This weekend’s challenge builds the hip joint and, as an added benefit, helps tone the muscles of your waist to get rid of “love handles.” It’s called the Triple Action Hip Builder because it directly targets the hip in three ways: by strengthening the iliopsoas muscles, building bone in the pelvis (including the crucial femoral neck), and enhancing flexibility in the pelvic area.
All of these factors play into the larger goal of preventing dangerous hip fractures, so let’s get started!
It’s well known that pelvic fractures are some of the most devastating types of fracture. The reason is not so much because the pelvis is large, but because it is so central to the upright stance and gait that is unique to humans.
A pelvic fracture means your central, structural support is compromised, and recovery is difficult. “About 50% of patients who lived independently before sustaining a hip fracture are unable to regain their independent lifestyle,”1 a sobering fact that speaks volumes about the importance of movement and muscle strength in preserving and restoring hip joint integrity.
That’s because the hip joint (or acetabular joint) is not only central to your skeletal structure, but it’s also rather complex. The acetabulum itself, commonly known as the hip socket, allows the head of the femur to swivel smoothly in all directions. This is what allows you to squat, step to the side, walk up and down stairs, ride a bicycle, lunge, lift your leg to the side…the list goes on and on. The hip joint is highly articulated, and a complex ligament and muscle structure is required to support and activate this articulation.
One of the keys to this incredible acetabular articulation is the femoral neck, a “bridge” of bone between the top of your femur (greater trochanter) and the femoral head (the ball of the ball and socket joint).
If you have ever taken bisphosphonates, then you should be aware that this bridge of bone is more susceptible to fracture after taking the drugs. It’s the femoral neck that most often snaps in the “atypical fractures” associated with bisphosphonate use.2
The femoral neck must be both strong and flexible to bend with the various twists and turns we make with our legs and hips. In addition, the femoral head and the socket are lined with thick cartilage that reduces friction and facilitates motion and weight distribution without fracture.
The joint is further stabilized by ligaments and muscles that hold the femur in the socket while allowing a remarkable range of motion. One of these muscles is the iliopsoas, or psoas.
The iliopsoas is a muscle group made up of the psoas major, the psoas minor, and the iliacus. Together, these muscles form the deep muscles of the hip flexors.
If the psoas muscles are weak, then pelvic instability and imbalance can result. In addition, weak psoas muscles are not putting healthy, bone-building stress on your pelvic bones that stimulates new bone growth. To help prevent fractures, it’s important to build up both the bone and the muscle strength in this area.
As you perform today’s exercise, you’ll be strengthening the psoas muscles, and you’ll also be tapping in to the muscles at the base of your waist and lower back, where “love handles” tend to form. You’ll see that when you do the Triple Action Hip Builder, you will certainly feel those muscles!
Here’s how to do it.
Stand next to a stable surface such as a wall, window sill, or sturdy chair back.
- Place one hand on the stable surface (for the sake of clarity, we’ll say your right hand).
- Lift your left leg and hold it level, bending your knee at approximately a 90-degree angle. The line from your hip to your knee and from your knee to your ankle should be as level as possible.
- Raise your left arm up above your head.
- Keeping the bend in your knee, raise your leg up and bring your left elbow down slightly toward your leg at the same time.
- Bring your leg back down a bit, but don’t straighten it or put your foot down. At the same time, raise your left arm back up over your head.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5, lifting your bent leg and bringing your elbow down slowly. Repeat for eight to 10 lifts.
- Be distinct and controlled in your movements. Don’t “flop” or flail as you lift your leg and arm.
- Keep one hand on the stable surface throughout the exercise.
- If you can only do one or two lifts, don’t worry; do one or two regularly until you and do two or three.
- Keep the bent leg up throughout the exercise. Don’t put your foot down or straighten your knee.
To further work the hip flexors, try following this exercise with another Weekend Challenge, the Hip Flexor Strengthener.
Both of these challenges also work well in conjunction with the many hip-strengthening exercises in the Densercise™ Epidensity Training System. Among the 52 bone-building moves in Densercise™, you’ll find many that are devoted to building pelvic strength.
For example, Wall Squats (page 21) work the upper legs while helping to flatten and stabilize the back as you press against the wall. In the Imaginary Jump Rope (page 23), you’ll use the power of impact to build strength in the hip joints.
Remember, if there are any exercises you can’t do because of certain health conditions, not to worry – there are so many options and so much variety that you can easily substitute one exercise for another, and still work the same general area.
How did you like the Triple Action Hip Builder? Please feel free to engage the community by leaving a comment below.
Have a great weekend!
1 Castronuovo, Esmeralda, et al. “Early and late mortality in elderly patients after hip fracture: a cohort study using administrative health databases in the Lazio region, Italy.” BMC Geriatr. 11.37. (2011). Doi: 10.1186/1417-2318-11-37. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3162886/
2 Rizzoli ,R., et al. “Subtrochanteric fractures after long-term treatment with bisphosphonates: a European Society on Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis, and International Osteoporosis Foundation Working Group Report.”Osteoporos Int. 2011 Feb; 22(2): 373–390. Published online 2010 Nov 18. doi: 10.1007/s00198-010-1453-5 . Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3020314/