Today we will talk about hip strengthening exercises for the elderly. The hip joint and the pelvis and their musculature are very important for our health and ability to move on our own as we get older.
The largest muscles of the body are connected to the hip joint. The large muscles of the legs, the glutes and the lower back musculature form the bulk of our muscle mass.
These muscles are what move us and keep us upright when we walk. It’s also this muscle mass that protects us when we fall on our behinds and can actually even predict mortality risk.
The hip joint is also very problematic for many seniors as it tends to get inflamed and injured relatively easily. Even though the joint is big it many times takes most of the impact when we slip and fall.
A hip fracture can be painfully slow to heal and in the very elderly it might never fully heal. Unfortunately hip injuries are many times the injury that takes a senior to the hospital for the last time. This is especially true if you suffer from osteoporosis.
What exactly are the hips
The hip or hips in layman terms is usually regarded to consist of the hip joint and the whole pelvis. The hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint that connects the femur to our hip bone. The Pelvis consists of the hip bones on both sites that are connected by the Sacrum at the back.
The pelvis also connects our spine to our lover body and is the fulcrum that moves force between our lower and upper bodies.
When you fall you can break just the wing of the hip bone (the Iliac creast) which is usually a fairly benign condition that heals on it’s own. But if you break or shatter the hip socket it can require extensive surgery and is very hard to heal.
Several important muscle groups are connected to the pelvis and the hip joint. These include:
- Abdominal muscles, including the internal and external obliques and the transversus abdominis muscle
- Lower back muscles like the multifidus and several ligaments of the lower back
- Gluteal muscles these are the larges muscles that function over the hip joint. They are the main muscles we use during walking, running, lifting and jumping. The gluteals consist of two muscles, the gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius. They are responsible for the extension and abduction of the hip joint.
- Hip rotators these include several smaller muscles like the piriformis and the gemellus muscles, that are responsible for the rotation of the leg at the hip.
- Hip adductor that are responsible for bringing your legs together. These include the adductor brevis, longus and magnus
- Hamstrings the long head of the bicep femoris, the large hamsting muscle connects to the pelvis. The hamstrings contribute significantly to the hip extension, especially when the hips are fully flexed.
- Hip flexors these include the Psoas major and illiacus which are responsible for hip flexion e.g. raising your leg.
As you can see there are a lot of muscles that connect to the hip and the pelvis. You don’t have to remember any of them but it’s useful to understand the basic anatomy and the functions of the joints and muscles to understand what we are trying to achieve with strengthening our muscles.
Generally speaking weight training never targets a single muscle. It usually targets at least a muscle group that’s responsible for one movement patter like extending the hips. Many exercises target several muscles groups or even most of your muscles and these are generally the most useful and functional movements for staying healthy.
A good example of movement that utilizes your whole body from finger tips to toes is the deadlift. You move the weight with your feet but hold the weight with your arms. Every single muscle in between has to be active to successfully transfer the force between your legs and arms.
Best hip strengthening exercises
Besides the multi joint functional movements like squats and deadlifts that we have demonstrated in our leg and back exercise tips, there are few excellent movements that target especially the hips.
The muscles we will be targeting are the gluteal muscles, the adductor muscles and the abductor muscles. The hip flexor rarely need strengthening but we will look at a simple exercise for them as well.
Let’s start with an exercise that uses the whole lower body and activates the hips as well.
The Leg press
The leg press is an excellent lower body strength builder that you can use to compliment the squat. You can use heavier weight with it safely than with the squat and it’s much easier to master.
Just remember the leg press doesn’t build balance and coordination like the squats. Body weight squats are something you should master and keep doing as senior to remain mobile and strong.
The higher resistance of the leg press is especially good for the glutes. To target the glutes and hamstrings over the quads you should place your heels a bit higher on the platform. It will still activate the whole lower body.
Bring the sledge as down as you can without feeling any restriction ins your hips. You can try different leg widths and choose the which allows the highest range of motion and feels the best.
The most important part is to never let your pelvis and lower back rise from the seat. If this happen, shorten the range of motion and the weight. You can increase the range of motion gradually as you become stronger.
Donkey kicks are a great exercise for the glutes that you can do at home or at the gym. They activate both the gluteus maximus and medius. You can rotate your leg to target the gluteus medius more or keep it back to target the gluteus max more.
Seated Hip Adductions
This is a simple machine exercise that target your hip adductor muscle group. You can pretty much find this at any gym. It’s hard to train the adductors effectively without this machine.
Remember to keep your knees in 90 degree angle and keep the range of motion appropriate for your mobility. Start very light! It’s very easy to pull these muscles if they are weak and not use to this kind of work.
Seated Hip Abductions
Just like hip adductor machine, you can find this on most gyms. It looks very similar to the adductor machine but the movement direction is the opposite. It activates the abductors like the gluteus medius, tensor fascia latae and several of the smaller hip muscles.
There is this weird misconception that only women should use these machines but they are probably more important for the older gentlemen. So guys, suck it up and do them!
Seated Hip Exercises For Seniors
As a finisher this is a great routine you can do at the comfort of your home. It includes a hip flexor exercise.
We hope you enjoyed reading about these leg and hip strengthening exercises for the elderly. If you have any questions please leave a comment below and we will promise to get back to you.
Keeping your hips strong and mobile is very important for your health as you get older. Weak and stiff hips limit your mobility, balance and endurance. In worst case scenario they limit your ability to walk even short distances.
Strong muscles also means larger muscles. The amount of muscle mass actually predicts longevity in the elderly, so you can see it’s wise to keep your hips strong and the muscle mass as high as possible.
Strengthening your hips can also help with chronic hip and lower back pain by improving circulation and muscle imbalances.
So try these tips for increasing your hip strength and muscle mass to enjoy a healthy and active life as you grow older!
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See you next time!