The hip is a ball-and-socket joint. The socket sits in the large pelvic bone, while the ball is at the top of your thigh bone, or femur. A layer of tissue called the labrum keeps the ball securely in the socket. Several muscles and tendons support the hip, and these – like the joint itself – can be injured during exercise. (opens in new tab)
1. Hip labral tear
‘The labrum can be injured during activities that require repetitive rotation or twisting. It’s common in sports such as football, golf and tennis, while poorly performed squats or lunges can lead to labral injury. You’ll usually feel pain in the groin, and you may feel a catching sensation in the joint.’
Prevent it: ‘When performing squats or lunges, ensure your kneecap remains in line with your second toe to avoid twisting and damaging the hip joint. A single-leg glute bridge is also an excellent exercise for improving hip stability.’
‘Tendons around the hip joint are vulnerable when you increase exercise intensity or frequency too quickly or use poor form. You’ll feel hip flexor pain at the front of the hip joint, or gluteal tendon pain just behind the bone. Muscle adapts quicker than tendon, so it’s important that you progress gradually in the first six weeks of a programme.’
Prevent it: ‘When introducing a new exercise, avoid taking the weight to the end of your range for the first six weeks. For example, with squats, avoid too much knee bend initially. Instead work from standing to 45˚ and focus on keeping the bar under control. You’ll drastically reduce injury risk when you eventually go deeper.’
‘Herniation – when abdominal contents penetrate the groin through a weak point in the lower abdominal muscle – is a common cause of hip and groin pain. Typically it happens during heavy lifts or straining. While many people simply have an anatomical tendency towards hernia there are techniques that help reduce the risk.’
Prevent it: ‘Planks and mini-crunches build up abdominal wall strength. But it’s also important to keep breathing when you lift. Holding your breath while exhaling against a closed airway increases intra-abdominal pressure and the risk of hernia. Inhale on the eccentric and exhale on the concentric part of each rep and throughout static moves like the plank.’
4. Groin and hip flexor strain
‘Pain at the front or inside of the groin can be a sign of adductor or hip flexor strain, which is common in those with poor hip and pelvic control while running or lunging. If you get pain when you squeeze your fist between your knees you may have an adductor or hip flexor problem.’
Prevent it: ‘Before any leg workout, spend a minute working on your hip control. While looking in a mirror perform 15 single-leg squats on each side, keeping your waist horizontal and knee straight.’
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