The rise of desk jobs that take almost an entire day of the present youths, coupled with the fact that most weekends are spent lazing around in the bed, has shown a significant increase in weight gains and a decrease in the will to exercise and workout. Although most people now have incorporated the element of ‘bodybuilding’ in the gym, a lot of essential exercise forms get overlooked in the excitement of getting abs!
While the most gym-goers focus on the abs and biceps-triceps exercise forms, the lower torso gets wholly neglected. The most important muscles in the lower torso happen to be the hip flexors. These are a bundle of muscles present in the upper and inner thighs and the pelvic region. This group of muscles is very important as they are responsible for the most basic movements like running, walking and even standing.
Constant exercising of these muscles is necessary, especially for people who have desk jobs, to avoid atrophy or degeneration of the muscle, causing them to lose muscle function.
It is also essential to strengthen these muscles to avoid injury to the hip and for proper foot placement. By preventing the exercise of these muscles, the stabilizer muscles that hold the pelvis in the correct alignment often place themselves in an incorrect position at the hips. This can cause hip and knee injuries when the foot is incorrectly placed while brisk walking or running.
Strengthening of these muscles increases the range of motion and may also increase the muscle strength by 12%, a study suggested.
There are few exercises that experts have suggested for people to strengthen the hip muscles. Here they are:
1. Butterfly stretch:
This exercise requires sitting down on the floor with a straight back. The feet are brought together in front of the body with the knees at the side. The heels are pulled closer to the body with the help of hands, allowing the knees to be pushed towards the ground. This pose should be, maintained for at least 15-30 seconds before releasing and repeating.
2. Ball pikes:
This exercise needs an exercise ball. The person should start with a high plank stance, by keeping his hands right under the shoulder and legs on the exercise ball. Now, the hips should be raised towards the ceiling such that only the toes are now in contact with the ball. Slowly the hip should be lowered to the original position. This step should be repeated 15-20 times.
3. Pigeon exercise:
This exercise happens to be an advanced and complex one, hence should be done only if the person is comfortable. It begins with the plank position. Slowly, the left foot is slid forward such that the remaining knee is close to the left hand and the left foot is close to the right hand. The right leg is stretched backwards in a straight line. Now, the body is lowered to the ground without letting the chest touch the floor. This position should be maintained for a few seconds before switching the legs.
4. Knee Drive Hold:
This exercise is similar to push-ups but is done partly on the exercise ball. With hands kept on the ball, the legs are pushed back in an elevated push-up stance. Now, one knee is brought closer to the chest and held in that position for a few seconds. The same is repeated for the other knee for multiple reps.
This exercise is done by lying down on the ground with arms on the side, feet on the floor and knees bent. It is essential that the heels are as close to the finger as possible. Now, by exerting a force on the heels, the hip has to be raised towards the ceiling. The rest of the body should stay in the original position. After holding the raised area for a few minutes, the hips should be lowered, and the exercise should be repeated for 10-15 reps.
6. Dead bug:
This exercise is also done by lying down on the ground on the back with legs raised in the air keeping the knee at a 90-degree angle. Now, the right leg is extended and lowered close to the ground, without touching it. Simultaneously, the left arm is stretched over the head. This position is held for 2 seconds before bringing back to the original stance. This is repeated for the other leg too.
Lunges are the most common leg exercises that are advised by experts. It begins with the person standing in an upright position. Now, the right leg is brought forward instep and the knee is bent right above the ankle. The left leg is lowered slowly so much so that the left knee is merely grazing the ground. The right leg is brought back into original position and the lunge repeated for the left leg.
8. Reverse Lunge:
This starts with the person standing straight. Now, the left leg is extended backwards, bringing the body into a lunge on the right leg. With a little force, the body is made to be erect, but the left foot is not kept on the ground. Instead, the left knee is driven close to the chest at a medium speed. After a few seconds, the left foot is brought back to the ground. This exercise is repeated for the right leg.
