The Joint Ventures' Blog

Hip Stability

Monday, January 29, 2018

People often exchange the terms "strength" and "stability" as if they are one and the same. That really is not true. It’s important to understand the differences between the two, as well as know how to improve both areas to create a better overall platform for performance.

Understanding the basic fundamentals of hip and core stability, especially as they relate to human movement and athletic performance, is a prerequisite for all levels of training. More often than not, folks miss the boat on the fact that “health” should always come before fitness and performance. However, building a bridge from hip "health" to hip "fitness and performance" is the real game-changer. That’s what today’s post is all about: providing you with one quick and easy way to add more hip and core stability into your training.

Although plank exercises are a staple in the fitness and rehab industry, they aren’t always the solution for everything. More often than not, most fitness and rehabilitation professionals will just assume their person has a “weak or unstable core.”  But do they do?  Instead of investigating further, they program planks and side planks to help improve the “weakness or instability” in the hips and/or core. Then, all of sudden, their problems are cured!

Not so fast. It goes a bit deeper than that.

There is a difference between "strength" and "stability". One of the best ways to visualize the difference is to think of a slingshot.  While one hand is holding the slingshot, the other hand pulls the elastic back to propel an object. Think of the arm that pulls the elastic back as "strength" and the arm that is holding the slingshot in place as "stability" .  "Stability is control in the presence of change” - Charlie Weingroff, PT.

Stability is about timing (when muscles fire) and sequencing (in what order they fire). Certain muscles have to activate at the proper time in order for them to maintain a certain joint position. Bringing a strength "fix" to a stability "problem" doesn’t always do the trick.  The exercises (or corrective movements) for stability are more about proper control and technique versus how long or how many repetitions someone can do. When we perform a stability exercise, we are tapping into the Central Nervous System and attempting to make a quick and immediate change with a corrective movement.

So, how do we test for stability? There are many different ways that someone can test for stability. Let’s review one quick and easy application that only takes a couple of minutes to perform.  First, you may have seen people doing glute bridges with marching as an exercise before, but I also use it as an assessment tool. I call it a Glute Bridge with Alternate Lower Extremity Extension.

Check it out in the video below:


It's important to keep the amount of cues and instructions basic at first when we are assessing the person.

Here is what I say:

  • "Lie on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees and your feet flat on the ground.  Lift your hips up in the air. While maintaining your hips in the air, slowly kick one leg straight out.  Then return to the “hips up” / bridge position and repeat on the opposite side.  Slowly continue to alternate sides".

We want to see what the person’s movement looks like without being corrected.  We want the person to maintain the hips in an extended position so that they are in line with the knees and shoulders.  When they go to extend their knee, the knees should remain in a line (ie. right next to each other). While they are extending their knees and alternating side-to-side, we want the hips to also remain in a line (ie. not dipping).

    Prior to implementing this into a training program, we want to be sure we cover all of our other bases to make sure the person has the proper mobility in adjacent joints (ie. low back and knees). If someone is lacking hip extension range of motion, then they are going to have a very hard time trying to achieve full hip extension without compensating.

    We can use this assessment piece as a corrective movement in our dynamic warm-ups prior to beginning the training session. It can also be added in after a foam rolling session to help activate the glute and core muscles, and to help improve the timing and sequencing of those areas as well.  Or, we can implement it within a circuit training set with hip flexor stretching and glute strengthening exercises

    If you have any questions about hip and core stability, please stop by our Kenmore Office or contact me at Marissa.Tedeschi@JointVenturesPT.com.

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