Humans are unique in that we are the only mammals that function upright and are bipedal. This function allows us to stand and walk for extended periods of time, jump, run and even climb.
The human pelvis is designed to allow for some mobility but mostly acts as a place of major stability so we can function appropriately during these tasks.
As discussed in the previous Family of Fast blog articles, the function of the pelvis and its surrounding musculature is extremely important for human function.
Humans have the largest gluteal muscles due to being bipedal. These muscles of the hip not only allow the legs to rotate and move in multiple directions but also to provide stability.
The hip muscles act like a “rotator cuff of the leg and pelvis” in that the muscles also provide isometric forces of the joints to ensure proper positioning for force production and absorption.
The following exercises are very basic, foundational moves that anyone ranging from a beginner of fitness to an advanced athlete can do. These exercises are some simple, safe and effective moves used to train the motor control of the muscles of the pelvis to ensure proper stability.
As with all exercises, it is important that they are executed with a pure focus to ensure proper form and technique.
The reality is that during high-intensity workouts and hard efforts, some form and technique goes out the window.
Revisiting basics helps to prevent compensatory techniques and limit the chances of injury. Once these basics are mastered with proper form and technique, advancement to progressions of these concepts is warranted.
If you notice, some of these exercises look like “rehab” exercises. Ever wonder why that is? Why are athletes seen doing “basic things” in rehab, when they are capable of doing much more advanced moves?
It is because they have found a way to compensate and over route these foundational components.
It’s like having a really nice house on a garbage foundation. Eventually, it is going to collapse.
These exercises are suggestions, and may or may not help to improve any musculoskeletal based pain or dysfunction.
As always, if you are having pain with movements and activity, it is always best to consult a healthcare practitioner to confirm problems and prescribe an appropriate treatment plan.
BEGINNER: If the leg lock with the ball is too advanced due to deficient core and hip flexor function, try holding the opposite leg.
I bet everyone has at least seen this exercise at some point. This is a very common exercise used in rehabilitation and also done incorrectly most of the time.
This is also one of those exercises that most people, including athletes, NEED, but never do.
The usual comments in regards to this exercise are it is “ too basic and easy” and “not advanced enough” but that is the point I am trying to drill home.
I cannot tell you how many individuals, especially athletes, which I have treated that are unable to do the basics of movements. This basic exercise lights the hips up!
Research has investigated this movement a lot and it has been shown that pelvic rotation away from the neutral position nullifies the activation and effectiveness of the gluteals during this movement.
BEGINNER: If the band is too hard, then start with the same movement WITHOUT A BAND and hold the leg up for 3 SECONDS. Repeat 10-15 times on each side.
This exercise helps train motor control of the core and pelvis in standing. The goal is to maintain a level pelvis and upright torso during the movement of one leg while standing on the other.
BEGINNER: Start WITHOUT the use of the band. Touching the foot down between each kick to ensure the proper balance is a good way to start with the eventual goal being able to execute kicking in each direction without touching the ground.
The amount of individuals and especially athletes that cannot stand on one leg efficiently is alarming.
Deficient single-leg stance control is a HUGE risk factor for injury.
If you think standing on one leg is silly, try being injured because of not being able to do the basics. That’s silly.
BEGINNER: If holding a weight is too challenging, then start with REGULAR single-leg stance practice.
If you have a really hard time standing on one leg with the inability to hold your balance for at least 10 SECONDS, then there is some more specific and targeted work that needs to be done in your case.
Consulting a physical therapist or strength and conditioning coach can be of benefit to help improve this movement dysfunction.
This is another common exercise often seen in rehabilitation and athletic training settings.
This exercise targets motor control training of the torso and pelvis with a dynamic component of lateral movement. It is often done incorrectly as many individuals tend to compensate with their lumbar spine by arching their low back and sticking their hips out.
Research has investigated this exercise as well, demonstrating that poor positioning of the pelvis reduces the activation of the gluteals.
Tucking the tailbone down and drawing the belly in while staying upright during the sidestepping is the proper way to train this movement. It ensures proper pelvic positioning through gluteal function.
Sidestepping should only be as far out as you can maintain proper form without leaning or waddling at the torso. If you look like a penguin when moving along, then you’re doing it wrong.
Repeat for 3-4 laps of 25 feet.
BEGINNER: Start without the use of a band. Work the sidestepping just outside shoulder length while making sure to maintain proper pelvic and torso positioning. Once you have the technique down you can then add a resistance band.
In review, these exercises are basic foundation builders. You cannot go wrong with adding them to your program, especially during an off-season strength block or even on a taper week.
These exercises are designed to work motor control or in other words the neuromuscular component of executing a movement properly.
These exercises are different than a pure strength training session involving heavy lifts and compound movements such as powerlifting, Olympic lifting or plyometrics.
These exercises ensure you have the basic building blocks in place so you can engage in more advanced movements and activity.
About The Author:
Michael St. George, PT, DPT (@icore_stgeorge on Instagram) is a physical therapist who works for Excel Physical Therapy and Fitness, which is a private practice that is based around the greater Philadelphia region and suburbs. He is FMS, SFMA, Y Balance, and Motor Control Test Certified with eight years of experience in outpatient orthopedics and sports medicine. His training consists of experience working with physicians and surgeons from the Rothman Institute and therapists in his field specializing in various manual techniques and advanced treatment procedures.