Dr. Hawley’s Health Corner
Hip Tightness and Pain
As with the shoulder, the hip is a very commonly injured part of the body when someone starts CrossFit. A big reason for this is not the exercises themselves but that these “new” CrossFitters are not used to performing these exercises. Just think back to the first few months you started CrossFit, or for those people that are currently in their first few months just think of right now, and try to remember if you had any groin pain or hip pain. I would suspect that many of you did as I know I did. There are several exercises that you can perform to not only strengthen your hip muscles but to also help prevent any further injuries.
Your hip is made up of several layers of muscles much like the shoulder. Many people associate the rotator cuff with the shoulder but your hip also contains a “rotator cuff” of sorts. Training and creating flexibility in these muscles will help prevent many injuries associated with squatting and jumping. The reason that many people get a pulled groin when they first start an exercise routine (that involves a lot of squats) is because their hip muscles are not ready for, or strong in, the eccentric motion (eccentric muscular contraction). There are 3 types of muscular contractions but only 2 that we are going to discuss now.
Concentric muscular contractions occur when the muscle is contracting but is also shortening (ie. The up phase in the squat). Eccentric muscle contractions occur when the muscle is contracting but is also lengthening (ie. The down phase in the squat). The easiest way to hurt yourself is by performing more eccentric contractions than you are used to, however, this is also the best way to see gains when you build up enough muscular and stamina to perform them. Preventing hip pain and pulled groins starts first with flexibility training then transfers into strength and stamina training. Below are a few easy exercises that everyone can do to help prevent hip tightness/pain or to rebound from a pulled groin.
- Foam Rolling – Yes I love foam rolling and you should too especially if you are currently nursing a pulled groin or sore hip. Lie on the foam roller and work through the front part of your thigh/leg and the inside part of your thigh/leg. This should be done at least 2 times a day 30 seconds – 5 minutes per body part. If you are sore perform these before your workouts to help get loosened up. On a side note Lacrosse Balls also work great.
- Air squats – Ideally these should be performed daily – somewhere between 50-200 a day. I know it’s a huge range but for those new to CrossFit stick with 5 sets of 10 daily and work your way up. By no means do you have to perform all these squats unbroken – break them up into manageable sets.
- Overhead PVC Pipe Squats – Performing squats overhead really forces you to perform a proper squat focusing on opening up those hips and staying back on your heels. If you are having trouble with these grab the nearest coach and have him help. These work great both as a pre-workout warm up and a great hip flexibility tool after your workout.
- Wall Balls – Everyone’s favorites! No I did not put these in here out of spite but rather necessity. When you perform a wall ball you are using a relatively light weight (compared to back squatting) but they are much more dynamic. When you catch the ball and lower into a squat you are really working those eccentric loading muscles which are the main problem for those suffering from hip pain. You should be doing 25-50 of these at least 3 times a week. Start with a light medicine ball that will allow you to do a perfect wall ball and hopefully unbroken. As they become easier perform more repetitions before you go up in weight.
I know this seems like a lot but I am willing to bet that you did not spend a whole lot of time working on your hip flexibility or strength before starting CrossFit. Find a few minutes a day and start focusing a little more attention on those hips which will help you strengthen your hips and also prevent injuries.