Your hips are designed to move. In fact, they are literally constructed to move six different ways in all three planes by over 17 muscles. They function at their finest when they have the freedom and ability to move in all six directions and when every muscle effectively participates when called upon.
When you sit on your bum for most of the day, not only do your hips not move very much, they stay relatively stuck in a flexed position. Then depending on how you sit, they may rest outward (abducted) if you sit with your legs open or held tightly inward (adducted) when you cross your legs.
These stagnant positions create tightness and weakness in your hip flexor muscles and the outer or inner corresponding muscle groups, pending your preferred sitting position. Over time, this lack of muscle length and insufficient use can lead to adaptive shortening or a chronic change in the muscles' ability to function fully.
Meanwhile, on the backside of your hip joint live your gluteals and a whole host of other hip operating muscles such as your piriformis and the GOGO's. (An acronym for a group of 4 hip muscles responsible for rotating your hips). I'll focus today on the major gluteals to spare you from an extensive anatomy lesson.
Prolonged sitting puts your gluteals in a mostly lengthened state, just the opposite from the front side. This overly lengthened static position creates deconditioned butt muscles that do a crappy job controlling your pelvis when you stand up and walk.
This combination of "tight and weak" hip flexors and "lengthened and weak" butt muscles confuse your poor hips and their surrounding pelvic structure. Since your body is literally connected from head to toe, this unstable central pelvis leads to a whole host of issues throughout the rest of your body.
I'll take you back to your hips before this takes a deep dive into a rabbit hole known as "full-body dysfunction" in biomechanics. After all, your hips our powerful. When they move well, the rest of your body thanks you.
So, what are these three simple movements mentioned in the title? They are movements in the three primary planes that your hips are made to move: Sagittal, Frontal and Transverse. If I'm losing you, come back to me. I promise this is worth it.
The sagittal plane is any forward and back movement. Since I'm sure you are busy and like to get the most bang for your buck, a simple hip movement in this plane is standing up and sitting down, AKA "Squats." Performing 10 chair squats on the hour will lengthen your hip flexors while activating your glutes.
The frontal plane is any side-to-side movement. The first thing you could consider is how long or often you sit with your legs wide apart or crossed over one another. Do your best not to stay in one position too long. Switch it up as much as possible. Then it is essential that you actively move in this plane. An easy movement to do is stand and swing your legs outward and then across your body in a controlled manner. Perform 5-10 leg swings per side every 1-2 hours.
The transverse plane is any rotational movement. Your hips crave rotation and rely on this movement to squat, twist when turning to look behind you, and even when you do a slight backbend to reach overhead. A great way to practice this rotation is with standing hip CARS (controlled articular rotation). Perform 5 standing hip CARS per side every 2 hours of sitting.
Yes, all 3 of these exercises are in standing. You may be thinking, should I stand instead of sit at work? Maybe a stand-up desk will avoid any hip issues? The answer to this is Yes, but No.
Any static posture for too long has the potential to aggravate your body. Since sitting was demonized as the "new smoking," standing work became the new solution. Although changing positions is ideal, too much standing has its own problems.
I'll leave that conversation for another time. But, if you are interested in that debate, the author of THIS BLOG did an excellent job discussing both sides of the topic. They ultimately concluded that "The opposite to prolonged sitting isn't standing; it's moving."
Ah, my favorite hashtag indeed holds the truth - #movementmatters
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