Without even being aware of it, you favor certain things in your life. From your favorite coffee cup to the leg you balance on, we form habits and those habits form dominant lifestyle habits. Habits in our movement and posture create imbalances in our strength and no where is this more visible than in the main fulcrum of our body , the Hips . At the intersection of our body lives the connection between some of the most important pieces of our independent living. maintaining good hip health means you are able to create a hedge against injury, pain and long term deterioration. Unilateral Movements are one solution. Lets explore the Top 5 best exercises for Hip Health.
Your Hips do incredible things. There are over 30 muscles alone that span the length of the pelvis and the hips, connecting the legs, and the abdominals. The base of the spine to the head and the toes to the posas, it all meets right here. The Hips do 4 Major Functions;
-Abduction (lateral lunges)
-Adduction (squeezing a ball between legs)
-Flexion (V Ups/Leg Levers)
Unilateral exercises create balance between the muscles that control these functions independent of bias to one side or the other. The benefit is not just in the hips either. The deep stabilizer muscles around the spine as well as the Core muscles really benefit from unilateral strength work.
1. DEADBUG Series.
The Deadbug series works unilateral extension and flexion of the hip. The befits include lengthening and strengthening of the hip flexor muscles which are overlooked and neglected especially if you sit at a desk for a living.
Begin by laying on your back with the base of the spine and hips pinned to the floor. The upper back and head are neutral and flush with the ground. Raise the legs and flex the feet . If flexibility in the hamstrings is inhibiting you, bend the knees BUT ALWAYS KEEP THE LOW BACK ON THE FLOOR. Reach one leg and one arm away from each other in opposite directions. Control the extension and flexion through the hip to ensure the Hips stay flat on the floor. Perform 10 reps Ipsalateral (same arm/leg) and 10 Reps Contra Lateral (opposite arm/leg) for 3 Rounds.
2. Single Leg Bridge Up.
One important cause of imbalances in the hips is a weak medial glute muscle. The Single Leg Bridge is a great way to target the medial glute, provide feed back to the brain about how to activate the muscle for use later in your workout and when done in an isometric hold, it is a great way to build the muscle you want for the perfect butt!
Begin laying flat on the ground with the heels pulled into the butt. The back should be flat on the ground. Elevate one leg up and extend it in front of the body. Press through the heel on the floor and pivot on the upper back. Extend the hip fully and squeeze the glute. You will feel the hamstring turn on and one of your butt cheeks quickly being worked. Perform 15 Reps on one leg and then switch. Hold the top of each rep for a half a second to ensure hip is at full extension. Do 2 Sets on each leg.
3. Bulgarian Split Squat.
The Bulgarian Split Squat is one of my favorites because it challenges the flexibility of the hip as you squat low and also incorporates the full musculature of the leg during the exercise.
Start by placing the top of the foot on the edge of a 18-20” box. The height of the box should reflect how tall you are and how long your legs are. There is not a massive benefit for tryin to be a hero and use a bigger box. The goal is to reach full depth on the squat, so choose a box that allows you to squat below parallel.
The front foot or ‘working leg’ should be out far enough that the knee is able to stay over the top of it during the exercise and the heel stays on the floor. Once in position, keep thickest upright and core tight. Squat down below parallel and push through the working heel until hip is extended. You may weight this exercise for an amazing accessory lift! Perform 3 Sets of 8-10 reps per leg.
4. Single Leg Romanian Deadlift.
This Strength Exercise will target not only the muscles around the hip including the hamstring, adductors and glues; it also works the core muscles to develop balance and stability.
Begin with the feet together under the hips, toes forward . Retract the shoulders and engage the core. Unweight one leg and hinge at the hip. Allow the ‘working’ leg to bend slightly so as to allow the hip to travel backward and the head and chest to pendulum forward. Reach the hands down the working leg as fas as flexibility will allow.
This can be a weighted exercise as long as the hips stay square and do not rotate too much! Engage the glues and hamstrings to pull the hip back into extension. You will feel this through the adductor muscles and it can help alleviate IT band syndrome.
