That smooth sashay of the hips side to side seems to epitomize the ideal of a sexy, feminine walk. Marilyn Monroe demonstrates it beautifully here. Also notice how she "walks the tight rope" ie walks with one foot in front of the other.
What's not to love about that?
The weak lateral hip musculature and the decreased bone density of the neck of the femur for starters, that's what. Huh?
Let me translate. You have muscles on the outside of your hips called your lateral hip muscles (lateral means side). When these muscles have the right amount of strength (not too much, not too little) they help to support your pelvis and keep it steady and stable (see image below on left) while you walk instead of pitching and rolling like a ship on a rough sea (see image below on right). When you have strong lateral hip musculature, you have the strength to walk with your ankles at the appropriate width, which means you get the full bone-density-benefit of maximum weight bearing to the neck of your femur aka the top of your thigh bone, a common site for fracture due to loss of bone mineral density. Go ahead, read that last sentence again.
When our hips sashay, or drop out to the side when we step on that leg, our lateral hip musculature goes on vacation (image on right).
When we have weak lateral hip musculature we a) decrease the amount of body weight being applied to the neck of the femur because our torso isn't stacked over it and b) weaken our pelvic floor musculature (and no, that doesn't mean you'd better hurry up and do more Kegels) in part because our glutes aren't able to help stabilize our sacrum optimally. Also, that sexy sashay increases the amount of friction between your lumbar vertebrae putting you at increased risk for disc degeneration in your low back.
So, what to do to get more strength in your lateral hip muscles and reap all the benefits that has to offer?
Here are 3 simple things to start practicing.
1. The pelvic list - watch this excerpt from my Healthy Feet Online course where I demonstrate the pelvic list.
2. Pelvic list on a block - stand with your right foot on on a yoga block (or a book), keeping both legs straight, push down through your right heel to lower the right side of your pelvis which will elevate the left side of your pelvis, bringing your left foot on the same level as your right foot. As much as possible, avoid hiking your left hip up to lift your left leg. Feel your gluteus medius muscle on the upper outside of your hip, towards the back) contract as you do this. Hold for 30-60 seconds. Bonus if you can lower your standing leg kneecap while doing this. If you're struggling with stability, hold onto the wall or a chair for support until you build more strength in this muscle.
3. Stand and walk with your ankles the same width as your ASIS (aka anterior superior iliac spine) - if you've been "walking the tight rope" aka with one foot in front of the other, this will feel (and look) really strange and awkward at first. The more you do it, the stronger those lateral hip muscles will get and the easier it will become.
Do you tend to sashay your hips or "walk the tight rope"? Try one of these 3 tips out and let me know in the comments what you noticed!
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