For exclusive access to all our stories, including sequences, teacher tips, video classes, and more, join Outside+ today.
Almost all sports injuries are caused by imbalance in the body, says Sage Rountree. Here she explains how to achieve balance throughout the hips for greater comfort and freedom in your activities.
All sports injuries are the result of some kind of imbalance. Sometimes you literally lose your balance and fall, causing an acute injury like a sprained ankle or torn ACL. More insidiously, training itself can develop an imbalance between strength and flexibility that leads to an overuse injury like patellar tendonitis or piriformis syndrome. To correct such muscular imbalance in your body, you need to open any constricted areas—those where you don’t have enough flexibility to move easily—and to strengthen the relatively weak areas. The opening has to precede the strengthening for the strengthening to have full effect; otherwise, you’re fighting against the limitations tightness imposes. Take, for example, someone like me who’s trying to improve her posture to correct a tendency to slump. Passive backbends will help stretch the front of the chest, which is overtight; once that’s open, active backbends will strengthen the back muscles, which are comparatively weak.
The same reasoning applies to balance around the hips. In my last post, I addressed how to stretch any constrictive overtightness that hampers flexibility. The next step is to build and balance the strength in the hips and thighs front to back, top to bottom, and side to side. Once you find this new point of balance, you’ll enjoy all your activities, from sports to asana practice, with greater ease, comfort, and freedom.
Balance Hip Strength in 3 Planes of Motion
Front to back
Balance strength between the front of the thigh and hip (the quadriceps and hip flexors) and the back of the thigh and hip (the hamstrings and gluteal muscles). Poses to strengthen the front include Chair (Utkatasana) and Boat Pose (Navasana); poses to strengthen the back include Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) and Locust Pose (Salabhasana).
Top to bottom
Strengthen the hips (the glutes and hip stabilizers) relative to the thighs (quadriceps and hamstrings) with dynamic movements. For example: lifting to Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana) or Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) from the floor, as in Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar); lowering into Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III) from Mountain Pose (Tadasana) and returning to Mountain; lifting into Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana).
Side to side
Cultivate balance between the inner thigh and outer-hip muscles (adductors and abductors) with carefully aligned single-leg and split-stance poses such as Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I), Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), Side Angle (Parsvokanasana), Triangle (Trikonasana), Eagle (Garudasana).