Hip Internal Rotation: You Need It.


All human movement can be described in three dimensions. We move in the saggital plane (front/back), frontal plain (side-to-side), and the transverse plane (rotation.) Certain movements are one-plane dominant: Distance running is mostly a saggital plane movement. Swinging a baseball bat is mostly a transverse plane movement. Ice skating and rollerblading feature a lot of frontal plane movement. Still, each of these movements also contain elements of the other two planes.

(Beyond moving in these planes, we also must stabilize our limbs against forces that are trying to move us in each of these planes.)

In my observation, a lot of people lack movement skills in one or more of these planes. Many times it seems clients lack adequate transverse plane movement, especially in the hips where the femurs attach to the pelvis. (We describe transverse plane hip movement as internal and external rotation.)  If we lack good transverse plane hip movement then we may have trouble with all sorts of activities from walking to running to skiing to golfing. Poor transverse hip mobility may result in back pain, knee pain or even shoulder or neck pain. Restricted transverse plane movement may also negatively impact sports performance.

I’ve found that restrictions in the transverse plane are often hidden. , Many people may feel tight hamstrings, tight pecs, or tight neck and upper back muscles, but rarely do I hear encounter a client who’s aware of something that doesn’t move well in the transverse plane. It seems a lot of us are walking around with no clue that we lack adequate rotation in any of our joints.

Why might an individual lack internal or external rotation? It could be any number of reasons. I believe our modern, seated, immobile lifestyle is probably a major contributor. Other reasons could be an anteverted or retroverted femur. These are structural issues of the femur that can’t be changed. Some sort of past injury could also be a culprit. All three issues could be at play.

I rest my case that hip internal and external rotation is important.

Here’s a video discussing hip internal rotation, why it’s important, and how to achieve it. Live it up kids!

More Hip Mobility From GMB


I’m a fan of mobility. I put a premium on my clients and I having a large “movement database.” I’m not just talking about flexibility mind you. On that note, I like Dr. Andreo Spina’s words on mobility vs flexibility:

“By my definition, mobility and stability are intimately related. Mobility, which is often confused with ‘flexibility,’ can be defined simply as the ability to move or to be moved freely and easily.  Another way to think of it is the ability to actively achieve range of motion.  Flexibility by contrast is the ability to passively achieve range of motion.  It is therefore possible to be very flexible, however have limited mobility.  The former implies that you can passively achieve a particular range, while the latter implies neurological control of a particular range as it is being actively attained.”

I’m also very interested in the concept of movement variability. What is “movement variability?” Todd Hargrove of Bettermovement.org discusses it as such:

“Good movement is not just about harmonious interaction or coordination between the different parts of the body. It is most fundamentally about how the system interacts with the environment, particularly in response to unexpected changes. In other words, good movement implies a quality of adaptability and responsiveness to a changing environment.

One can imagine building a humanoid robot that can walk with flawless symmetry and grace. But if the robot cannot adapt its gait pattern to accommodate changes in the terrain, it will fall each time it steps on a rock, and its movement skill is essentially useless. True movement intelligence therefore doesn’t exist so much in the movements themselves, but in their interaction with the environment.

The graceful stride of the deer isn’t useful unless it can be modulated to jump a log and avoid a wolf. A soccer player who can execute technically brilliant ball handling skills in solo practice does not face the real test until she performs those moves in a game situation against an opponent who is trying to steal the ball.

We would not say that someone is fluent in a language if they have only one way to communicate a particular thought, regardless of how perfect that particular communication is. Similarly, one is not fluent in the language of movement unless he can accomplish the same goal in many different ways.”

Why do I mention movement variability? My last blog post was about hip mobility and in it were several different hip mobility drills. This post is also about hip mobility and it features a bunch of different drills. Which ones are best? Who knows? With regard to movement variability, I think it’s probably a good idea to do a lot of different mobility drills and frequently experience novel movement.

