When it comes to fitness and working out, the importance of strong and stable hips cannot be overstated. This is especially true when it comes to weightlifting, and just as important for all other sports and any kind of physical activity you do. The hips are perhaps the largest and most integral generators of power in the entire human body when it comes to movement and exercise.
For the sport of weightlifting, they bear the burden of supporting the weight of your body and the bar when you are overhead in the snatch or the jerk, and trying to lock out the weight for a successful lift. They have the dual function of generating power and supporting load.
But for any other sport or physical activity, the roles and functions that the hips serve is just as vital. You need strong hips to run fast, throw a ball hard, pick up your kids, and to do practically anything else.
For the hips to generate power and support load, they have to be in an optimal position to do those things. When it comes to lower body movement and exercises like the squat or deadlift, one of the tell-tale signs of this optimal position is when the knees turn outward during movement.
When the hips and knees rotate outward, they activate the large muscles of the hips and glutes to assist in your movements, whatever they are. For example, when it comes to compound exercises like the Olympic lifts or any lower-body dominant exercises, the knees-out position helps you tap into your hip and glute muscles and also creates space for the upper half to move forward and down between the hips.
During the Olympic lifts, this function of the hips and lower body allows the bar to continue moving up and overhead. Just think about how much space is created by the hips for the upper body to accommodate the bar during a successful clean, and then a successful jerk. Look at the bottom positions of both these movements. Think about the snatch now, and again, look at the bottom position.
Seeing a trend? The hips have to be strong and stable in these “knees out” positions. It’s how their able to support load. When trained properly, they can generate power, too.
In the following pages, you will learn how to warm-up and activate your hip and glute muscles using our LiftGenie Hip Bands. You will also see how we can use them to activate our shoulders. By warming up properly and activating your muscles beforehand, they will improve your execution of both your lower and upper-body lifts in your workout! These exercises will be an excellent addition to any fitness routine to keep your hips strong and get movement right.
Warming Up with LiftGenie Hip Bands
- Put the band around your knees and lay on your side with your hips and knees bent, as if you were sleeping soundly in the fetal position. Place your top hand on your waist for support and to prevent movement of your hip. With your feet together, think about pushing your bottom leg as hard as you can into the ground while you raise the top knee up to the ceiling. Think about pulling the band apart and don’t let your hips go backwards or the rest of your body move. When you’ve opened up as much as you can, hold the top position for about 2 second before going back down. You should feel a big burn in the side of your glutes. Repeat on the other side.
- Our recommendation: 6 reps with a two second hold at the top of each rep. Use the tighter bands when easy or increase the length of the hold.
- Put the band around your knees and lay on your back with the knees bent and feet on the ground. Spread your feet and knees apart to pull the band taut. Flatten your lower back into the ground (think about doing a crunch or creating a six-pack). Push your hips up to the ceiling as high as you can by squeezing the glutes hard (your classic glute bridge). Now think about pulling the band apart as much as possible. This will create a bigger burn in your glute muscles than just bridging up alone.
- Our recommendation: 8 reps with a two second hold at the top of each rep.
- Set up in a knees bent, hips back athletic position with the band around your knees. Think about setting up like a defender in basketball, or a cornerback in football. With the knees out and pushing against the band on both sides, take a big step to the right WITHOUT moving the rest of your body or changing eye levels. Your left foot should follow suit and bring you back into your standard athletic position. Take 4 total strides to the right, 4 strides forward, 4 to the left, and 4 backwards, making a box. Stay low throughout and try to maintain the same distance apart between your feet.
- Our recommendation: 2 boxes, nice and slow.
Pivot Squats w/ Band
- With the band around your knees, squat down while maintaining the knees out position. At the bottom of the squat, pivot your body from side to side, let the band pull each knee in one at a time before you push it back out into a neutral position again. Think about creating space for your torso to slide down between your hips to help you get into a deeper squat.
- Our recommendation: 5 squats, with 2 pivots of each knee at the bottom position each time.
Staggered-stance Hip Airplanes
- Get into a staggered stance (one foot in front of the other, about two feet or so apart front to back, and hip width between them left to right). Lean forward slightly by bending over and pushing your hips back. Think about putting 70% of you weight over your front side and 30% over the back side. Put your hands on your hips. With your torso facing the ground, roll your body over your front leg by “rolling over” your hip joint as much as possible. Try to maintain tension on the band around your knees. Now roll your body back and behind you, stretching out the hip band. Try not to rotate anywhere else except at the hip. Your elbows should resemble an airplane in flight. Repeat on both sides.
- Our recommendation: 6 reps on each side, going down and up for every rep, nice and slow.
Wall Slide w/ Hip Band
- Put the band around your wrists and push them out against the band. Start your hands on the wall at the level of your shoulders and rest your forearms on the wall. Now think about moving your arms up with your shoulder blades. Slide your hands up as high as you can on the wall (you can shrug a little bit) while pushing your wrists out against the band the entire time. Slide your hands back down to the starting position. You should feel this in the back of your shoulders where the shoulder blades are. This exercise will help you strength the smaller stabilizing muscles of the shoulder to improve your overhead position. Use the light tension band.
- Our recommendation: 5 reps, nice and slow
- Put the band around your knees, and hold a dowel (or broomstick) overhead as if you were doing a snatch. Pull the bar apart to create tension in your shoulders as you would normally do in the snatch. As you go into an overhead squat, push your knees out against the bands to control and tighten up your positions throughout the movement.
- Our recommendation: 8 reps, nice and slow
- Using the hip band around the upper arm up by the armpit area helps to reinforce good shoulder and upper back position in both clean pulls and deadlifts. Think about screwing your shoulders back—the band will provide great feedback as to what that should feel like if you simply try and pull the band apart. This will help up until the end of the first pull—after which, as you might imagine, getting the bar above that point with the band still around your biceps would be impractical. Nevertheless, this is something that you can use in your warm-up sets, or even in strength phases of your Olympic lifting program where you are prioritizing going heavy to elicit strength and power transfer to your competition lifts.
- Our recommendation: Use this whenever necessary, for warming up or for strength. Clean pulls and deadlifts with the hip band work as great accessory exercises to your competition lifts.
Wrapping it Up:
If you have trouble tapping into the power that resides within your hip and glute muscles, it might just take a little bit of activation work with hip bands in your warm-up to get them going. This will allow you to build a stronger and more robust lower half that will contribute positively to all the movements and exercises in your training. The warm-up in this quick guide will help if you have these issues. Feel free to try these exercises individually as well. And don’t forget to wrap your thumbs with LiftGenie so you can hookgrip every damn day and perform at your best!
By Jeremy Lau, MA, CSCS.
Pictures shot in Milwaukee, WI by Becca Bowen.