To prevent injuries and keep your body healthy it’s important to focus on your recovery. Hall of Fame Powerlifter Brad Gillingham is here with one of his favorite active recovery workouts to keep your back and hips healthy.
It can be beneficial to include a mini-workout, at times, into your training week that specifically focuses on exercises for hip mobility, glutes, and core. I think of it as a maintenance day to tune-up the body.
Importance of Active Recovery / Maintenance Day
Tight hip flexors, and muscle imbalances can interfere with building hip extension strength and lead to lower back and leg injuries. The following is a sample of exercises that you could include in a short workout (15-30 minutes) during an off-training day. The exercises should be performed in a circuit and repeated for three sets. There are many other exercises that you could include like Bulgarian split squats, plyometrics, med balls, glute bridges, various lunges, band pull-a parts (shoulder maintenance), rolling out, planks, or even throw in some push-ups. This is just a sample of some of the movements that I like to use.
Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
Tight hip flexors can be acquired from spending too much time at the desk. The hip flexors are a group of muscles including the psoas, and rectus femoris. Tight hip flexors can be responsible for an altered hip extension movement pattern. This disruption in movement pattern can cause hip extension dysfunction, muscle imbalance, back pain, and postural changes.1
One of my favorite exercises for loosening up the hip flexors is the standing hip flexor stretch. The movement is performed by standing with feet in a stride stance, hip distance apart, with both feet pointed forward. Contract the glute on the trail leg and bend at the front knee. Straighten and raise the arm on the trail leg side, and gradually reach with the arm while pushing the hip slightly forward to elongate and stretch the hip flexors. Alternate sides for 30-40 seconds.
Spiderman with Rotation
The spiderman stretch with rotation is performed as a dynamic mobility exercise to help open up your hip flexors and chest.2 It is performed by getting into the starting pushup position with hands placed directly below your shoulders. The leg is then lunged to the outside of the hand, finishing with the shin in a perpendicular position. Next, focus on keeping the core and glutes tight and rotate the hand straight up into the air. The body is then returned back into the starting pushup position and the movement is repeated with the other side. The spiderman stretch with rotation activates the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, adductors and lower to mid back muscles. Alternate sides for 5 repetitions.
The alternating superman is a great mobility exercise which increases core strength in the lower back, obliques, and glutes while improving upper back mobility and strength.3 Lie face down in the prone position with your arms raised above your head like superman. Raise your left arm and right leg off of the ground and hold for 1-2 seconds. The legs and arms should both be straight, and glutes should be activated. This exercise targets the lower back, abdominals, and glutes. Alternate sides for 10-20 repetitions.
Standing Trunk (Oblique) Twist
This exercise is performed by standing with feet flat on the ground, shoulder width apart with a light bar or broomstick placed on top of the shoulders. The upper body is rotated (twisted) until the bar/stick crosses the mid-point of the body. The arms should remain parallel to the floor. Make sure to engage your abdominal and back muscles and focus on completing each rep; one rep at a time. This exercise helps to improve range of motion in the traverse plane and focuses on activating the obliques, abdominals, spinal erectors, quadratus lumborum and hip flexors.4 Alternate sides for 20 repetitions.
Kettle Bell Swings
Kettlebell (KB) swings activate the muscles of the posterior chain and reinforce the correct hip hinge movement pattern. The hip hinge movement pattern is important for efficient and powerful hip extension.5
The basic KB swing is performed by grabbing the handle of the KB with both hands between your legs. The KB is swung like a pendulum, using a hip hinge, with straight arms to eye level. This movement should emphasis explosive hip extension of the posterior chain. At the top of the movement, you should be standing tall with the core contracted, and glutes squeezed.
A big mistake is trying to complete the movement by lifting with the arms and shoulders. The KB swing only involves the upper body to support the movement. This exercise activates the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. I prefer to complete this exercise for 10 repetitions.
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- Fedoryk DJ. Hip Extension and Abduction Dysfunction. ACA Rehab Council. Published December 27, 2019. View.
- Brett Williams, N. A. S. M. (2021, August 11). This mobility exercise helps you move like spider-man. Men’s Health. Retrieved November 1, 2022. View.
- Quinn E. How to do the alternating Superman. Verywell Fit. Published August 28, 2020. View.
- Steel Supplements. (2021, May 7). How to do trunk (standing) twists with proper form. Steel Supplements. Retrieved November 1, 2022. View.
- McGill, S.M., & Marshall, L.W. (2012). Kettlebell Swing, Snatch and Bottoms-Up Carry: Back and Hip Muscle Activation, Motion, and Low Back Loads. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(1), 16-27. View.