One of the most commonly under-developed and neglected areas of the body in athletes of all ages tends to be the hips. The muscular structures of the hips are a major source of both power and stability across multiple planes of movement, and you’d be hard pressed to find a sport where they don’t play a large role in athletic performance. Whether it’s the swing of a baseball bat, a right hook from a boxer, a sprinter coming out of the blocks, or a lineman coming out of their stance to meet their opposition – the hips are a nexus of power generation and transfer for the athlete.
The Role of Hip Function in Preventing Knee Injuries
Beyond all of this, the hips are also primary facilitator in knee stability. Due to it’s position directly between your hips and ankles the knee must deal with lots of forces coming from many different directions on a very regular basis. Because of this positioning and these multi-directional forces, the knee is also a very common site of injury for athletes. But just because your knee is the site of injury does not mean that it is the direct cause of injury.
In fact, it’s not uncommon to find a relative weakness in the hip abductors of athletes with illiotibial band syndrome – even more compellingly, these differences in strength can vary between the injured and non-injured leg of the athlete. It’s important to remember that when it comes to strength and stability your body functions through the involvement of many individual pieces working together as a whole. Because of this systematic nature, a lack of strength in the hip structures can expose the knee to levels of force that the joint structure simply could never handle alone.
So, do you want to become a more explosive and balanced athlete while lowering your chance of lower extremity injury? It’s time to get to strengthening those hips! One of best exercises for this would have to be single-legged or “pistol” squats. The isolation of the limb and the depth of the squat not only directly engages the hip structure (as they help in the generation and transfer of force from your leg through the floor) but also allows you to address issues with imbalances in strength on one side of the body.
Here’s a fantastic video to help you lock in the form for this exercise, including a progressive series of exercises for those who may struggle to complete the full range of motion right out of the gate: