Many North Americans, who are so used to having our hips at a 90-degree angle (sitting at desks, in cars, etc.), can’t bear the thought of sitting comfortably in a squat.
“There’s a reason our culture is so prone to hip replacements,” says Natalya Sebastian, pilates manager at Equinox fitness centre in Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood. “We’re not fully utilizing the value of the joint and therefore the muscles are atrophying around the joint because of lack of use.”
“Full hip flexion and full hip extension is the way our body is intended to move. Too often, hips are overlooked because we go to the gym saying, ‘I’m going to work my arms, my stomach or my cardio.’ We ignore the importance of moving our body through its full range.”
Strong hip flexors – the group of muscles around the upper and inner thighs – power almost every movement we make. Sebastian says we can make our hips more mobile, and strengthen them, with a few simple exercises:
Go into deep squat (mind your knees if you have problems with them). Keep your knees hip-width apart, with feet slightly turned out. Sit down with your back as straight as possible. Stay in that position for 10 seconds. Repeat three times.
Lie on your back, with your legs straight out on the ground. Take one knee up into table top – your knee should be directly above your hip, and your ankle in line with the knee – and circle the knee and the leg in one direction, eight times. Then, with the same leg, circle in the other direction. Repeat the cycle with the other leg, trying to keep your entire body still.
Lie on your side, resting your ear on your bottom arm. Knees should be at a right angle. Do the same leg circle, eight times, in each direction.
“In pilates, every session addresses the hips,” Sebastian says. “We never address the body in isolation. The pelvis is the bridge of the body so it needs to be given the same attention as everything else.”