Do you experience hip shifting during your execution of the squat? Or…when standing, have you noticed that one of your hips is higher than the other? In most cases, uneven hips occurs when you have muscular imbalances that you’ve developed from lifting or doing any kind of repetitive task. Various asymmetries in the body are expected and perfectly normal. But when your uneven hips (e.g. left hip higher than right or hip shift) starts to cause back pain, hip pain, discomfort, or affect your lifts, then it can start to create problems. Today, I’m going to show you 3 tests that’ll determine if you currently have hip asymmetry. I’ll also give you an exercise program (covering various hip exercises and hip stretches to correct uneven hips) that focuses on strengthening weak structures and mobilizing tight structures to fix your uneven hips – that you can do at home.
For the first uneven hips test, stand in front of a mirror and palpate the top of your hip bones and orient your hands flat to the floor. If one hand sits higher than the other, then you may be positive for an unevenness in hip height. For the second test, again stand in front of the mirror or better yet, take a video from behind you. Then, raise one leg so that your foot is off the ground. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Repeat this test on the other side. If the pelvis of the raised leg drops and the trunk muscles flex towards your planted leg, then that would indicate a positive for the Trendelenburg sign.
For test 3, we’re going to assess your hip symmetry when lifting. Next time you squat, look in the mirror and pay attention to your hips as they come up from the bottom. What some of you might notice is hip shifting during the squat. Sometimes this is caused by a strength imbalance where you preferentially shift towards your stronger hip. In other cases this is caused by a side to side hip mobility imbalance, specifically with external rotation.
Now, we’re going to dive into a simple yet effective 2 step plan (mobilize → strengthen) that you can start incorporating right away to fix uneven hips – even at home. Step 1 is all about mobility. The first exercise focuses on the hips with what’s known as the 90/90 drill. The second exercise is called “The Teapot”.
Step 2, strengthening, is arguably the most important step. To do so, we’ll use a progression going from 2 easier uneven hips exercises in level 1 to 2 more difficult ones in level 2 for you to move onto once ready. The first exercise in level 1 is the hip drop, which will work your glute medius isometrically as they stabilize the hips. The next exercise of this level is the side lying hip abduction, or what I like to call the “Jane Fonda”. Once you’ve mastered level 1 and your strength improves, you can move onto level 2. The first exercise we’ll use here is something called hip airplanes. The second exercise of this level, the RNT squat, helps tie everything together functionally and is especially helpful if you tested positive for hip shift when squatting.
Now let’s put this all together for you into a simple yet effective 10-minute corrective routine that’ll help address any uneven hip issues (e.g. left hip higher than right) – which could cause back pain.
1. 90/90 drill - 3 sets of 10 reps
2. QL stretch - 3 sets of 10
Hip Strengthening Progression Level 1
1. Hip Drop - 3 sets of 8-10 reps
2. Jane Fonda - 3 sets of 8-10 reps
Hip Strengthening Progression Level 2
1. Hip Airplanes (Assisted to Less Assisted) - 3 sets of 3-5 reps
2. RNT Squat - 3 sets of 6-8 reps (on affected side)
Perform the 4 exercises for whatever level you’re on in order and as a routine at least 2-3 times a week. After you’ve used this routine for a little while, it’s important to re-test your hip balance using whichever test you failed on to see if there have been any improvements. Then, once your asymmetries have been significantly improved, you won’t need to do these exercises as often but should still incorporate some of them into your weekly routine while just making an effort to get off your butt and move more in general!
But overall, it’s important to pay attention to often neglected muscles like the ones I went through in this video to prevent potential imbalances and injuries from creeping up later on down the road. And for a step-by-step all in one program that shows you week by week exactly how to train to build muscle and strength without leaving any important muscles behind, then take the analysis quiz to discover which science-based program would be best for you and where your body is currently at below:
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