It’s all in the Hips.
Elvis knew it, and it’s time that we learn it too: it’s all in the hips.
If you take the body in ‘machine’ terms, you have 4 main sections, they are your:
Head – computer.
Thorax – your lungs acting as a carburetor, and your heart acting as a big pump to move oxygen and fuel around.
Abdomen – this is the chemistry lab. It needs to convert food into useful nutrients and also dispose of waste products.
Legs – This is the engine. They spin bike cranks around for a cyclist, push feet against roads for runners and displace water for swimmers.
Interfacing these major structures are your hips. Get them balanced and strong and you move efficiently. Get something wrong here and something will go wrong.
Please understand that there are some medical conditions that are outside the scope of this blog. Conditions such as tears in the hip cartilage, stress fractures and arthritis need to be treated by medical specialists. However, arthritic conditions can benefit from regular massage.
So, let’s look at some of the muscles that join on to the hips.
Remember: soft – strong – supple hips make for strong athletes.
Leg Muscles – Quadriceps and Hamstrings.
Look down at your legs and you will see your quads. Feel behind them and you will have your hands on your hamstrings.
Tighten your hamstrings and they will pull your hips backwards. The technical term for this is an anteriorly tilted hip.
Tighten your quads too much, especially your rectus femoris muscle, and your hips can tilt the other way.
Practical points – swimmers can often tighten hamstrings, as strokes like free style will place your hips into an anteriorly tilted position. Triathletes need supple hamstrings if they are to feel comfortable on a TT bike. Swimmers – read more here – Lower Back Pain and Swimmers..
Both muscle groups benefit from stretching, foam rolling and massage. Discomfort at the upper portion of the hamstrings needs to be taken seriously.
These are the largest muscles in the body. The most important, in my mind are the glute medius muscles. 21st century living has meant that most of us sit too much. For runners in particular, weak glute medius muscles will bring about all sorts of instabilities. You can read more about the muscle – Weak Gluteus Medius Muscles and a Chain Reaction.
Under the glutes lie the lateral rotators. Stand up and now turn your toes outwards, and you have just activated your lateral rotators. Included in these muscles is the piriformis muscle. Your sciatic nerve lies beneath it. If this muscle tightens too much it can tighten over the nerve, causing all sorts of mischief. Run with ‘duck feet’ and tight lateral rotators could be responsible. By the way, you need to always consider lateral rotators when dealing with plantar fasciitis. Tight rotators cause the foot to turn outward and the runner to roll over the foot arch, and thus inflame the area. You can read more here – Piriformis Problems – A pain in the butt.
The abdominal muscles can pull the hips forward and up when they are tightened and shortened. Releasing these is tricky. Don’t go for a six pack at the expense of looking after your back muscles.
Lie on your back and pull your knees up. Your hips flexors have just gone to work. Muscles here include:
Psoas ,Iliacus, rectus femoris (part of the quadriceps muscle group), sartorius, pectineus, adductor longus & brevis and gracilis. Lots of computer work, lots of sitting in traffic, and these muscles can tighten up, thereby placing huge stress on the hips.
The psoas is particularly important. The muscle runs from the lower spine through to the femur. It’s a difficult muscle to get to. It has been said that this muscle ‘holds’ the fear that we have in our lives and so needs to be both stretched and released. You can read more here – The Mighty Psoas.
Deep erector muscles which run between ribs and vertebrae account for our ability to move and remain upright. Large muscles over them such as trapezius and latissimus dorsi allow us to move, lift and pull ourselves up. Quadratus lumborum muscles work hard in stabilizing you as you walk and run. Make sure that these muscles are strong and supple. You can read more here – The Quadratus Lumborum – know your muscles series.
So, in summary – Happy Hips = Happy you. Keep them strong, keep them supple, foam roll regularly and get tight spots released.