6 Week Programme: Week 3 - Hips & Glutes
Updated: Aug 2
The hip joint bears the weight of the pelvis and provides structural stability for the whole body, while at the same time allowing us to walk, sit, jump etc. The pelvis provides the foundation for the torso and therefore alignment is essential.
The thighs are joined to the pelvis via the hip joint - which is a ball and socket joint, allowing a wide range of movement at the hip. This wide range of movement is provided by a variety of muscle groups contributing to strength and flexibility in this region. For example the hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors and abductors, the rotators and hip flexors all move the thigh in relation to the pelvis. The abdominal muscles support the front of the body, and help with alignment.
As many muscles contribute to the movement of the hips it is an area which can suffer if you do not have a varied exercise routine, causing stiffness and pain. We can work on opening the hips in yoga and help to reduce tension and stiffness in the muscles supporting the joint.
Standing poses are beneficial for the pelvis and hips, as they develop strength & flexibility, also when standing we bring our awareness to our posture. An excellent pose for the hips and pelvis is extended side angle pose, increasing mobility in the hip joint, strengthening the leg and pelvis muscles and stretching muscles along the side of the body:
- Stand at the top of the mat, feet hip width apart
- Take your right foot back a big stride and turn toes to face the long edge of the mat (as if preparing for Warrior 2), take a bend in the left knee so knee is over ankle
- Hips and chest face the long edge of the mat
- Lengthen through the spine and bend over to the left, resting the left forearm on left thigh (do not put any weight on the thigh)
- Lift right arm directly up towards the ceiling, or arm can come up and over to the left for a side stretch
- Do not collapse forward, chest is open, slightly tuck tailbone and draw shoulder blades in
- Press feet firmly into the ground and lengthen from right heel to right fingertips
It is so important that our glutes are strong and supportive as they help us walk, sit and stand. The glute muscles are made up of: gluteus maximus, medias and minimus. The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body, it attaches to the side of the sacrum (base of spine) and femur (thigh bone). The gluteus medias is located partway under the gluteus maximus; it connects the ilium (hip bone) to the side of the upper femur - your main ‘side-stepping’ muscle. Gluteus minimums is located under the gluteus medius and enables circular movements with your thigh. These three muscles, along with other smaller supporting muscles, are the base of support for the hips and pelvis. They bring stability to the femur in your hip socket, rotate the femur internally and externally, and allow your leg to draw backwards.
Problems can arise when we either under or over utilise the glutes. Many underuse this muscle group, for example if you spend a lot of time sat down, when standing up the glutes don’t fire as they should, in order for hip extension to happen back muscles are used instead, which can lead to a sore back. We also need be to mindful in our yoga practice for example if the glutes aren’t firing in a squat, when we come out of the squat the quads are active instead, this can lead to large quads and weak hamstrings. On the flip side, we need to be mindful that the glutes can be overused, for example if clenching too hard in a certain poses such as wheel, or when running. Both situations can affect the range of motion in the sacrum and hips, leading to instability or pain.
In yoga we can perform poses to activate the glutes, by doing this on the mat, we are helping remind our brain about these muscles for when we're off the mat too. One of these poses is high lunge:
- Start in Downward Facing Dog
- Step right foot between hands, align knee over heel, whilst keeping left leg strong
- Raise torso upright, then sweep arms up, palms facing in
- Engage glute on left side
- Lengthen tailbone towards the ground, be mindful of lower back, do not overarch
- Reach back through left heel
- Don’t press ribs forward, draw them down and into torso, hold for 5 breaths
- Step left foot up to meet right
- Repeat on the opposite side, starting in Downward Facing Dog
Sources used to help create this blog:
Note: Please ensure you warm up before completing activities listed above; by engaging in these activities you do so at your own risk.