In this “Body Parts” series, Dimity McDowell gets you in playing shape, from head to toe.
Body Part: Hips
What they do: The foundation of the lower body, the hips not only provide a stable platform to connect your upper half to your lower half, but they are also the source of most of your power. “Jumping, kicking, swinging, squatting, running, decelerating: all those motions originate in the hips,” says Michael Lagomarsine, head of strength and conditioning at the Boston University Athletic Enhancement Center. “It’s really vital that the muscles of the hips are strong and solid.”
The typical hips-wider-than-knees female alignment puts both joints in a vulnerable position, but by making your hips 3-D strong — hitting muscles that control your forward, backward and side-to-side movement — you can protect both your hips and knees. “If your hips aren’t strong, your knees are more prone to injury,” Lagomarsine says. “When you plant your foot and change direction, the hips absorb your momentum. If you don’t have strength in the hips, the force gets transferred to your knees, which can result in injury.”
Used most commonly used when you: Swing a softball bat or a golf club, fire off a slap shot, run, slow down to kick a soccer ball, lunge for a volleyball, sprint to the other side of the lacrosse field, flutter kick in butterfly, or otherwise move your lower body.
Three moves to make your hips stronger:
How to: Place both feet inside a medium-resistance band (top), and position it so that it’s stretched across the outside of both ankles. Stand with your feet wide enough so that there’s tension on the band (if it’s too big, wind it around one ankle to pick up some slack). Bend both knees and place your hands on your hips. Keeping your spine straight, take a small step to the left. “You
should feel tension on the outside of your hips and legs,” Lagomarsine says. Take 15 steps in one direction, then 15 steps in the opposite direction. Rest for a bit, then do another set; complete 3 sets total.
Plank and Raise
How to: Lie on your left side so that your body is in a straight line, feet stacked on top of each other. Rest on your left forearm. Push through your left forearm to raise your hips off the floor while your right hand rests on your right hip. Keeping your core engaged and your hips lifted, raise your right leg, foot flexed a few inches; if your hips sink or you compromise your form, lower the leg.
Start with 5 per side and work up to 10. Do three sets total.
Side Leg Lift
How to: Lie on your right side, body in a straight line, right elbow bent and head resting in your right hand. Bend your right knee to a comfortable position. Activate your abs, and lift your left leg, eading with the heel, as high as you can without arching your back or breaking the alignment of your hips. Lower and repeat. Do 15 reps on one side and 15 on the other for one set; complete 3 sets.
Let’s hear it for the hips: “As a soccer player, hips are extremely important. Having strong hips helps me with turning quickly and striking the ball well. For the outside midfield position, where I play, I have to cross the ball a lot; strong hips are essential for successful passes.” -- Lindsay Mooradian, freshman midfielder on the Brookline (Mass.) soccer team