5. Single Leg Lateral Jumps.
Once the strength and balance of the leg has been established you can add dynamic efforts to compound the muscles into work. This exercise is great for training extension, flexion adduction and abduction all at once.
Use a short hurdle or cone placed laterally to the leg. Hinge at the waist slightly to load the hip using only the working leg. Jump up and laterally over the cone or hurdle. Land softly on the ball of the foot , rolling back to touch the heel to the ground. Keep the torso squared over the hip and working leg. Continue to jump back and forth for :20, providing for accuracy . Switch legs . Perform 4 sets of :20 of work on each leg.
The goal is to ensure the hips stay balanced and healthy for years to come but the byproducts of all these exercises is boosted strength AND a greater connection between the brain and body. Unilateral exercises force the brain to work out elements of balance that it bypasses when we use two legs or ‘bilateral’ movement. When the brain is able to develop the nuerological connections between muscles, we become better at avoiding injury and muscles develop faster.
Try these exercises in your warm up or as accessory to your absolute strength exercises. You will be astounded at the progress you make after only a couple months of exercise. Keep at it and lets dive into our fall strength cycles as conscious athletes, ready for any challenge. I love you.
Programming Notes 9/23-9/27 **This week we leave the barbell to only the Backsquat. Otherwise we are going to challenge our balance, trunk stability and unilateral strength with KB’s , DB’s, Sandbags . This is the third week of the VARIED METABOLIC programming which has hurt in a good way thus far. SO we are going to give a go for a few more weeks.
250 m Row
20’ Duck Walk
20’ Bear Crawl
20’ Crab Walk
20’ Lateral Single Leg Bounding
Squat Flow: Squat Flow: Kang Squat, Internal Rotation, Ankle Roll Out, Bootstraps, PNF Stretch, Squat W/ T Spine Stretch
2X3 @ Heavy load, go 20#+ over previous
DB Bulgarian Split Squat
15 Wall Ball Shots
-Rest 2:00 between.
*This should be just under the 1:1 ratio of Work/Rest
20 Cal Assault Bike
10 banded Pass Thru
10 Banded Trunk Twist
10 Banded Pull Aparts
10 Banded Bent Rows
Shoulder Prep W/ 5# Plates:
-Bent Scarecrow + External Rotation
-Bent Reverse Flys
-Bent Scarecrow + Press
-standing front Raises
-Standing Lateral Raises
-Standing Y Press
-Standing Cross Over Presses
Muscle Up Complex:
5 Rounds for Quality
10 Supine Ring Rows
8 Ring transitions
6 Ring Dips
:20 Ring Support Bottom
For Total Time
200 Cal Assault Bike
-Every 20 Cals, do 1-5 Bar Muscle Ups
*Scale to ability, use bands if necessary
10 Kettlebell Good Mornings
10 Kip Swings
10 Kettlebell Windmills
10 Kettlebell Goblet Squat
100 Cal Row
80 Double Kettlebell Snatch 35/25
60 Toes To Bar
40 Double Kettlebell Push Press
20 Double Kettlebell Gorilla Clean
100’ Double Kettlebell Walking Lunge
8 Elbow To Instep Lunge + Reach
8 Wall Climbs
8 Kneeling Step Ups
8 Alternating Knee To Elbow
8 Burpee Tuck Jumps
5 X 100m Sprints
-Rest 2:00 Between-
3 Rounds for Time
25 Dumbbell Box Step Up and Overs (20”)
200m Overhead Dumbbell Carry
25 Dumbbell Renegade Row
10 Minute Quality AMRAP
10 Single Leg Toe Touch
10 Deadbug Ipsalateral Reach
10 Push up W/ Rotation
10 Wall Squats
-Elbow To Instep + Reach
Varied Metabolic #3
Weight Plate Up and Overs 25/15
Burpee Onto Plate
Jumping Pull Up
2X Tabata *Alternating exercises
-Lateral Line Touches @ 15’
800m Air Runner
8 Sandbag Clean 150/100
100’ Sandbag Walk