The biggest and most powerful joint in the body is the hip joint. The hip joints not only generate the majority of power in athletic movements but also are the center of all points of connection and load for the body’s muscle groups. Therefore, when the hip joint becomes compromised in any way, it affects the whole body.
The most common way that the hip joint becomes compromised is when an athlete performs high-level movements on a hip that is either tight due to a muscular imbalance or out of alignment because of repetitive sports practice. A way to combat these issues is by working on what is referred to as hip mobility. Hip mobility refers to the ability of the hip joint to pivot, move, and glide at all of the angles it is intended to. So how does an athlete make sure he can properly maintain hip mobility?
To maintain or attain proper hip mobility, it is important that athletes take the time to stretch AND strengthen all muscles that are attached to the pelvis. It is common for people to talk about stretching their hamstrings or hip flexors, but there are many other muscles that attach to the pelvis. If one of these muscles is either weak or tight, this causes that muscle to pull or allow the pelvis to sit at an angle that compromises the proper functional movement of the body. This can lead to injury when put under extreme stress or high loads, which is why it is important for athletes to maintain strength in addition to flexibility of the hips. Athletes can do so by performing exercises that force the hip to function at multiple ranges and angles. An example of this would be doing exercises such as 90/90s for a more stretch-oriented mobility exercise or doing a front foot-elevated split squat for a more strength-oriented exercise.
Overall, hip mobility is one of the key areas athletes should focus on to help mitigate their chance of injury and increase athletic performance. For more information on exercises that would benefit you and your hip mobility, ask your athletic trainer or strength coach.
Tanner Smith is a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Compete Sports Performance and Rehab in Orange County, CA. He can be reached via the website www.competeperformance.com