Tight Hips Or Lower Back? This Can Help!

If you spend a lot of your day sitting, you know that it can make your entire body ache. Your hip flexors and lower back feel tight, and it can become harder to feel your glutes and abs working.

Here’s a move that I think can help! It’s called the Iso(metric) Cook Hip Lift. We’ve used it at Mark Fisher Fitness since 2013 as a way to address the range of motion of the hips, with the goal being to maximize the difference in position between your legs.

Here’s a demonstration video: 

As you can see in the video, I’m trying to get my knees as far apart as possible. One leg is being passively pulled into maximal hip flexion, while the other is being pulled into maximal hip extension. Hip flexion is done by your… wait for it… hip flexors, and in this case, I’m using my arms help maintain that position.

Why hold on to your knee? It’s pretty difficult to maintain maximal hip flexion on one side while extending the opposing hip. Without holding on to your knee, most of us will lose that position of hip flexion or compensate by extending through our lower back.

The other leg, with the foot resting on the ground, is driving towards hip extension, work that is done primarily by our glutes and hamstrings.

If you rewatch the video, you’ll notice that as I pull my right knee into my chest, I get into end range hip flexion, then my pelvis starts to roll backward before it comes off the ground. I like doing the Iso Cook Hip Lift in posterior pelvic tilt, simply to compensate for the large portion of time our modern world tilts us forward.

Okay, now enough of the nerdy stuff. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Lay down on your back, put both feet on the floor, with your knees bent at 90˚.
  2. Pull one knee into your chest as far as possible, and hold it there.
  3. Maintain that knee-to-nipple position while pushing the floor away with the opposite leg.  You should feel your glutes and hamstrings doing this work.
  4. Breathe.

The last step may be the easiest to overlook – just breathe.  Taking a calm breath can really help with the mechanics of how we move because the diaphragm connects to the psoas and lower back, and our breath influences our pelvis. More importantly, an intentional breath in the mind can help calm the body, especially in a position that may not be the most comfortable.

It’s all connected!

Using this move in your warm-up can be useful, but I honestly like it, even more, to be used throughout the day. That can be a tough ask, especially if your work situation doesn’t include a personal workspace.  Laying down on the floor and stretching amongst your co-workers isn’t always possible, but if you can make it work, you’ll definitely feel a difference.

Here are a few ways to get the most out of the Iso Cook Hip Lift:

  • An iso hold for 3-5 breaths, spread out over the course of your day.
  • As part of a warm-up before lifting, running, or cycling.
  • As active rest between exercises like split squats, or lunges.

If you can think of other ways to use it, I’m all ears or eyes.  Sprinkle these into your day, or use them in your warm-up, and your hips and lower back may be feeling better in no time!

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