Restore: the hips program

how to train hip joint mobility


How to: Two Progressive Ways to Train Axial Rotation

In STEP 1 – Assessing Your Hip Joints, you learned the most basic way to explore and assess hip axial rotation. If you’re like most athletes, you are wondering “what’s next?”

The answer is, to take that assessment and begin to train it. Progressively. 

We’ll start at the beginning with Part 1, and go from there to Part 2. Keep reading!

In Part 1, we’ll return our focus back to the quadruped position we used for our assessment and train that movement.

In Part 2, we’ll get a bit deeper and begin to explore a popular and challenging pose from Yoga, that to do correctly requires a significant amount of hip axial rotation. What is it?  Pigeon Pose. 

Part 1: Let’s begin at the beginning – a practical approach to training hip axial rotation.

Every single smart training program has one thing in common.  It begins at the beginning.

After all, even if more advanced positions like pigeon pose present real movement challenges, we can still take a practical approach – begin at the beginning – and get started training! And then progress from there.  

Where is the beginning?

What’s the best way to make axial rotation easier – to make it easier to “feel” and develop? 

Enter the “Quadraped Axial Hip Rotation” exercise.

What is it? You know this from your assessment obviously, but thought of as a training exercise…

…it is simply a scaled-back, easier-to-accomplish and perform, exercise to start to develop more / improved axial rotation of the hip. With repeated practice, this should lead to better rotation, and a better chance to be able to get into pigeon as time goes on.

A few years ago, when I was first practicing this, I took two videos of us doing this for the first time. As you watch, you will see Terry and I exploring this and beginning to learn how to do it better.

One important note: It is NORMAL to have more external rotation of the hip (foot rotating toward the outside of the midline) than internal rotation (foot rotating toward the midline).

The key is, you do need SOME internal rotation. Pay close attention to asymmetry from one side to the other. Where are your greatest areas of opportunity to improve?

Some IMPORTANT cues:

* Set up in a basic quadruped position. You have the option of using a resistance band over the shoulder and foot to create better core/trunk engagement and awareness.

* Keep the low back “neutral” and as still as possible. Focus entirely on AXIAL rotation of the HIP joint, ONLY!

* You need to be close enough to a wall to keep the val-slide (or you could use a towel also) in place, and press into the wall with a slight amount of force, yet you need to also be able to rotate the hip.

* Use a mirror so that you can monitor how still your low back remains and also see rotation.

* Think of these as another variation of CARs: rotate as much as you can to each direction outer range of motion. Move slowly. Find that end range and bump up against it.

* As time goes on, see if you can improve it.

Part 2: Let’s take what we’ve learned and move it to a new, higher, more challenging level: PIGEON POSE.

Once you’ve had an opportunity to learn and practice and become comfortable with basic axial rotation for the hip, and you feel you’re truly ready to advance, the next step is to come into an elevated “pigeon” based position. 

I will say right up front – do not rush your entry into this next-level training. Take your time. The key is to be moving forward and progressing, however incremental that progress might be. Mobility can’t be rushed or forced!

You have two primary goals with this training.

Goal #1:

Get into the PASSIVE STRETCH and allow your body some time, up to 2 minutes or more, to become “comfortable.”

Remember to breathe!  Relax and allow your body’s “systems” to calm down. Nothing forced.

Depending upon your individual level of flexibility, you may need to pause and take a break momentarily before resuming, or build up slowly to the full 2 minute time frame.

This is challenging training.

Goal #2:

Go through one (or two) cycles of PAILs and RAILs.

PAILs: 10-sec ramp/build, then 10-sec full on contraction.

RAILs: again, 10-sec ramp/build, then 10-sec full on contraction.

Pause momentarily and repeat, or stay in the passive stretch position for a bit longer before easing out of it.

In this 10-minute long video, I go through set-up for elevated pigeon and then demonstrate one cycle (on one side) of PAILs/RAILs.  

Details matter. Watch closely and enjoy the learning!