as well as internal & external rotation need to be stretched too.
- Incorporate functional exercises into your workout. Functional exercises work the smaller stabilizing and balancing muscles.
- The following exercises will strengthen the muscles of the hip: Squats, dead lifts, kettlebell swings, lunges, side steps, box jumps, and bridges.
Keep your abdominals pull in and knees positioned over toes as you lower body. You will naturally lean forward, but keep your chest lifted.