Our hips are unique in the animal kingdom. If we really want to know what separates us from the beasts, look no further than the unique shape of our pelvis. It is this that allows us to be the only species walking on two legs with a truly upright posture.
But what happens when it goes wrong? Well, this is something we’ve been dealing with at Wild Geese for the last few years as co-founder Paul Cox has struggled with an aggressive onset of arthritis through his hip. What happens to a man, while in his early 40’s, when his body turns on itself? Attacking itself and targeting the one joint a hard training martial artist lives by, the hip. We do the only thing that we know how to, get mad with it! And mad we did.
I’m going to offer some of the insights into hip health that we have discovered over the last five years since Paul hit rock bottom. I am sure that by using some the principles laid out below, anyone can avoid many of the issues associated with aging.
The first thing we did was put together a mobility program based on the Pilates method.We took a sequence named the side kick series, a series that involves moving the leg through various ranges of motion while lying on your side.
This allows for the joint to be worked unloaded. It also allows inch-perfect control of your range of motion with little chance of accident.
Doing these drills with a controlled tempo requires rock solid core control, and the stronger the core gets, the more mobility the hip gives.
So we have a double whammy: increased core stability and strength coupled with a larger and smoother range of motion through the hip joint.
These drills became a daily warm up routine for Paul, a routine he has progressed by adding ankle weights.
Increasing Hip Strength with the Kettlebell
The next saving grace in our arsenal is the kettlebell. Every kettlebell exercise requires some action in the hip joint and some Here are some of the top drills:
Essential Strength Movement #1: Figure 8
When performed in various positions, even with stepping and lunging, we are asking our hip and core to keep itself steady against a weight travelling in all directions below our centre of gravity. Paul really rolls the hip, following the weight which he says creates a “scouring” effect, cleaning out old scar tissue and smoothing out the joint action. The relatively low load and limited joint action on this makes for a safe yet effective training means.
Rep range: Go for time, 2-5 minutes per set (You may vary style within the set).
Essential Strength Movement #2: Windmill
We tend to lose our lateral mobility as we age. Thankfully, the rise of the kettlebell brought with it a lift called the Windmill. Essentially we try to touch the floor between our feet while supporting a weight overhead. In time, as the body opens up, you will develop essential mobility in the hip while once again stabilizing the core.
Rep range: 3-5 per side, minimum of 2 sets or until required ROM is reached.
Essential Mobility Movement #3: Single-Limb Romanian Deadlift
Especially contralateral single leg Romanian Deadlifts (although all variations have their place, be it standing on both legs with a weight in one hand, single leg loaded on the same side or as stated, single leg and loaded on the opposite side). Ideally these are performed barefoot to really wake up the proprioception through the body assisting in developing the stabilization as we take the hip through as great range of motion as our flexibility will allow.
Rep range: 4-6 per side, 2 to 3 sets.
The Hip Strength & Core Stability Solution
Are we seeing a theme here? Hip mobility and core stability go hand-in-hand maybe? You really can’t separate the two attributes if you want to keep your hip strong and healthy long into your twilight years. Going through these movements will allow for further hip mobility and range of motion. In part 2 we will focus on hip strength.