Many swimmers and athletes in general come to a point where they complain about tight hips.
The quick solution is to hit our basic hip stretches and think that we have done enough to fix the problem.
One thing many athletes fail to do is fix the movement issues surrounding the hip.
For example, what if your back is firing ahead of your glutes? What if you can passively achieve ranges of motion but struggle under active loads? What if your hips are rotated from hours of sitting?
Let’s implement some simple fixes!
Testing: Firing Pattern
Does your back feel like it is taking a bulk of the load throughout the day?
Lay flat on your stomach and have someone put a finger on your hamstring and glute. Then have them take their other hand and put it on your lower back musculature. Now, lift your leg off the ground.
What muscle fires first? If your lower back seizes up quickly while your glute contracts minimally, you’re firing out of sequence. This places extra stress on the hips.
Testing: Hip Rotation
Sit in a chair and close your eyes. With your eyes closed, stand up and take eight steps forward. On the eighth step, attempt to bring your feet to an even position shoulder width apart.
Open your eyes. Is one foot ahead of the other?
This could give you a clue to which hip is rotated forward from high amounts of sitting.
Testing: Passive Range of Motion
Lay flat on your back. Pull one knee into your chest. Are you able to do this without much resistance? Complete the test with the other leg.
Now stand up and do a bodyweight squat. Where do you feel more resistance? Actively moving or passively? Would you estimate that this difference is more than 10-15%?
If you learned that your low back fires during the leg lift, it is time to get more activation out of your glutes and earlier in movement. Mix in the following exercises to help get the glutes activating in proper order.
What about hip rotation?
The good news is that there is a lot you can focus on during your day-to-day life to help solve this problem.
Wear a wallet in your back pocket? Try to minimize this. Having one hip elevated while sitting can increase your hip issues.
Sit at a desk for a majority of the day? Take notice to if you favor one leg more than the other. For example, do you press your weight to the right side more often? Attempt to sit evenly in a chair and change your positioning often (every 20 minutes).
Also, add in these exercises to get your hips back to an even playing field.
Now let’s work on some active range of motion drills. Move slowly focusing on proper form.
Plank to Squat: Start your feet in a squat position, walk out slowly to a plank, then bend knees and walk back to the bottom of a squat. Focus on getting your chest up tall before grabbing the kettlebell/dumbbell. Then complete a squat.
Kneeling Hip Hinge: Start with a kettlebell/dumbbell at chest level. Bring the shoulders in front of the knees, engaging the hamstrings. Brace your core. Lower your hips back to your heels while maintaining brace in core. Drive forward (keeping shoulders ahead of hips) and squeeze your glutes.
Hip Circuit + MB: Focus on keeping back straight (minimize arch/round). Keep core engaged throughout hip movement.