Recently I discovered GMB.io.  (Yes you read that right.) I’m not sure what GMB stands for but I have enjoyed looking through their content which is very much mobility-centric. Their 8-exercise hip mobility sequence (below) is great! I’ve been using myself and with my clients. Lately I’ve been alternating between this series and the series in the prior post.




Hip Mobility Sequence


I’ve been using the following drills with a lot of my clients as well as with myself. Is this the be-all-end-all collection of hip mobility exercises? Probably not, but I think it hits several nails on the head in terms of movement that’s available to the hips. I think these drills may be especially useful for cyclists and those who are desk-bound. (I’ll be very honest and tell you that I’ve stolen these moves from both Gary Gray and Andreo Spina.) I do them in the order presented but for no other reason than that’s how I do it. You could do any of these in any order.

I use these with most of my clients a lot of the time. I personally use them after a bike ride or long trips in the car or on a plane.



More Hip Mobility


Recently I mentioned that you sit too much, and we looked at a hip mobility complex to help you combat the effects of sitting.  Here’s another very good hip mobility process from Kelly Starrett at MobilityWOD.com.

I’ve been doing this drill myself and with other clients and we’ve been seeing very nice results from loosening tight low backs to improving squat performance and generally realizing that we’ve got all kinds of tight, gunked-up tissue in our hips. All this tightness and restriction can mean trouble for knees, ankles, low backs, shoulders–all sorts of parts. Try this drill. Keep working on it. Do it frequently especially after long bike rides or any long period of sitting and before your workouts.

Essential Hip Health Drills


I’ve recently mentioned California-based physical therapist Kelly Starrett, and his very interesting blog MobilityWOD.com.  (I’m doing his Mobility Course in Denver at the end of April.)  One of his posts discusses why sitting is poison for your ability to move.  (Also, check out Why sitting all day is slowly killing you for more details on this evil activity.)  He’s on to something.  Sitting is bad and we need to do something about it.

You sit too much.

By the way, if you’re saying, “But I don’t sit that much,” I have several questions for you:

1) Are you a non-Amish/non-lumberjack American in the modern world?  If you say “yes” then you sit too much.

2) Do you own a car?  If you say “yes” then you sit too much.

3) Is there a desk and/or a computer involved in your life?  Clearly your answer is “yes” because you’re reading this.

4) Are you a cyclist?  If it’s “yes” then you sit too much.

5) You sit too much.

Deep posterior hip muscles

Effects of sitting

So what does sitting do to us?  First, we get restrictions in a bunch of our muscles and tissues.  Particularly we see restrictions in our posterior hip capsule.  This type of restriction can contribute to a condition called anterior femoral glide syndrome, which can cause pain at the front of the hip and generally bad movement.  Further, the various

muscles in this region can become impaired, tight and weak.  Sitting shuts down these muscles and our brain literally forgets how to use these extremely important movers and stabilizers.  All of this can result in various aches and pains, poor balance, difficulty sitting and standing, poor running form, poor lifting form–it’s all bad!! What’s the solution?

Mobilize & strengthen

Superficial posterior hip muscles

The best way to address these restrictions is to move.  We’ve got to move the tight tissues and we have to re-learn how to operate these muscles that have likely gone dormant.  What follows are three drills borrowed and adapted from Shirley Sahrmann and Nick Tumminello.

Simply doing these movements and feeling a stretch in the hip will help loosen tight tissue, but we want to go beyond that.  Again, we need to re-learn how to use these muscles and in order to do that you must contract them as you’re doing these drills.  Think of adjusting the tension of your glutes in much the same way as you’d adjust the tension of your bicep during a bicep curl.  You’ll maintain tension throughout the movement even as the muscle become stretched.  You’ll probably

find it difficult to maintain a perceptible contraction as the glute stretch.  Work on it.  It’s a skill that you should develop in order to overcome pain and perform better.  It’ll take practice but the payoff will be tremendous.