It’s in the Hips: Part 1

by Mark Bixby on August 7, 2013

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This blog initiates the first in a series of 4 posts with companion videos about effective ways to better utilize the hips. While I’ve invented nothing in the series, I have hopefully ordered things in such a way—from simple to more complex—that those who practice these time-efficient drills will experience success at each point along the way. In the end, you’ll be crawling, squatting, running and jumping more efficiently.

Two years ago on Thanksgiving, I sat down in front of the wooden stove with my wife, mother-in-law, and daughters. They all sat comfortably on their knees, butts to heels. Given that my 63-year-old mother-in-law (with a hip replacement) could sit with ease in that position, I thought I could easily join her and dropped down in a knee sit. I sensed immediately that I might never stand again; either my knees were going to dislocate or my quads snap. Unable to conceal the distress on my contorted face, the ladies assembled asked if I needed an ambulance. I explained that the position created an unbearable stretch through the knee and quads, to which they responded they could all sit easily in the position for hours and not feel a thing.

Moral of the Story: Your tight hips are probably surrounded by lots of other tight muscles/tissue, especially if you are a dude.

While the RKC hip flexor stretch is probably the most commonly applied hip remediation in our community, we forget that many people don’t feel it in their hips because their quads are so tight that the stretch doesn’t travel above the thigh. One great solution is to practice your knee sits. We all have ample opportunities to sit, so we might as well use some of that time to increase our mobility.

Two weeks ago, MovNat Founder Erwan Le Corre led a wilderness survival training session that he kicked off in our gym. He sat on his knees as he explained some of his principles of natural movement. All of the men in attendance copied his seated position. One of them squirmed around uncomfortably until Erwan asked him if he was injured. The man replied that he had sprained his ankle a while back and that the position just hurt. Erwan said, “I’ve sprained my ankle lots of times, and sitting this way is no problem. You just don’t ever sit this way, right?” Like so many of you (especially men) reading this, he couldn’t disagree. The SAID Principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand) tells us that we adapt to what we do. Sit on your knees more regularly and, as I’ve discovered through persistence, you can lose the wince and hang out a while.

The following video sequence shows a progression of moves from knee sits to active hip stretches that should knock the rust off of the joints from your feet up through your spine. It’s just a further reminder that your tight hips are probably a product of your tight everything else. Practice these, and my next blog, with a more dynamic series of hip openers, should come more easily.

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Mark Bixby is a Dragon Door RKC Team Leader, PCC Instructor and MovNat Instructor.  He discovered kettlebells in 2002 and found that they are the quickest, most effective way to train.  A combination of past injuries and persistent low physical self-image had caused Mark to have severe posture issues and chronic back pain. Kettlebells taught Mark how to use his hips so that he didn’t tuck his pelvis and slump with his posture. He grew taller, stronger and more confident. More than six years later, Mark has accomplished huge gains in strength, flexibility and stability and he finds that kettlebells still present significant physical and technical challenges. Because the skill set can always be refined, kettlebells continue to push Mark towards higher levels of body awareness and fitness.

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  • Steve McKanna RKC

    Mark, really great presentation on beginning to open the hips, great gradual sequence to lengthen the quad and thus get to the hip flexors which has always been an issue for me. The blocks are a great tool and I will begin to use them with my students! Good work,thanks!

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