Mike Boyle said it best: "The key to hip mobility is to get the right muscles moving the hip joint, and to decrease the movement of the lumbar spine as a substitute for hip movement." In other words, if you want to make sure your low back — a problem spot for a very high percentage of people — stays pain free, you have to tackle any flexibility, mobility or strength issues right at the hips.
The hip is the largest joint in the body, and is the trickiest to train properly.
Here's a test to see how you're doing with hip mobility:
- You should able to bend forward with a flat back while standing on two feet, and perhaps even more importantly, on one foot.
- From standing, you should be able to pull your knee straight up until your thigh is parallel to the ground, with your foot dorsiflexed (pulling your toes toward your shin) and lined up directly beneath the knee. Do this for 10 seconds (unsupported) with your hands at your sides.
- Make sure you can side-step with a band or onto a box, emphasizing eccentric control (lowering yourself down off the box, or returning the trailing leg with the mini band).
Next you need to stretch your booty! To learn how, read more.
Now, do your glute stretches:
- Glute-max: Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Place your right ankle over your left knee. Reach through your legs to grasp your left knee, and pull both legs toward your chest until your right glute feels comfortably stretched. Keep your spine long against the floor, tucking your chin to create length in the back of neck.
- Glute-med: Pigeon pose. From high plank, place your knee directly between your hands and lower down over your bent leg with your body weight, until you feel a stretch in the back of your hip. Make sure that you feel this in your glutes, not your knee, and use your arm strength to support you. Don't hold this one for more than 3 seconds unless you have very tight hips, because it compacts the front of the hip. If it pinches the front of the hip, back it off until it doesn't. Never feel any level of pain in a joint while stretching. Sitting with pain will just create injury.
- Train your hip to hold your knee stable in squats, in lunges to 360 degrees, and on one leg.
- Finally, foam roll the hips in the front for your hip flexors and in the back. Do this after your warm-up.
A good sequence:
- Warmup (mobility work)
- Foam roll
- Strength train
- Give yourself a clap on the back
Don't forget that last part . . . very important!