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4 Must Try Moves For A Healthy Low Back and Hips

If you’re like most people, you pretty much live in the sagittal plane of movement.

Planes Of Motion - Saggital Plane, Transverse Plane, Frontal Plane

This means a majority of your movement is done front to back, back to front. Sitting down, standing up, walking, taking the stairs… it’s all sagittal plane. This doesn’t make you a bad person, it’s just the world we live in. Most desk jobs and sedentary work don’t require you to twist or move sideways.

Unfortunately, your hips don’t like this. Your hips are capable of way more movement than simply going forward and backward. They can move side to side, externally rotate, internally rotate, flex, extend, and a combination of a bunch of those things. Only moving them front to back is like keeping a wild bird caged its whole life. It’s unnatural and not healthy.

On a more serious note, lack of regular movement outside of the sagittal plane can actually cause your hips to tighten up. After all, when it comes to joint range of motion… if you don’t use it, you lose it.

Tight hips can cause back pain. Tight hips can cause muscle imbalances. They can also cause compensatory movement elsewhere in the body, which can result in injury over time.

This same concept can apply to your thoracic spine, the portion of your spine designed for the most mobility. When that loses the inability to extend and rotate, you may start to find nagging aches and pains start to pop up in your body.

Avoiding these issues would probably be best. So let’s go over a few high bang for your buck movements to help address these issues.

Core engaged 90/90 switch

This movement has slowly become a favorite at Grit because of its effectiveness and simplicity. The 90/90 position itself is wonderful for hip mobility because nooooo one externally or internally rotates their hips on a regular basis anymore. Just sitting in this position serves as a glute stretch on the front leg and places the back leg in an internally rotated position: two great positions for improving hip mobility.

But this particular movement takes it a step further by adding in active rotation. By actively taking your hips through rotation, the muscles responsible for this action stay strong, which helps you retain larger ranges of motion at the hip in the long run. The more often you take joints through ranges of motion, the more effectively you retain that range of motion.

Now you may be saying, “When would I ever need to get my hips into that position? Why bother? I’m sure I’ll be fine without doing this.”

I’m sure you’ll be fine without health and car insurance as well… so go ahead, stop paying that. You may never get to use the insurance! Why bother?!

The importance of having the ability to easily externally and internally rotate your hips might not be readily apparent in every day life, but it does prevent you from running into other issues down the road, such as low back pain (when your hip are tight, your low back tries to compensate). Remember, even though you might not take all your joints through large ranges regularly, you still want to be able to do it if necessary. This keeps you young, healthy, and pain free.

Oh the kettlebell, you ask? Holding it out in front of your body forces your core to ‘turn on’, which tightens things up. This isolates movement to just your hip joint, instead of compensating by hunching forward, side bending, rotating, etc.

Standing Hip CAR (controlled articular rotation)

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✅ HIP MOBILITY DRILL ✅ _ Mobility is more than just mindlessly stretching a muscle. It takes into account joint capsules, muscles, fascia, and motor control to name a few things. _ More importantly, mobility is about CONTROLLING your joints through ranges of motion, not just blindly stretching them into large ranges. _ Take a ball and squeeze it behind the back of your knee. Don’t let it drop. SQUEEZE IT. _ Grab a post. SQUEEZE IT. _ Brace your abs hard. BRACE THEM. _ Keep all those things TIGHT. _ WITHOUT letting your torso move, FLEX your hip up as high as possible. NO MOVEMENT in the torso. _ Swing your leg out to the side, Captain Morgan style. NO MOVEMENT in the torso. _ ROTATE your foot back while keeping your knee as still as possible. NO MOVEMENT in the torso. _ Now press the rewind button and reverse the movement. _ Make sure each movement comes from your HIP, not your SPINE. _ Play ‘Pony’ by Ginuwine to keep the mood SEXY. _ Go sloooooow and keep it controooooolled. Try to find your hips biggest range of motion without squirming around like a worm. That’s what a mobility drill feels like ? _ #hipmobility #hipmobilitywork #workout #fatloss #exercise #fitness #workout #weightlifting #personaltrainer #trainer #strength #strengthtraining #muscle #movement #fit #getfit #fitpro #health #cstrainingsystems #movebetter #kettlebell #dumbbell #barbell

A post shared by Chris Sanchez (@cpsanchez89) on Jul 27, 2018 at 10:50am PDT

The ability to control your joints through their full, available range of motion is quite possibly the most important factor when it comes to quality mobility. Think of it this way.

You lay on your back and have a partner stretch your hamstring by pushing your straight leg up towards your chest. This is called passive mobility. You’re not actively controlling the range of motion.

Now take that same movement, but this time you are raising your straight leg up as high as you can without any help. This is called active mobility. Your muscles are working to take that joint through its full range of motion.

If these two ranges don’t match up, then you’ve got some issues. Still confused? Try watching this to clarify things.

Anywho, the standing hip CAR actively takes your hip joint through all of it’s ranges of motions: flexion, abduction (moving away from the midline), rotation, extension, and adduction (moving towards the midline). By actively taking your joint through these motions, your muscles and brain stay efficient at retaining that range of motion. It’s 10x more effective than stretching ever will be.

Iso single leg RDL w/ T-spine rotation

This movement is the greatest thing since sliced bread for several reasons:

  1. Your glutes, hips, and hamstrings are working to provide stability to your stance leg (this leads to better motor control at the hip and knee)

  2. The wall provides some aid with balance, but also allows you to actively push into the wall with your ‘up’ leg (this works your glutes)

  3. Because your hips are actively contracting to hold the single leg hinge position, this locks your pelvis and low back into place (this safeguards your low back)

  4. Because your pelvis and low back are locked in place, this forces the rotation to occur at your thoracic spine, aka your mid back (which is EXACTLY where you want it to occur)

  5. The wall also provides some external feedback, letting you know how mobile (or immobile) you actually are (the goal is to get both shoulder blades flat to the wall)

This one is humbling as it will highlight your deficiencies pretty well. Definitely worth incorporating and getting better at though!

Quadruped adductor rockback w/ QL stretch

Here’s another “kill two birds with one stone” movement, as this movement will help loosen up those hips as well as your quadratus lumborum, a muscle that attaches to the pelvis and lower ribs. When the QL becomes tight, it can often result in low back discomfort.

The rockback is great a mobilizing the hips outside of the sagittal plane. If done correctly, you’ll feel an incredible stretch in your adductors (groin) on your straight leg. Try your best to maintain a nice, neutral spine throughout the movement. Bracing your abs can help in this regard.

The crawl and reach is where you’ll feel a stretch in that sometimes stubborn QL. Focus on reaching out as far as you can and you’ll feel a nice stretch on one side of your low back. To enhance the stretch, hold the side reaching position and focus on taking a quality inhale followed by a full exhale.

Try incorporating these movements into your daily routine, as part of your warmup, or as fillers in between your bigger, heavier lifts.

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