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The Value of Proper Hip Extension

Pilates Reformer Aabesque


Let’s talk about hip extension.  The hip is the ball and socket joint at the side of your pelvis. Hip extension occurs when the front of the thigh moves away from the pelvis.  The primary muscles that extend the hip are the gluteus maximus and the hamstrings, lovingly termed the GLAMS by our Pilates Instructor, Karin. The big bad hip flexor the iliopsoas along with the quadricep group resists that hip extension.  (just kidding- we really need a strong hip flexor too).  

When we sit, we sit on our GLAMS and the front of the hip gets tight and weak.  Add into that over lengthened abdominal muscles and now it’s hard to stabilize the pelvis (keep it still) while you extend at the hip.  In our Centered Body Pilates Reformer Classes, we spend a lot of time talking about stacking the torso (the rings) to keep the pelvis/body still while we move at the hips. This happens in exercises like leg press and feet in straps.  But, in those positions the carriage helps to give you awareness that your pelvis/body are staying still.  In addition, in those exercises you are ‘extending’ to neutral hip not beyond.  

True hip extension is 20 degrees. 

Let me say that again. . . 20 degrees.  If your hip flexor is tight you might only get to neutral or 5 degrees.  If you truly lack that motion, but you are trying to perform the exercise of the week through a full range of motion, guess where you find that motion?  The pelvis and lumbar spine!  

Try to take some time to focus on the body awareness of stabilizing at the core and deep low back muscles to keep your ribs and pelvis neutral while you extend at your hip... with the range of motion that YOU have.  If you do this well overtime, you will find new range of motion.


About the Author: Francesca Durant 

Co-owner of Durant Physical Therapy and Centered Body Pilates, Francesca Durant is an experienced physical therapist and Pilates professional with specialized training in pelvic health from Herman and Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute.

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