3D Hip Opener

The hip is quite an amazing joint. It’s a ball and socket joint because it is formed by the head of the femur connecting with the socket of the pelvis. This means that it is a very mobile joint like the shoulder, allowing movements in multiple directions. Just for comparison, the knee is a hinge joint which only allows one direction of movement (only minimal degrees of movement in other directions). With the large amount of movement allowed at the hip joint, it’s important to have muscles and ligaments around it to help support it as it moves. Especially during the movements seen in CrossFit, testing our hips to their max during full depth squats, pistols, sprinting, lunges, snatch etc. These movements are good for the hip, but can also cause injury if the hip is not prepared. This is why the warm-up is so important because it causes increased blood flow to the muscles to loosen them up and allow the joints to move smoothly. It’s also important to do a warm-up that’s specific to the workout so that you are preparing your body for what’s coming. Which is why the coaches take time to prepare a specific warm-up for you every day.

Since the hip has the capability to move in so many directions, we need to make sure that we warm-up the joint in ALL directions. Before I elaborate on this I would like to introduce the 3 major planes of movement. This will help explain the purpose behind the 3D hip opener that I am sharing with you. The image below shows the frontal, sagittal (midsagittal in the image below) and transverse planes. It doesn’t really matter that you know the details of these movements, but just knowing that there are 3 different planes can help you understand that the hip joint should have mobility in all 3 directions. We aren’t meant to move in just one or two directions. This is why runners tend to have a lot of injuries when they don’t cross train because they only do repetitive movement in one plane of movement (sagittal). A good warm-up should consist of movements that include all 3 planes.

A lot of athletes that I have spoken with who have hip injuries/pain describe one of the following 1. pinch in the anterior hip at the bottom of their squat 2. pain with a combination of hip flexion and external rotation (see Hip page of Learn Yourself for a review of the hip). Now, without seeing you and talking about your specific injury I can’t tell you exactly what is going on in your hip. It could be a number of injuries, but most seem to be a mixture of hip impingement or a muscle strain.

Hip impingement can be caused by a combination of decreased flexibility, muscle imbalances and poor form. This causes the hip joint to not work properly and therefore irritate structures in the hip joint (labrum, tendons, nerves) causing pain and inflammation. A muscle strain is usually caused by a muscle being pulled into a direction that it was not prepared for (not properly warmed up and/or pushed through a range of motion that was outside of the muscle’s flexibility) causing tears in the muscle. The muscle that tends to be pulled frequently is the adductor and pectinius (see image above). I’m not saying that this 3D hip opener is going to be the cure for everyone’s hip problems. BUT, I do think that we could reduce the occurrence of some of these injuries if we add in this dynamic lunge series into the warm-up. Especially with the amount of time that we spend sitting on our butts, crowding the hip joint. So let’s get those hips open!

Example of an injury of the hip

The 3D hip opener comes from a concept by The Gray Institute, which is based on movement science. The Gray Institute has some amazing ideas on getting the body to move in a 3 dimensional way to help heal the body from injury and prevent injury by getting it to move the way it was meant to. The video below is from Thames CrossFit (thank you Devin Cody Rice for sharing this video with me) which demos the warm-up series that I want all of you to try:


Here are a few things I would like to add on this video:

  • Squeeze your butt when you move in and out of the stretch….this will help you get a deeper stretch
  • In addition to those movements, try doing a side lunge as well to get the adductors warmed up (moving in the frontal plane). It will be the same as the front lunge,also adding in the arm movements and the twists.
  • Imagine his left foot on a box

    If your hips are really really tight, start with a lower box than he’s using. Maybe secure it up against the wall too….trying to avoid any falls on the box mid-lunge.

  • Don’t you just love his accent!?!?

So give this warm-up a try. Don’t push through pain, just enough to get a good stretch. You can also make any of them a static stretch and hold them for 1 min at the end of the workout. Maybe not all of them, but pick one that’s really tight for you.


2 thoughts on “3D Hip Opener

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