There are two dynamic exercises that I used as part of the warm-up with my runners and hurdlers every single day. These are two dynamic hip warm-ups that tend to be pretty popular in a variety of sports. They can be performed walking (I think they call them Frankenstein kicks) or stationary against a fence or wall. One of the common compensations I see is excessive motion at the lumbar spine. Just like anything, they can be good exercises that are used incorrectly. Here are the two exercises.
Lateral Leg Swings (Incorrect):
Lateral Leg Swings (Correct): Look for pure hip abduction movement and not significant motion at the lower back like in the first video. This can also be a great multiplanar ankle mobility drill for the down foot. Facing the foot straight ahead, the swinging leg drives the motion laterally at the ankle. My hip rotation range of motion is pretty poor. You can see that I have to keep my range pretty limited in order to keep the spine stable.
Dynamic Linear Leg Swings (Incorrect): Look at how much motion is occurring at the spine into flexion and extension because of the lack of either hamstring length, inability to extend from hips, or flex from only the hips. There also may be a relative stiffness imbalance between the core and hips.
Dynamic Linear Leg Swings (Correct): Here you see most of the motion is only from the hips. It is also important to focus on keeping the chin packed back. Every exercise should focus on the chin being packed pack as this is significantly important for stability of the entire spine.
With all of these there can be a variety of things to address
- Hip stabilizer function: is the glute medius strong enough to stabilize the hips and allow pure hip abduction and not lumbar lateral flexion. This is why we can incorporate lateral mini-band walks, side lying clam-shells, & single leg work.
- When the leg moves into flexion and extension: are the length of the hip flexors & extensors (rectus femoris is usually a big culprit) adequate to allow motion in the opposite direction. If not, the motion, instead of at the hips, will occur at the back.
- Motor control: this is why movement is so important. You can strengthen the muscles that may need to be strengthened, but in the end if you allow the motion to occur where it should not when the athlete is performing the exercise, you can just feed into the problem. Teach proper movement first.
- Core stiffness: working the core to stabilize in the presence of change is paramount when motion is occurring at the limbs. If the core is not stiff enough to keep the spine stable during motion at the hips a problem or pain can arise.