Exercises You Should Be Doing: Supported Hip Airplane

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This exercise is magic.

I mean, it pales in comparison to a Wingardium Leviosa spell – or even bacon wrapped dates (magic in my mouth) – but if you’re looking for a drill to add to your squat/deadlift warm-up, or to help with a pair of cranky hips, continue reading.


Giving credit where it’s due, I first learned of this exercise – well, technically, an iteration of it – via Dr. Stuart McGill while attending one of his workshops years ago.

He included it as a form of progression with regards to low back rehabilitation and performance. In his version, you don’t use anything as support and you then hold your arms out to your sides (like an airplane) and perform the drill.

I’m half convinced the only people who can do it well on the first try are 1) Dr. McGill and 2) Cirque du Soleil performers.

Nevertheless it’s a fantastic drill that stresses a “rigid” (or stable) spine while also performing a CLOSED-CHAIN exercise where the acetabulum – hip socket – moves along a fixed femur.

As much as I’m a fan, however, it’s also a fairly advanced drill and often cumbersome to master for many individuals.

Try this instead.

Supported Hip Airplane


Who Did I Steal It From?: My wife was actually given this exercise by Dr. Sarah Duvall a few weeks ago to help her with some annoying hip “stuff” she’s been dealing with for the past few years.

Within days of implementing this drill my wife saw a massive reduction in her symptoms and was also quoted as saying…

“Hip internal rotation is fucking magic.”

More on this in a bit, because it’s not technically working hip IR.

What Does It Do?: As noted above it’s primarily a closed-chain exercise (weeeeeeee) which allows for the more proximal joint (in this case the hip) to move across a fixed femur (the distal joint, the foot, is cemented to the ground).

When I posted this exercise up on my IG account I had several people keep me in check (and rightfully so) when I had mentioned this exercise helps encourage more hip internal rotation.

It kinda, sorta does.

As Movements 4 Life noted:

“It’s actually a discussion of motion vs position. At the top of the airplane the hip is externally rotatED. Then as you return back to neutral, you are technically going through internal rotation but you are still in a position of external rotation. I would actually encourage you to go beyond neutral to get into an internally rotated position.”

So, yeah, do that…;o)

Suffice to say:

1. I like this drill because it hammers home the point of rigid/stable spine while moving through the hip.


Key Coaching Cues: I cue up a “soft” knee on whatever leg someone stands on. The idea is to extend the inside leg so that the backside is long. If someone is unable to own that position, I’d encourage them to bend the leg at the knee to reduce the lever length.

Rotate up via the hip making sure to minimize motion from the spine. When in the maximally externally rotated position one can control, reverse the action by thinking about driving the top portion of the hip towards the opposite knee.

And, as noted above, don’t be scared to go past neutral and get into more hip internal rotation (that’s what the support is there for).

To progress, let go of the support.

I’ve been including this drill as part my my lower body warm-up for squats and deadlifts and my hips/glutes are thankful.

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  1. But seriously, thanks for the clarification.

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