Strengthen Your Hip Joint!

October 22, 2008

Patrick Henry said,”Give me liberty or give me death.”

You can let freedom ring after a hip replacement – if you are one of the 300,000 annual hip replacement patients in the US! Or if you just want to keep a healthy hip, learn some exercises that are sure to keep you hip and hop!

The hip joint has three degrees of freedom, which means that it moves in three different planes: the sagittal plane: flexion/extension; the frontal plane: abduction/adduction; and the transverse plane: external/internal rotation.

Don’t let the doctor keep you in stitches on the “hipnotic” battlefield – learn to strengthen the hip joint and laugh your way into old age! Shake your left leg, take two steps then throw a left hook out of left field as you perform fundamental movements from the hip joint.


A Normal Hip Joint

A Normal Hip Joint

The hip joint is a ball and socket joint between the head of the femur and the socket of the pelvis. The hip has a joint capsule, which is a flexible sac around the joint allowing multiple movements such as the following (from a standing position): flexion – forward leg movement; extension – backward leg movement; abduction – leg moves away from sides; adduction – leg moves toward other leg; internal rotation – toes pointing toward each other; and external rotation – toes pointing away from each other. Avoid excessive flexion, adduction and internal rotation of the hip for the first six weeks after a hip replacement surgery. General info for patients with hip replacements include not bending the hip beyond 90 degrees, not bringing legs and knees together (adduction, internal rotation), and not crossing legs (adduction). The first task is easing patients into weight bearing exercises such as walking. For people without a hip replacement, their walking can tell a lot about their hip health.

An Unhealthy Hip Joint

An Unhealthy Hip Joint


Walking transfers body weight from hip joint to hip joint. Walking is divided into two phases, which include the stance phase, where one leg is standing on the ground; and the swing phase, where one leg is off the ground swinging forward to make the next step.

During the swing phase of a walk, the toes are prevented from hitting the ground because the gluteus medius on the stance side contracts, tilting the pelvis upward and lifting the leg clear of the ground.

A weak gluteus medius causes the pelvis to dip downward during the swing phase. The gluteus medius can be weak due to either an L5 nerve root lesion in the spine, proximal myopathy (muscular dystrophy, hip osteoarthritis) or congenitial hip deformities.

Calculations have been made using vector diagrams during the stance phase of walking. They show that four times the body weight is applied to the load-bearing surface of the hip joint. Therefore, being overweight places an increased burden on the hip joints, leading to premature osteoarthritis. Throw ideas of osteoarthritis out the window and start losing weight and strengthening the hip in rewarding workouts!

Strengthening and gaining flexibility in the hip joint should be a priority through proper conditioning and balance training. Flexibility can be gained by stretching out one leg while standing on the other, then bending the outstretched leg 90 degrees.

Strengthening can be achieved by looping a Thera-Band loop around the ankles and alternating mini squats for 30-60 seconds. A balance exercise can be achieved by standing on one leg for 30-60 seconds.

Beware of hip joint red flags! Some of the red flags are at half mast when there are some of the following casualties to the body: pain and swelling, pain when bearing weight on lower extremities, and discomfort or inability to sleep on the hip.

Exercises can prevent the red flags when they form good conditioning habits and utilize cross training. Patients with hip replacements can build strength comfortably through cross training in the water. Therapeutic water training is the best form of exercise for gaining flexibility and range of motion, especially in patients with a concern for their hip joint health. Anyone with a goal of increasing their hip joint degrees of freedom can have an effortless return of hip advancements in water training.


Alicia Weber is an Aquatic Therapist that offers personal & group sessions in Central Florida.  Contact her at 352-874-4363 for a FREE Consultation or to set up an appointment.

Alicia Weber is an Aquatic Therapist that offers personal & group sessions in Central Florida. Contact her at 352-874-4363 for a FREE Consultation or to set up an appointment.







Learn to Enhance Your Swimming Stroke

October 12, 2008
Did you know that the best freestyle swimmers can swim 25 meters in 7-13 strokes? The goal of any freestyle swimmer is to swim efficiently, using a minimal amount of strokes. Sometimes people feel like they are wounded in the water when they try to swim freestyle, fluttering down the pool with much splashing and an exorbitant amount of strokes.

If you are a beginning swimmer or a long-time swimmer who finds yourself splashing like there is no tomorrow, or moving your arms too quickly and tiring them in a short distance, then learn drills that work on improving stroke efficiency and saving energy!
Do the following drills to enhance stroke efficiency and remember to visualize what you doing:

Drill # 1 Fist Swimming:
Picture yourself as polar bear cruising down the wave-swept Atlantic Ocean to escape the arctic waters (which they do in winter). The polar bear makes a fist as it swims to heat up its claws and hand.Step 1:  With your hands closed fists, pull yourself through the water using the surface area of your forearms. During the pull phase (when the hand goes into water), keep your elbow higher than your hand. As the hand passes beneath the shoulder, your hand, elbow, and shoulder should be in one line, perpendicular to your body.
Step 2: Maintain closed fists through the push phase (when the hand comes back up and gets ready to enter the water again). Relax in the push phase, keep your fists closed, maintain the proper head position, use a steady kick, and keep your strokes long and smooth.This fist-swimming drill is great for strengthening the forearm and working on the pull-and-push phase of freestyle. Try fist swimming several times across the width of the pool, and see how difficult it can be.

Drill # 2 Head-Up Freestyle: When doing this drill, imagine yourself as a great white shark tracking its prey. The Great White is the only shark that lifts its head out of the water. Its eyes can rotate 360 degrees because they have no nicitating membrane. Head-up freestyle is a good technique to practice to perform well in lake or ocean swims.

Step 1: Begin swimming with the head up and the chin just touching the water’s surface. Keep your head still and keep a reference point in front of you. Maintain high elbows and hold them through the pull phase (when the arm goes beneath the body and the hand pushes water).

Step 2: During the pull phase, keep your hand beneath your sternum and press through the push phase (when the hand is back out of the water as arm stretches out to get ready to re-enter the water). Head-up freestyle can be practiced in a pool, ocean, or lake.

Drill # 3 Single-Arm Freestyle: Imagine yourself as a flying fish gathering enough speed and momentum from one fin to fly out of the water in a short burst of speed and then return to freestyle stroke. Flying fish literally fly out of the water with speeds up to 40mph and then return back into a swimming rhythm. Single-arm freestyle will help you develop speed and strength by working on one arm at a time.

Step 1: First, begin swimming regular freestyle with your right arm, placing your left arm by your side.

Step 2: While pulling (arm underwater pulling water) with your right arm, breathe to your left side only (and to the right when pulling with your left arm). Time your breaths so that you initiate head rotation when your right arm enters the water. Once your hand is past your stomach, finish through by pushing your hand past your thigh as far as you can. When your right arm comes out of the water for recovery before it re-enters, your right shoulder will be out of the water and your left shoulder will be in the water.

Step 3: When your arm exits the water for the recovery, bend your arm and keep in a high elbow. Your arm and hand should be relaxed.Single-arm swimming is good to practice in a 25-yard pool. Practice doing single-arm swimming with the right arm for 25 yards, then switch to the left arm and repeat as much as you want.

All these drills will turn you into a “swimtastic” freestyle swimmer, as long as you already know how to swim freestyle.



 * If you would like to learn to swim in a few sessions or need a swimming ‘tune-up,’ Alicia Weber teaches swimming and aquatic training classes in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Central and South Florida. Contact her at for info.