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Hip Strategy For Balance: How To Stay Steady and Succeed

Do you feel like you are constantly off balance?

The hip strategy for balance is a simple yet effective way to stay steady and succeed. It is a defensive mechanism of your body that comes into play when the challenge to your balance is too large for your ankle strategy to control. It involves using your hips to stabilize your body and control your movements.

This strategy can be used in situations where you need to keep your balance while reaching for objects away from you.

What is the hip strategy for balance and how does it work?

The hip strategy for balance is a simple but effective way to maintain your balance and prevent falls. It involves using your hip muscles to stabilize your body and keep you upright.

The strategy is a set of techniques used to improve body alignment and posture while performing everyday activities.

By shifting your weight in different directions, you can remain upright and prevent yourself from falling over. This strategy works by improving your coordination and muscle activation throughout the lower body, especially in your hips and knees.

By improving the flexibility and strength of the muscles surrounding your hips, you can maintain better alignment and balance in all situations – whether it be walking on uneven terrain or keeping your balance when standing up after sitting down for an extended period.

Take back your confidence and banish your fear of falling! Get my QUICK and EASY Guide to Improve Your Balance at Home for free here.

 

When do you need to use the hip strategy for balance instead of the ankle strategy for balance?

The hip strategy is the preferred approach if the center of gravity in your body is displaced farther away from your feet (or outside your base of support).

The hips work by swaying and moving the trunk to wherever it needs to go so that you don’t lose your balance and fall.

Imagine a situation where you need to reach for an object farther than your arm’s length, your center of gravity will end up being outside your feet.

In that situation, once your center of gravity is displaced outside the range of your feet, your ankle strategy will be inadequate to maintain your balance; thus requiring you to use your hip strategy.

How can you use the hip strategy for balance in your everyday life?

The center of gravity for most people is near their belly button. This is the balance position of the body when it is at rest.

As you move, your center of gravity changes.

Different challenges to your balance require different reactions from your hip joints in order to keep your center of gravity within the area of your feet (your base of support.)

Consider these 2 different scenarios:

Forward Fall

For example, when you lean over a counter, your weight, and your center of gravity, will move forward.

When you lose your balance and are falling forward, your hips will quickly extend and your arms will quickly elevate up and forward.

The result looks like you are doing a limbo motion under a bar.

But it happens much faster.

This is why having an effective hip strategy in place can help you regain your balance and prevent you from falling.

Backward Fall

On the other hand, when you lean back too much and lose your balance going backward, your hips will quickly flex forward while your arms will extend back.

The result will look like you’re taking a quick bow.

This rapid motion of changing the position of your hips will redirect your center of gravity and help you regain your balance.

As you can see, the hip strategy occurs very quickly, and if the muscles surrounding your hip joints are either tight or weak, you will end up with an ineffective hip strategy.

So, what can you do to improve your hip strategy?

Let’s take a look at some of the more effective exercises below:

What exercises will help improve my hip strategy for balance?

Hip Iliopsoas Unlock

Hip Stretching exercise
  1. While standing, place your left foot on top of a chair in front of you.
  2. Stand upright and tilt your pelvis backward, unlocking the iliopsoas muscle in front of your right hip.
  3. Return your pelvis to its original position.
  4. Repeat 5 times on each side.

How will this exercise help improve your hip strategy?

If you spend a lot of time in a sitting position, the muscles in front of your hips (Iliopsoas muscle) may “lock-up” and make it difficult for you to stand up straight. This exercise will help free-up your hips to make it easier for you to perform your hip strategy for balance.

Hip Iliopsoas Stretch

Hip stretching exercises
  1. While keeping your pelvis posteriorly tilted (see Step #2 of Iliopsoas Unlock), push your left knee forward as far as you can, stretching the tight iliopsoas muscle in front of your right hip.
  2. Maintain the position and hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
  3. Return to the original position.
  4. Repeat 5 times on each side.

How will this exercise help improve your hip strategy?

Prolonged sitting often causes adaptive muscle tightness of the muscles in front of your hips (Iliopsoas muscle.) When your iliopsoas muscle is tight, it changes your posture and makes your hip strategy for balance harder to perform.

Hip Flexor Strengthening with Balance Progression

Hip flexor strengthening exercises
  1. Hold the chair or counter for support.
  2. Bend your hip by slowly bringing your knee up as high as you can.
  3. Hold the position for 3-5 seconds.
  4. Slowly bring your knee down to go back to the original position.
  5. Perform 10 repetitions for 2-3 sets on each side.

Tip: As you get more comfortable with this exercise, perform the progression of the exercise by first, touching the chair or counter with just your fingertips; second, without touching the chair or counter; and third, closing your eyes without touching the chair or counter.

Hip Extensor Strengthening

Hip extensor strengthening exercise
  1. Kneel on a mat or a pillow with your buttocks resting on your heels.
  2. Transition into a tall kneeling position by squeezing your buttocks as tight as you can to extend your hips.
  3. Simultaneously tilt your pelvis posteriorly as you squeeze your buttocks to extend your hips.
  4. Return to the original position.
  5. Repeat 15 times.

How will this exercise help improve your hip strategy?

The muscle in your buttocks (gluteus maximus) is one of the largest in your body. Weak or underactive buttocks can cause imbalances in your pelvis and hips, as well as instability in your spine.

Standing Forward Reach

Standing forward reach exercise
  1. Stand 15 inches away from an object placed in front of you.
  2. Without moving your feet, reach as far forward as you can toward the object without losing your balance.
  3. Return to the original position.
  4. Perform 8-10 repetitions with each hand.

How will this exercise help improve your hip strategy?

This exercise will increase your “margin of stability” by improving your ability to control your trunk and posture. Improving your trunk and posture control will help you maintain your balance while performing functional activities.

If you are looking for more ideas to improve your balance and decrease your risk of falling, check out this article, Best Fall Prevention Exercises: The Ultimate Guide for Older Adults.

What To Do Next?

“Can you hand me the remote?”

That is the common refrain you will hear from my patient Jacob. So common, that his grandkids will often finish the sentence for him… “the remote?,” they’ll ask!

And, it is not because Jacob is lazy. Not at all!

He asks for the remote because he is afraid he’ll lose his balance if he reaches for it himself.

This is because as we get older, we lose our flexibility and strength, which can delay our use of the hip strategy for balance.

Though the hip strategy is less efficient as we get older, it becomes even more important.

After doing the exercises outlined above, Jacob improved his hip strategy and gained confidence in his ability to maintain his balance.

No more asking for the remote!

THAT is independence.

You too can do this.

You too can follow the exercises I outlined in this article.

You too can be on your way to conquering your fear of falling.

‘Til then, stay healthy and live fully!

Dr. Lex Gonzales
Dr. Lex Gonzales, PT, DPT is an author and speaker who has been a physical/physiotherapist for over 24 years. On drlexgonzales.com he provides quality information and practical solutions you can use to optimize your health and function.

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