Exercises You Should Be Doing: Multi-Planar Hip Activation Drill
Back in the day – circa 1993-1995 (which, coincidentally, is when hip hop actually didn’t suck. RIP Biggie) – every morning, before school, my alarm would go off around 5 AM, I’d kick the covers off and trudge downstairs to the basement to do more morning routine:
500 sit-ups (I know. Relax. I was 15, and didn’t know any better)
150-200 dry cuts with the baseball bat
50-75 dry-runs going through my wind-up to work on my pitching mechanics
As it closer to the baseball season, I’d even take the early bus to school so that I could use the gymnasium to play catch with whomever I could bribe into doing so. Usually, though, it ended up just being me. throwing against the wall by myself. I was pretty cool back then.
Did I like doing it? Not really. I didn’t necessarily “like” getting up at the butt-crack of dawn…in the dead of winter….in Icantfeeltheleftsideofmyfacebecauseitssocold, NY…but I did it anyways. Why? Because I knew, in the long-run, it would make me better. And, deep down inside, I kinda liked the notion that there probably weren’t that many other dudes my age doing the same thing. Hey, I didn’t watch the Rocky IV training montage 377 times for nothing!
And, while I’m sure many people reading didn’t go to quite the extremes as I did growing up, it’s no secret that life, for the most part, is rife with things we don’t like doing, but do anyways, because we know, in our heart of hearts, it will bode in favor in long-run.
We pay taxes so that
we can bail Wall Street for being a bunch of a-holes our roads get paved.
We donate blood, even though needles give us the heebie jeebies.
We tip the waitress 20%, even though our food was cold. Bitch.
We watch The Notebook (again), because it makes our girlfriend’s happy.
We don’t double dip, because well, that’s just gross
Likewise, much of the same can be said when it comes to training and nutrition. I’ve gone on record numerous times as saying that, generally speaking, people like to do what they’re good at and what’s easy. Bicep curls are a helluva lot easier than front squats. Heading to Papa John’s for “Half-Price Tuesdays” is a lot more convenient than grilling up some grass fed beef with sauteed vegetables.
Additionally, people tend to skip what they deem is least important. Take the dynamic warm-up for example. How many of you can honestly look me in the eyes and say, unequivocally, that you go through an ENTIRE warm-up from start to finish before EVERY training session?
Yeah, I thought so.
It’s okay, I forgive you. I skip them, too. Sometimes. But keeping that thought in mind, today I want to showcase a drill that I feel provides a lot of bang for our warm-up buck.
What Is It: Multi-Planar Hip Activation Drill(s)
Who Did I Steal It From: None other than Quinnipiac University strength coach, Brijesh Patel.
What Does It Do: A lot of dysfunction and imbalances can be attributed to the hips. And, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise given there are upwards of 30+ muscles that attach to the pelvis alone. I’d list them all here, but I’m too lazy, and well, that’s what Google is for.
Speaking specifically, though, the glute max, and to a lesser (albeit important) degree, the glute medius tend to get most of the attention when it comes to hip activation drills, and rightfully so! They’re both kind of a big deal in terms of playing major roles in overall hip function.
Succinctly (because the hips are a fairly complex cornucopia of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia), one of the more popular corrective/activation movements are side lying clams. I talked about this drill briefly HERE, but my man Mike Robertson wrote an excellent blog not too long ago that discusses them in more detail HERE.
As much as I LOVE this drill, I think it’s rather self-limiting in the sense that it doesn’t take into account the more dynamic nature of life. Now, don’t get me wrong, pretty much everyone needs to start with side lying clams –and perform them correctly – before moving on to something more advanced. But once there, I feel that the multi-planar drill(s) demonstrated below are a nice progression moving forward.
Hip Activation Phase I
What I love about this variation is that it challenges both the glute max and glute medius to do one of their main jobs, which is to CONTROL the femur in multiple planes of motion (saggital, frontal, and transverse).
Moreover, another benefit to this drill is that it really challenges the small, intrinsic muscles at the bottom of the feet which tend to be woefully weak and inactive given the footwear we wear on a daily basis.
1. To start, take your shoes off for the love of god. Stand on one leg – in this instance the left – and move place the non-standing leg slightly behind you.
2. Be sure to keep the brunt of your weight in your back heel. Basically, you don’t want to shift too far forward into your toes.
3. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds.
4. From there, we want to work in the frontal plane, so we’ll move the non-standing leg to the side. Again, hold this position for 5-10 seconds.
5. Lastly, rotate THROUGH THE HIPS as far as you can without tipping over (and without compensating with your lumbar spine), and you guessed it, hold for 5-10 seconds. This one should be fairly challenging.
6. Repeat the same sequence, albeit on the opposite leg.
Multi-Planar Hip Activation (Phase II)
In phase II, we’re going to do the exact same sequence as above, except now, instead of holding for time, we’re going to add movement.
Again, to reiterate, try to keep your weight back in your toes and not in your forefoot. Too, if you can, try to keep your non-standing foot off the floor throughout the duration of the drill – but it’s not the end of the world if you can’t. “Gathering” yourself by placing the foot down on the floor in between reps is perfectly acceptable.
Here, with each sequence (Saggital = foot going foward, Frontal = foot going to the side, Transverse = foot rotating), 5-6 reps/each/per leg should suffice.
Multi-Planar Hip Activation (Phase III)
Increasing the badassery even more, in Phase III, we can start to add a reach into the mix.
Here, much like in Phase II, 5-6 reps/each/per leg will be plenty.
As you assuredly noticed by watching me perform them, it ain’t easy. Ideally, I’d suggest mastering one phase before moving on to the next. Obviously, some people will progress faster than others, but I implore you to not be an asshat and just go straight to phase III. Seriously, don’t do it.
Try adding these in as part of your general dynamic warm-up and let me know what you think!