When it comes to mobility, our hips could well be the most important part of our body. We use our hips every day for everyday tasks. We need our hips for walking, sitting or standing, and for much more. Without hips, we wouldn't have sports, because there would be no throwing, no running, and no way to pivot our bodies.
But despite how important they are, we often only start to think about our hip joints and hip muscles when they are starting to cause us pain, but keeping your hips healthy, fit and, and well-exercised will help you to avoid any injury in the first place.
Hip external rotation allows us to pivot our legs outwards. It's an integral movement that we can help to strengthen using a few simple exercises!
What is hip external rotation?
Hip external rotation is the movement you make when you rotate your leg outwards and away from the midline of your body. Your hip joints and external rotators facilitate the move, and you'll perform the movement on a daily basis, without really ever thinking too much about it.
To better visualize the movement:
- Sit down on a chair with your legs bent at 90 degrees.
- Lift your left leg off of the floor and move it outwards, away from your body (move it to your left).
This is the hip external rotation movement.
Our hip joints don't just allow us to rotate outwards, though; they also allow us to rotate our legs inwards towards the body as well. Hip external rotation, therefore, is the opposite movement to hip internal rotation. We use both movements to help our overall stability and to balance.
Why is hip rotation important?
Hip rotation, whether it's external hip rotation or internal hip rotation, is vital to our mobility as human beings. We need some level of rotation just to be able to walk or to climb in and out of the car. We need to rotate our hips every time we pivot on one leg or lift one leg off the floor.
While you might only need a limited level of mobility for daily tasks, athletes need a much-increased hip rotation to be at the top of their game. Imagine trying to throw a ball without being able to pivot, for instance. It's impossible!
What causes poor hip external rotation?
External hip rotation pain, when you try to pivot, is a sign that your muscles and joints might need more thorough exercise to keep them healthy and to keep you mobile.
Human beings tend to spend a lot of time sitting down, whether it's at work or in front of the television. Prolonged time spent sitting weakens your external hip rotation, which is why it's so important that we try to exercise and stretch these muscles regularly.
Over time, these weaknesses can turn into serious injuries that could even require surgeries or lead to hip replacements as your body ages.
What muscles perform hip external rotation?
Hip external rotation movements make use of several muscles. Those muscles include groupings in your back, hips, legs, and glutes. We can target these muscles using the stretches and exercises outlined below.
The most important muscle that we use in terms of sheer power is the Gluteus Maximus (that's your glutes). Combined with smaller muscles, such as the Piriformis and the Quadratus Femoris, our body has the ability to perform the hip external rotation movement, providing stability, balance, and the opportunity for mobility.
How can I increase my hip rotation?
There are several basic exercises you can perform to help you increase your external hip rotation. You can combine these with a hip circle band placed above your knees to provide increased resistance, for a more thorough workout.
We recommend trying to include these exercises in your regular workout routine to help you avoid injury to your hips and to improve your overall mobility.
#1 Seated hip opener
A basic yet effective hip external rotation stretch.
- Place a resistance band right above your knees.
- Sit with your back straight to the chair.
- Bend your knees at 90 degrees, with your feet kept flat on the floor.
- Lift both feet off the ground and rotate them outwards, away from your body, as far as you can while keeping your knees closed.
- You are moving your legs away from each other and opening up your hips.
- Bring your feet back to the middle line and repeat.
#2 Seated figure 4
Seated exercise to help improve your flexibility and hip external rotation.
- Sit with your back straight on a chair and your knees at right angles.
- Bring your left knee up so that your ankle rests on top of your right thigh (or as close as you can!).
- Bring your left leg back to the middle line and repeat with your right leg.
#3 Hip split squat
A standing exercise to stretch and build muscle.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and feet facing forward.
- Rotate your left leg, so your left foot faces away from the middle line (in line with your shoulders). Keep your right foot facing forwards.
- Push your weight forwards onto your rotated left leg.
- Extend your right leg back while keeping your right foot facing forwards.
- Switch sides and repeat.
Final thoughts on external hip rotation
Regular external hip external rotation exercises can help you improve your body's mobility, avoid injury, and enhance your performance when you're playing sports or training for events.
Our hips are incredibly important. We use them for walking, running, twisting, throwing, and even simply standing up or sitting down, so having strong external hip rotation muscles can really help to improve your strength and fitness while avoiding unwanted injuries.