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Improving Your Control in Martial Arts Training pt. 3: Hips

by Carmelo De Leon, DPT

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This part of our Martial Arts series will focus on hip control. Regardless of your martial art, hip control is a crucial component to help keep you training. Without adequate control, adjacent areas, such as the low back and knees, may have to take up the load. Additionally, developing your control can help you get into or out of positions while grappling and it can boost your efficiency with striking.


Before we get into the exercises, let’s look at the hip joint. This joint is made of the femoral head and the acetabulum. Like the shoulder, the hip is a ball and socket joint, which means it has the ability to move in essentially any direction. Because it has great mobility, the hip joint needs a lot of help from the muscles to maintain control. When kicking, the hip muscles have to work to control both the posting leg and striking leg. Without the appropriate control, you run the risk of developing muscle strains and hip labral tears. With regards to grappling, the hips help you shoot for a takedown, get into certain guard positions and perform sweeps. For example, in the De La Riva guard, without the necessary active hip control into external rotation, more movement will have to come from the knee which will increase the risk of an LCL injury. Check out the exercises below to better develop the control in performing those movements and maintain hip joint health to keep you training longer.


Hip CARs (2 sets x 5 reps each side)

  • Position: Stand with 1 knee raised to hip level. Use sticks in each hand for balance.

  • Movement: While keeping the knee at hip level with the feet under the knee, rotate about 90 degrees so that the knee is now at your side. Hold your knee at this position, then slowly raise your foot towards the ceiling, trying to get it to the same level as the knee. Now, in a circular motion, move your knee backwards until it's side-by-side with your other leg, in a bent position. Complete the reverse motion to return to the starting position.


90/90 Hip External Rotation Movement 1 (2 sets x 10 reps each side)

  • Position: Sit on the ground with 1 leg forward with the knee bent 90 degrees, and 1 leg behind bent at 90 degrees.

  • Movement 1: Bring your stomach towards the forward knee. Use your hands for support as little as possible.


90/90 Hip External Rotation Movement 2 (2 sets x 10 reps each side)

  • Position: Sit on the ground with 1 leg forward with the knee bent 90 degrees, and 1 leg behind bent at 90 degrees.

  • Movement 2: Lift your back heel off the ground and, keeping the ball of your foot on the ground, bring the back knee towards the ceiling. Keep your hip facing as forward as possible - all rotation should be coming from the hip.


90/90 Hip Internal Rotation

  • Position: Sit on the ground as upright as possible, with 1 leg forward with the knee bent 90 degrees, and 1 leg behind bent at 90 degrees.

  • Movement: While keeping the “back” knee on the ground lift your foot towards the ceiling as high as possible without leaning forward. Do not expect to lift high off of the ground.


Please reach out with any questions on hip control exercises or to progress your program with a physical therapist.


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