9. Skater squats:
Start in a semi-squat position, with knees bent at 45-degree angle and hips lowered towards the ground. Now, the weight of the body is shifted to one leg, with the other leg being lifted off the ground on the side and the toes pointing forwards. Repeat the same with the other leg.
10. Ball Knee Tucks:
Ball Knee Tucks are similar to Ball Pikes, but the hip is kept at the same level as the shoulders, instead of being elevated towards the ceiling. It begins with the push-up position, but the feet and shins are kept on the exercise ball. Now, the knees are brought close to the chest, without moving the upper torso. Slowly, the knees are returned to their original stance and repeated for about 10-15 reps.
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11. Raised leg exercises:
This exercise requires lying on the ground with a straight back and arms on either side of the body. The feet are placed on the ground with the knees bent. Now, each leg is raised and extended towards the ceiling at an angle of 45 degrees from the ground. This position is held for a few minutes before bringing the foot back on the ground. Repeat the same for the other leg.
12. Psoas hold:
By standing in an upright position, the right knee is bent, and the leg is lifted off the ground. The left leg is balanced, with the right leg in level with the torso for about 30 seconds. Now, the right leg is brought back to the ground, and the same process is repeated with the left leg.
13. Hip flexion:
This exercise requires the person to be lying down on the ground, with arms on the side and legs straight and flat on the ground. Now, one knee is bent and brought as close to the chest as possible without causing any discomfort. This position is maintained for a few seconds before bringing the leg back into the original position. The same steps are repeated for the other knee.
14. Hanging Knee Lifts:
This exercise requires a pull-up bar placed above the head. The person is required to hang from the bar with arms extended mid-way. Slowly, the knees are to be pulled towards the chest or if possible, towards the elbows. Hold this position for a few minutes before slowly bringing the legs down in the starting position without dropping them. This is to be repeated for few reps.
15. Foam rolling:
This exercise requires a foam roller. It begins with the person kneeling on the floor with the roller kept in front of the knees. Now, the body has to fall forwards on the ground, using hands to move forward and backwards. Position one side of the hip complex on the roller and extend that leg entirely, keeping it slightly raised. Using the hands, softly roll forwards and backwards, maintaining the balance on the foam roller. Perform this exercise for 30 seconds for each side of the hip complex.
16. High-Knee Spot Running:
This is a fundamental exercise for the hip muscles. It requires the person to stand straight with one foot on the ground. The other knee is lifted high in the air but should not cross the hip height. Now, jumping from one leg to the other is done, with feet hitting the ground at the heels. Repeating this exercise for 30-45 seconds is good for the strengthening of the hip muscles.
17. Seated Hip Flexion:
This exercise requires the person to sit on a chair in a straight back posture. One knee is raised towards the chest and held in position for a few seconds. It is then brought back to the starting position. The same is repeated for the other knee.
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18. Lateral squat:
This exercise is done in a standing position, with hands placed on the sides and legs far apart at the double the shoulder width. Now, all the weight is shifted on one side, bringing the hips down on that side. The knee on that side should be over the foot, and the other leg gets extended. This position is held for a few minutes before returning to the original stance. The set is repeated for the other side for multiple reps.
19. Mini Band exercise:
This exercise makes use of a resistance band which is tied around the ankles, yet providing enough space to walk. Now, while standing straight with feet shoulder-width apart, walk ten steps forward and then 10 step backwards. A break of 5 seconds can be taken before repeating this exercise for another set of 5-10 reps.
20. Boat Pose:
This requires sitting on the floor on your hips with knees bent and foot placed on the ground. Now, by slowly leaning the torso backward, maintain the balance when the foot is lifted off the ground. The chest should be kept upright, with an angle of 45 degrees maintained between the torso and the bent legs. The position should be held for five breaths before relaxing for a few seconds. The set should be repeated for three more reps.
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These exercises will surely help to improve the strength and flexibility of the hip muscles. It will ensure that no injuries are caused at the pelvis and the hip region. But most importantly, it is necessary to be consistent in doing these exercises since muscles take time to strengthen and develop which cannot be done overnight.