The hips and pelvis are powerful structures that play a large role in almost all movements we do as human beings. We walk, sit, stand, breath all using our pelvis and hips. The structures of our pelvis should move against each other. Now this movement is larger through the femur and acetabulum (or hip joint) and more minimal within the pelvis (sacrum and ilum bones). View the link to my social media post explaining a little bit more how the pelvis should move as we walk
When we are lacking these movements problems or issues in our bodies can ensue! Things like low back pain, sacroiliac joint pain (SI Joint), pubagia (pubic symphysis pain), hip pain, sciatica, altered walking patterns, painful exercise, pelvic pain, dysfunction in pelvic floor. It leads to an imbalance in the forces going through the pelvis that can lead to pain. It can even affect how we put force through our feet! Have you ever seen someone “waddle” back and forth when ambulating? Essentially shifting weight from one foot to the other by leaning their trunk over one foot then the other? This displays a lack of relative motion in the pelvis and hip region leading to the need to lean the trunk to shift the center of body weight over each foot to propel forward in space when walking.
The movement of hip shifting was a concept first presented to me from the Postural Restoration Institute. The idea behind the movement of hip shifting is to open up the Pelvic Outlet (the bottom opening of the pelvis..ie see picture above) and increase hip internal rotation. These motions or having access to this movement is necessary to effectively put force into the ground from our pelvis through our feet. It is used with push-off during gait, to push out from the mid range of a squat (to get through the sticking point), to propel forward while running, and to push out of a cut on the soccer field. This position is also necessary in the last stages of a vaginal delivery when trying to push baby out the pelvic outlet.
As the pelvic outlet is able to open up, the sacrum (structure in the back of the pelvis) tips open forward and the innominate bones squeeze together on the top to allow the bottom to open. This motion allows the femur bones to turn inward more to close off the front of the hip joint. This position allows the back of the pelvic floor to relax to move through the sticking point in a squat, allows easier defecation, and easier for baby to come out. It puts the gluteus maximus in a lengthened position to allow for energy storage to then push into and extend the hip for maximum propulsion.
Below are some exercises that are options to assist with increasing your ability to work on hip shifting. Please note that there are many variations of hip shifting and these are just a few! Some of these variations were introduced to me by fitness trainer Katie St. Clair whom is one of the most insightful exercise creators I have had the pleasure of learning from!
If you struggle with any of these variations, my greatest suggestion is to begin with the sidelying adductor pullback then work towards the 90/90 hip shift with feet on the wall, and from hands and knees (not shown) variation prior to the split squat and then finally the hinging wall supported hip shift. The wall supported variation is by far the hardest and works on the very end of internal rotation from a hip extended position and with the most weight and pressure on the pelvis making it most difficult.
The subtle shifts in body position can make a difference to the success of this movement. Trouble shooting strategies include making sure your lumbar spine is in more a “neutral position”. What I mean by this is not “over tucking” our buttocks area under by contracting the glute muscles and not allowing them to relax. It is also challenging to have success if the lumbar spine is in an extended or arched position. Make sure that you feel supported by your abdominal wall in the front. You should feel the muscles on the inside of your thighs working quite through the initial squeeze and then imagine pulling the femur head backwards in the socket. With this movement on the side you are pulling backwards and may feel your hamstrings as well. There can be resistance felt on the outside of the hip not quite allow this movement to happen. You may also feel the anterior glute medius on the outside of the hip. It may give the sensation of groin cramping on the involved side when done correctly. You should NOT feel the muscles in the front of your hips working. If that is the case, then the knee is being pulled upwards towards your head instead of backwards.
I encourage movement exploration with these for most people struggle more on one side than the other but should be able to perform on both sides. This movement could be the key to gaining lost internal rotation contributing to that unrelenting back pain or sciatica!