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5 Starts to Stable Hip Power

Virtually any activity that involves bearing weight on the body requires a strong hip complex. The hips are the "H" in the LPHC acronym of the "core" stability complex of the body. Sadly, the gluteal muscles and the abs are the most commonly highlighted by fitness professionals and clients who are only asthetically focused on looking good, but it is the hips that are the secret weapon of defining either of those and need just as much focus .

Exercising for effectiveness always begins at maintaining proper form. In order to correctly target the abdominal and gluteal muscles, one needs to develop strong hips in order to perform leg movements and ab movements needed for squats, running, weight-lifting, etc. Having weak hips due to excessive sitting, poor posture, improper use, and other causes can result in injuries, falls, body ache, and muscle distortion when attempting every day activities as well as during sport performance.

Latin Dance Steps

I recommend dancing first and foremost for creating hip strength and stability because dance is appropriate for any age and it has overwhelming benefits from weight loss to toning and low blood pressure. There are lots of dance styles that utilize a lot of hip action such as hula, hip-hop, and jazz, however in my opinion, Latin music has beats that are easier to hear that naturally coordinate with hip movement.

I also feel like Latin music is a bit easier on the knees because there isn't a lot of low floor movement if you aren't using a partner and it's up to you how low you plan on bending your knees. Dancing is a total body workout that has the capacity to work your arms, feet, legs, mid-section, buttocks, and most importantly, heart and lungs. The hips are highly important in dance because of the constant rotation needed to transfer energy from the upper and lower body to each other. Technique also becomes important to reduce injury and to improve posture.

Salsa, Cha Cha, Mambo, or Samba are excellent dances to create hip movements in all ranges of motion. Latin dancing is not only excellent for toning and strength but wonderful for light to moderate cardio. You can take in-person classes at a local dance studio or you can use YouTube and online classes to pick up specific steps to help put some pep in your step on a rough day. I incorporate some sore of dance choreography in my workouts every week!

Lateral Trunk Rotation Stretch

This is one of my favorite exercises to do whenever I find myself needing to prep for an abs routine or stretch out some lower back tightness. Trunk rotations work several muscle groups such as your abdominal muscles (obliques, rectus abdominus), lumbar multifidus (lower back), and hips. Easing lower back pain as well as creating stability during movement are key benefits of this practice.

To make this easier for you in the beginning, you can keep your arms closer to your side and keep your feet on the floor with your knees bent toward the ceiling. Slowly rotate your pelvis from left to right, making sure that you are keeping your back as flat as possible yet getting as close as you can to the floor without touching it. Do not begin compensating the movement with your arms or shoulders, and keep your core engaged (squeezed) throughout the set.

For a full stretch, you can hold each side for 3-5 seconds for 10 repetitions on each side. If you do it for core activation exercise, you can do them as dynamic stretches and just go from side to side for about 1 second. As you advance yourself, you can pull your arms closer to your shoulders and pull your knees closer to your chest to make your core and spinal systems do more work in getting lower to the ground, i.e, creating more strength. Remember this exercise is more about control than it is speed.

Standing Lateral Kicks

I love, love, LOVE doing these as a warm-up! Standing lateral kicks almost all of your lower body such as your hips, legs, and glutes, as well as engaging your lower spine and abdominals.

A benefit of this exercise is increasing stability on each side of the body. Start with 10 alternating reps with each leg and work your way up to 20 - 25 over time. The more you can do, the better your legs and trunk will perform. The key is to keep your body aligned and controlled as you kick. As your leg is going up, shift your shoulder downward like a see-saw, and bring return upward with the downward leg. Your body will have to work to keep you centered.

It is okay if you lose balance a lot in the beginning. The important thing is to make sure you do the same number of kicks with each leg to ensure you do not create muscle imbalances on one side of the body. If you need to take a rest in the middle of the set, max your break at 15 seconds and then continue to completion. When kicking, aim to get straight with your waist, which may take some time at first.

Active Soleus Stretch

In this exercise you get a partner! It's called "a wall". I'm including this exercise in my roundup because it has given me incredible hip flexibility in a short amount of time, and has been my go-to any time I've taken an extended workout break (more than 2 days off). This stretch mainly targets a portion of the calf muscle for the standing leg, but the lifted leg and glutes also get worked. The goal with this exercise is to rotate your hip externally as far as you can without pivoting the rest of your body.

Align your body straight across from a wall where you have plenty of room on both sides. Brace your arms straight out onto the wall for stability. Raise one leg into a 90 degree angle and partially swing it past your other leg. Next hold the position and swing your leg toward the outside of the hip as far as you can make it go.

Do not twist the entire body to compensate or force the rotation into a painful stretch. The more you repeat the movements you will be able to stretch further comfortably. Hold the external stretch for 2 seconds and then return to the first swing. Usually 10-15 repetitions for each side is sufficient and makes a great warm up.