3 Exercises For Hip Stability
Your hips don’t lie.
If you find that your knees are falling inwards or that your hips are hiked on one side during exercise (e.g during running or squatting), it usually means there is a weakness or lack of coordination in your hips stabilisers, like the gluteal muscles.
NOTE: While we are addressing hip stability in this post, there are other factors to take into account like ankle dorsiflexion or flat feet. Your feet and ankles are your connection to the ground after all and if there is a dysfunction here, the body above can be impacted as well (eg. valgus knee).
You can watch our videos on ankle dorsiflexion and flat feet below:
The Gluteus Medius Muscle
This gluteal muscle is an abductor of the leg, meaning it moves your legs away from the midline. However, when your leg is contacted with the ground like in running (forming a closed circuit), it is your hip that is moved, rather than your leg. This is what maintains a neutral hip position rather than it dropping on one side, as shown in a ‘Trendelenburg Sign’.
The ‘Trendelenburg Sign’
When the hip abductor muscles, like your gluteus medius, aren’t working to stabilise your pelvis (by maintaining enough abduction), your hip drops on that side, which is called the Trendelenburg Sign, as pictured below.
When the pelvis drops in like this, the transfer of forces through your body is inefficient and thus loads your body ineffectively as well. The spine is connected on top of your pelvis, so when the pelvis is out of neutral position, so is the spine.
When you are running, you are dealing with 3-4 times body weight and if your spine and body aren’t in optimal positions to handle that, undesired compression and compensations are going to happen and develop; causing niggles, pains, or injuries to occur.
The Valgus Knee
This refers to the position of the knee relative to the hip and ankle, as in the picture.
Similar to the trendelenburg sign and other movement dysfunctions, the valgus knee isn’t efficient for the transfer of forces as the structures of the knee twist and lose support, potentially leading to pain or injury like an ACL tear.
NOTE: That’s not to say that the valgus knee has no purpose, it just means that it isn’t optimal for situations of high load or repetition (we are capable of all sorts of movements because they are useful in different situations, eg to change direction on our feet requires a valgus component).
Both the ‘Trendelenburg Sign’ and the ‘Valgus Knee’ may present together as both dysfunctions involve a weakness or lack of motor control in the gluteal muscles.
1. Clam Shell
On your side, bring your knees and hips up so they are bent (roughly 45°).
Keep your feet together and open your knees, while keeping your hips forward.
Squeeze your glutes as you do this to build awareness and strength of the gluteus medius muscle. Maintain neutral spine throughout.
2. Single Leg Deadlift
Isolation exercises like the clam shell are great for building awareness and strength in the muscle, but it isn’t until you apply it and integrate it into exercise that it begins to have an impact on your functional movement patterns.
Hinge at the hips on one leg while pushing the other to the rear.
Maintain neutral hips. You should feel this in the gluteal area of the leg that’s supporting you.
3. Curtsy Lunge
It’s important to learn how to maintain stability in less ‘optimal’ positions because these are the positions that you’re more likely to be injured in. If we don’t spend any time in these positions then they will never get stronger.
Take one leg and thread it through to the other side on the backside, like a long curtsy.
Keep your front knee out to help generate torque around the hip joint and create stability.