The ability to move is a wonderful thing. It is really something most of us take advantage of and don't fully appreciate until we become injured or limited. It is a characteristic that is important to maintain and improve to optimize health. In order to obtain proficient overall mobility it is important to address the needs of each joint. This idea comes from the great Gray Cook and it is most commonly know as the joint-by-joint approach. And one of the central concepts of this approach is that joints have alternating requirements between mobility and stability. If one joint is lacking in either stability or mobility then other joints in the kinetic chain will be affected. The following list demonstrates this from top to bottom:
Gleno-humeral - Mobility
Scapula - Stability
Thoracic Spine - Mobility
Lumbar Spine - Stability
Hips - Mobility
Knees - Stability
Ankles - Mobility
Based on this concept if we want to achieve the highest level of movement capability we can we must address each individual joints needs and it's deficiencies.
Due to lifestyle many of us suffer from many similar movement dysfunctions, many finding their roots in the same causes. Excessive sitting is probably the most common factors contributing to movement dysfunctions often times leading to lower back pain.
One of the common deficiencies I see with my clients is a severe lack of hip mobility. This is usually found in conjunction with poor ankle dorsiflexion and terrible lumbar stability. Now which is causing which is something that can only be determined through an assessment and a close eye watching the way you move. But what I have observed most often with my clients is that the back pain so many of them suffer is due to the fact that they have limited mobility in their hips and because of this their lower back has given up stability to compensate for their hips not carry their weight in the kinetic chain. Often I can minimize their lower back troubles by concentrating on hip mobility drills and a few plank variations.
As I assume some of you reading this work in jobs where you have to sit a lot and thus are more prone to ending up with limited hip mobility I want to share with you a great drill for helping improve hip mobility, in addition to helping shape up your gluteus maximus.
Fire hydrants can be a tricky exercise to learn at first especially if your someone who already moves through their lower back instead of their hips. Most are incredibly surprised at how limited their range of motion is in this exercise, but over time with proper soft tissue work and proper performance of the drill the range of motion will dramatically improve.
To Perform Fire Hydrants:
1. Begin by assuming a quadruped position. Get on the floor and place your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your knees directly underneath your hips. If you have assumed the correct position your body should create a square space between your arms and thighs. Below is a picture of the quadruped position.
2. Initiate the exercise by raising one leg out to the side maintaining a 90 degree bend in your knee. This is where the whole "move through your hips and not your lower back" becomes an issue. Raise your leg up as high as you can without rotating your shoulders, bending your elbows, or twisting through your lower back. The entire motion should begin and end with your hips. The ideal range of motion is to end the lifting phase with your knee directly in line with your hips while your knee is bent at 90 degrees, but for most your range of motion will be much less. Below is a picture of the ideal top position of the exercise.
3. Once you have maxed out your range of motion without rotating your shoulders, bending your arms, or twisting your lower back begin lowering your leg back down to the starting position. Repeat for repetitions.
Below is a video of me demonstrating the fire hydrant. Please keep in mind that my range of motion will not be your range of motion, but do notice that I do not rotate my shoulders or lower back and I do not bend my arms.