How To Identify Tight Hips (and how to fix them)

Do you have compensations? Are there movement patterns you struggle with? Does performing a complex or compound movement not feel natural?

If you’re like me you probably answered yes to at least one of these questions. And chances are there were maybe more than one yes answer.

So…what do you do when you realize that:
* your knee turns in when you lunge
* your hamstrings light up more than your glutes when you do a bridge
* you feel it in your back when you rotate

How do fix these issues?

Well, honestly it’s hard enough to try and identify them because we live with them daily. It’s as though you aren’t as aware of your issues until:
A. somebody points them out to you
B. you eliminate them

Only then can you reflect back and realize how back things really were. Otherwise all you did was increase your tolerance level gradually in order to deal with the issue.

This is part of the reason soft tissue and manual therapy are so vital.

But let’s look at a ‘real-world’ example of a common day example of a compensation. Something that almost all of our clients experience.

What is it?

Well it’s tight hips and specifically tight internal hip rotators. These are the muscles that help turn the thigh in and help control outward turning of the leg.

How can you tell if you have tight internal hip rotators? On way is to lay on your back with your feet on the ground and let the knees knock together. How far apart can you position your feet and still have the knees come together?

For some as soon as they split the feet and attempt to let the feet fall together they will feel a pinch in the groin and maybe even strain at the knee.

And when they lunge they may notice the back foot turns out. In other words as they descend into a deep lunge there is a large requirement for hip mobility. We need a large range of motion at the hips in order to perform a deep lunge.

But if we are lacking the ability of hip to externally rotate, (maybe because of a tight internal hip rotator), the body will need to seek out this range of motion elsewhere.

It could try the knee but this is a hinge joint that typically moves forward and back in the sagittal plane. Therefore rotation is not its best feature.

But if we could look down a little further we could try the foot. And the foot has no problem picking up extra slack when it comes to rotation. It does it all the time.

And so we see the foot of the trail leg turn out.

What can we do about this? Well, a few things.

1. I would foam roll the calves. Extra activity of the foot and ankle may require some soft tissue work by way of the foam roller. Put a special emphasis on the outside of the calf.

2. Foam roll the internal hip rotators. These are the muscles on the inside of the leg which may be over-active and therefore could use some foam rolling to tone them down.

3. Strengthen the external hip rotators. I like clam shells but there are a number of exercises to strengthen these muscles.

Give this a try for a week or two and then check to see how your feet line up when you perform a split squat or lunge.


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