Life’s a Game and Your Body is Keeping Score: Win Your Hips Back Over
This post is both about the hips and about the use of bands as a tool for strengthening them. As a University Lecturer and Personal Training Director for collectively 21 years, and a consulting professional for programs before and after those positions I’ve supervised hundreds of thousands of personal training sessions. I’ve watched personal trainers use “new toys” sometimes correctly, and sometimes as variety-for-variety’s sake; not necessarily targeted at improving a specific problem or preventing an impending imbalance to better a client.
That said, the hips are a target “hot spot” not just for the hottie in you after 50, but for much of our population who sit too much by week day and yearn to, say play golf by weekend. The extreme of sedentary lifestyle to the other extreme of hours of repetitive movement can lead to a bad combination. The result is weakness in muscles surrounding the hip compounded by tightness in other muscles surrounding the hip. You’re being pulled out of alignment.
You’re poor hip then is like a pusher at a party. The knee, the lower back and potentially other parts, start going down the wrong path too. A pain in your knee is sometimes just a symptom of another joint problem.
This post looks at but one small piece of what to do and how to do it if you’re looking for ways to prevent hip imbalance. There is a more comprehensive program developing for joint-by-joint prevention and care. This is a small part and focuses on a common and very affordable tool you can use at home or anywhere.
The question for you, as for a trainer, is how to use the band for the most benefit.
The hips are complex and made of of multiple muscles that can do six different movements. Being a ball-and-socket joint it can rotate internally and externally, as well as abduct and adduct (move away from and toward the body), and flex and extend. All to often we have it stuck in forward flexion. You’re sitting and the hip flexors are at 90 degrees shortening all day.
We move forward primarily. Unless you’re specifically active in a sport that requires otherwise that leaves muscles of the side of the hip (gluteus medius), and the back (gluteus maximum) to get weaker with age if we’re not exercising to get specific with those muscles.
Weakness of the gluteus medius, (or glute med) is what we’re going to focus on here, with a little mention of the gluteus maximus. The reason I’m playing favorites? There are several ways to target gluteus maximus and fewer that target the glute medius. It’s common that if you get some diagnosis from a physical therapist once pain gets too far along, that there’s a problem with one muscle but it’s due to another (often the gluteus medius) not doing its job. You want to restore mobility to your hips with focused stretching. (I have a series of hip stretches and strengtheners coming to my YouTube channel you might like) Then, you want to wake up your glute medius.
What you see in the images is a green band. You can buy a continuum of resistance strengths from (varies with companies) yellow, green, red, blue, and black, moving from least to move resistance. Start with yellow or green. Buy two of the same color and you can double up if you’re ready for more or buy two of different strengths to be ready for progression. Know that you can sometimes accomplish overload with a change in exercise and don’t always have to increase the band strength to do that!
- Start with the most conservative spot (above knees) no matter what your target muscle group is to get used to the movement.
- Start with the lightest resistance (yellow, or green if you have a base of fitness already).
- Change one variable at a time. Either move the resistance from knees to ankles or change the resistance. I would recommend keeping resistance the same and moving the band to the right placement to focus on the correct muscle group.
- Then once you’ve adapted and are doing all the sets and repetitions you want yet completing the work with good form and not feeling fatigued, you can increase the resistance of the band.
To strengthen your Gluteus Medius:
The optimal position is the ankles. Begin, however, with two-to-three weeks of 3x a week using a light band placed above knees before moving it to your ankles.
Walking forward keeping the legs wide in a Monster Walk, reversing to do the samebackward and taking lateral steps leaving space between your feet (no slack allowed in the band) are four movements you can perform.
The Gluteus Maximus is most engaged with the band placed under the arch of the foot. If you have a weak core, are less conditioned, or have knee issues, you have to consider whether the band’s leverage on those areas is helping or hurting. If you’re fatigue or discomfort is other than the glutes, this isn’t the ideal way for you to target those muscles at this time. There are other safer and effective exercises. Leave this one off your list for now.
Who needs it?
Most of us. Whether you sit all day or you are up and down or a distance runner, most of us neglect this muscle until it’s too late and we’re reminded by a physical therapist to shower it with a little love. That message is not as comfortable as choosing to do the homework while you’re feeling good.
Happy, Healthy Hips!