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F.I.T. Tips: Hip Airplanes - How & Why To Do Them

By Gavin Buehler

For this issue’s installment we’re going to take a look at Hip Airplanes.  I’ll explain why I like this exercise and a few key things to keep in mind while performing this movement.


There’s a lot of discussion surrounding the importance of lateral hip stability.  A lack of lateral hip stability can present itself when loading on one leg you notice the hip glide out to the side excessively and uncontrolled.  This instability can have major implications on the hips as well as other areas of the body such as the knee and lower back.  Much of the focus with this dysfunction gets placed on weakness with the gluteus minimis and gluteus medius muscles that are key lateral hip stabilizers.  However, there are usually other factors that aren’t addressed as thoroughly such as lateral core strength and weakness through the deep external hip rotators.  You’ll notice that when the hip glides out to the side, it is almost always accompanied with excessive internal hip rotation as well.  That uncontrolled internal hip rotation might also represent a weakness with the deep external hip rotators.


Most of the typically prescribed exercises focus on the gluteus minimis and medius muscles.  These exercises include clam shells or side-lying leg raises, movement where the leg and foot float freely.  These exercises are great movements for finding and activating these muscles, but their loading patterns don’t represent the functional way that these muscles need to be used since you are not placing pressure through the sole of your foot.  Your nervous system controls your muscles and tells them how they should contract.  The feedback loop provided to your brain feeding your nervous system will differ between a movement where your leg floats in space versus compression through the entire leg with pressure on the sole of the foot.


This is why the hip airplane is a great addition as it’s loading pattern is similar to what is experienced with functional movements such as walking or running and it also addresses the rotation component of this dysfunction.


Please see the video below for an explanation of how to perform a hip airplane.


As always, these videos are for entertainment and educational purposes only. Please consult a health professional before attempting new exercises or protocols, as the following suggestions may or may not be appropriate for you.


Recommended Protocols:

1-3 sets, 10-15 repetitions/side, taking 3-4 seconds to lower.  Start with your weaker side first.


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