Hip disassociation is a common theme across many Pilates exercises. We as instructors can often be heard asking clients to “isolate the movement to the hip joint” or to “reach out of the hip socket.” How many clients are really absorbing from that directive what we really mean? How many clients even know what that hip joint feels like in isolation? Hopefully more than a few, but to really illustrate this for your clients, especially those with less body awareness, try out this simple movement before you get them started on hip disassociation exercises.
With the client lying in a prone position, forehead on mat, arms long by the sides and legs straight and long on the floor, ask the client to prepare for the exercise by engaging through the abdominals and feeling the tripod of the hip and pubic bones pressing firmly into the mat. Begin the exercise by lifting one leg, keeping it as straight and as long as possible, until it is separated from the
mat from toe to upper thigh. Next, ask the client to begin rotating the leg in the hip socket, journeying from internal rotation to external rotation and back again, as if turning a key in a lock. Continue this movement for a count of 5 or 10 seconds before returning to a neutral leg position and returning it to the floor. Repeat on the other leg. Remind the client that through this movement, the goal is still length through the leg – always reaching for the wall beyond.
For added challenge, you can ask the client to float both legs off the mat and rotate them simultaneously. Another option is to add thoracic extension to this exercise by maintaining moderate height through the chest (to the base of the sternum) and lifting the arms off the floor while executing the rotation. And finally, create a coordination challenge to the last variation by adding internal and external rotation of the shoulder to match the hips. Again, always reaching long through the extremities.
Hip disassociation – it’s a phrase that comes up frequently during side-lying work. The group of movements that fit into this category isolates leg movement from the hip joint and below. The goal is to minimize or eliminate movement in the rest of the body (the spine and it’s supports) during this type of exercise. But that’s really hard! The benefits are nearly endless, including making massive strides with core control.
Here’s a cue to help out with hip disassociation: imagine that the hip joint is a door hinge and the femur is the door. Everything from the hip joint up is attached to the hypothetical door frame and is therefor immobile. And for the movement – cue a swinging door. The imagery not only helps with hip disassociation, but also aids in keeping the client’s leg alignment fixed at parallel to the floor throughout the exercise as they attempt to remain true to the basic construction of the door and hinge.
Add tempo or intention to these movements by cueing the client to slam the door!
Create more effective pelvic awareness and hip disassociation during bridging with this Cue of the Day.
At the top of your bridge, imagine your pant pockets are full of heavy sand. To empty them out, drop first your right hip, then return to the top of your bridge. Now drop your left hip in the same way, maintaining height through your opposite hip. Alternate this way until every last grain of sand has been emptied. Center yourself at the top of your bridge and roll back down out of your bridge.
This cue allows for an intense variation on the basic Pilates bridge. By isolating one side and then the other, you create the opportunity for the client to mentally isolate the pelvis and gain awareness through the transverse abdominus while at the same time moving through an intense gluteal fold (glute shelf) workout.
Clients will benefit from coordination efforts, pelvic stability and tone through each of the gluteus muscles, as well as through the hamstring muscles and contralateral adductors.