The movements at the hip joint can be seen in this diagram. They are listed below along with the muscles responsible for each action and a sample exercise.
Flexion – iliopsoas, rectus femoris, sartorius, pectineus (range increases when knee is flexed)
The hundred (prep)
Extension – gluteus maximus; semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris (limited by the joint capsule and ligaments)
Prone double leg lift
Abduction – gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, piriformis and tensor fascia latae
Side-lying leg lift in parallel
Adduction – adductors longus, brevis and magnus, pectineus and gracilis (avoid if you have had a hip replacement)
Side-lying underneath leg lift in parallel
Lateral rotation – biceps femoris, gluteus maximus, piriformis, assisted by the obturators, gemilli and quadratus femoris
Medial rotation – anterior fibres of gluteus medius and minimus, tensor fascia latae
Sitting hip mobilisation
We can also combine movements such as lateral rotation with flexion and abduction.
Side-lying leg lift in turn-out
Note that the trunk and other joints maintain their position in all of the above exercises.
Since the structure of our joints and length of our ligaments limit our movement, a ‘full’ leg lift needs us to move other joints as well. In the exercise below there is lateral rotation with flexion and abduction of both legs. Although a good exercise for dancers, we do not usually do this one in Pilates. This is because we are aiming to use the movement of one joint to challenge the stability of other joints.
Side-lying leg lift in turn-out – ‘full’ range