Hip Mobility and Sports Performance

Running, jumping, sprinting – they all start with the hip. This single joint is responsible for initiating just about every lower-body movement. So, it should go without saying that hip mobility is necessary for peak performance; yet, too many athletes neglect the joint and ‘deal with’ the tightness. The problem is, not only does tightness lead to reduced performance, it can cause numerous training modalities including misalignments, stress on the knees and ankles, tears, dislocations, and other season-ending injuries.

What is the hip joint?

Similar to the shoulder, the hip is a ball and socket joint located where the thigh bone (femur) meets the pelvis. It’s the largest bone in the body and is surrounded by many ligaments and muscles that keep it in place.

What happens when my hips ‘feel tight’?

First let me start off by saying, ‘tightness’ in itself is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s usually the result of muscle development. When you train, your muscles are broken down and then rebuilt. During the ‘rebuild’ process, the muscle fibers can shift out of alignment. It’s this misalignment of the fibers – along with shortening of the fibers –that causes the tightness. The issue arises when you continue to train while the muscle remains in this misaligned and shortened state. Usually doing so will defer the training load to different areas of your body that were never intended to perform that specific movement, thus causing additional tightness, soreness, and injuries.

Bottom line:
It is extremely important that every athlete participate (daily) in a quality stretching program.

Okay, how can I improve hip mobility?

We’ve put together a few easy ways to stretch your hips. Keeping these stretches a part of your daily routine will increase your mobility and improve your sports’ performance.

Foam Roll

  1. Foam Roll the inner thigh from the top of the knee to the bottom of the groin. If you feel an area of ‘tightness’, then hold that position for 20-30 seconds. This will ‘loosen’ the muscle by massaging the fibers back to their correct position.
  2. Repeat Step 1, this time moving from the inner thigh to the front of your leg to stretch your quad.
  3. Repeat Step 1, this time moving from the front of your leg to the outer side of your leg.
  4. Repeat Step 1, this time moving from the outer side of your leg to the back of your leg to stretch your hamstring.
  5. Once you’ve completed steps 1-4, move to the other side and repeat.

Estimated time to complete: 5 minutes

Lacrosse Ball

  1. With a lacrosse ball (tennis ball will work, too; baseball is too hard), sit flat on the ground and place the ball under your right glute. Take your right leg and cross it over your left knee with a 90-degree bend in that right knee. Your left foot will be flat on the ground and your arms will be behind you as you place your weight on your hands and left foot. Slowly roll your glute around on top of the ball, pausing for 20-30 seconds when you find that area that is tight.
  2. Repeat Step 1 with left side.

Estimated time to complete: 3 minutes

Gluteus Medius Stretch

  1. Sit on the ground, bringing your right leg in front of you. The leg in front should be flexed at about 90-degrees.
  2. Bring the left leg behind you, extending it as straight as possible. Bring your hands in front of you, inline, or right in front of your right knee (the lead leg). Slowly start transferring the weight (as able) from your hands to the leg in front. You should feel a stretch in your right glute. You can move the position of your torso around as you try to find additional areas of tightness in that right glute.
  3. Hold the position for about 30 seconds. Sit up and then go back down for a second set. Complete 2 sets on the right side.
  4. Repeat Steps 1-4 on the left side.

Estimated time to complete: 3 minutes

Authors: Ryan Pittman & Mark Keil

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