By Martin Sigrist
Takeaway: The hips play a huge part in enabling us to move freely and live without pain. However in normal day to day activity they may remain static and become “rusty”. The result can be reduced mobility and referred pain, for example in the back or knees. Fortunately it is possible to help resolve this at source using a simple exercise to remind the hips how to move correctly.
The hips are the biggest joint in our bodies. As with all joints they have an ideal way to move through a full range of motion.
One aspect of this is that they act as a “hinge” allowing our body to fold in half like a penknife. If a child sees something interesting at their feet they may simply bend down it pick it up without any difficulty.
Unfortunately once most of us leave childhood we rarely if ever move them in this way, especially the vast majority of us who spend large amounts of time sitting. Some sports keep the hip hinging the archetype being a diver’s “pike” position. Unfortunately though cycling is at the other extreme. We can often spend hours on end with the hip locked solid.
As a result our hinge becomes rusty and just like a real rusty door hinge will be hard to move or even become incapable of moving.
The result, on a bike and elsewhere, is that when we need to reach down we do so in other ways, often by bending our spines which are flexible but not intended to do all the heavy lifting.
We also may experience other problems, if the hips don’t hinge then typically the biggest muscles in our bodies, the glutes, are underworked. Instead their load is taken by the quads and in turn that means more stress is passed to the knees. You only need to look at a skeleton to see that the hip joint is better adapted to take large weights then the knee joint.
Over time this misuse will end up causing problems. Many issues that feel like “knee pain” or “back pain” are actually caused by a rusty hip.
There is though a bright side to this. We just need to remind our hips how to move correctly then do a few simple movements to replace bad habits with good ones.
For hips the yoga “cat to cow” move is a classic, one that can easily be done by anybody no matter their state of health.
A variant on that move that I found especially effective is explained here:
I tried it and was amazed. I thought I was pretty flexible but just repeating the move for 30 seconds or so resulted in me improving from being able touch the floor with my fingers to being able to touch the floor with my palms.
So I think just about everybody might benefit from giving it a try. The key thing is really focus on the hip. It helps me to think of it as being a bucket full of water. When I bend forward it’s like tipping the bucket so that water pours out to the front.
This move not only may help with movement problems. It can be useful when riding too. Rotating the pelvis forward can have two useful benefits
- It may allow more power by allowing the glutes to do more work
- It may allow you to ride lower which almost always means going faster as you become more aerodynamic.
It may also help resolve saddle soreness. People will vary according in these regards but it’s good just to know the option exists.
All in all not a bad return for a time investment of under a minute.
Now among the world’s fittest sexagenarians Martin Sigrist started riding on doctor’s orders in 2005 and had to push his bike up his first hill. Next year he soloed the Tour de France. He has since experienced every form of road cycling from criterium to ultra endurance. His ongoing mission is to use the latest in science and technology to fight a, so far successful, battle against Father Time.