Metabolism, the rate at which your body converts the calories you consume into energy, is dependent on several factors. Unfortunately, most are outside of your control: age, gender, genetics, and so forth. But the one metabolic factor you can control is muscle mass. Muscle requires more energy to function than fat, so the more lean muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate.
One secret to building lean muscle mass is in the deep hip. “An increase in metabolic rate comes from hip-driven exercise,” says Brian Bradley, fitness director of Elev8d Fitness, the new home workout program from the experts of Sonima. “Once you loosen up the hips and establish full range of motion, you tap into a completely different, deeper set of muscles.”
The hips are the epicenter of the body. The strength and range of motion of all the load-bearing joints (shoulders, knees, ankles) depend on the alignment and functionality of the hips. Better range of motion allows your body to better activate your deepest muscle groups, which aids the creation of balanced, lean muscle mass.
Here’s an example: If the shoulder joint is functional and limber, movement in the shoulder will use all the muscles surrounding that joint. But if your shoulder has limited range of motion and is bound forward, you won’t be able to fully access/activate the posterior muscles around the joint. They will be effectively turned off and inactive. Full range of motion removes the muscular and structural limitations that keep us from accessing all our muscles.
Think about it this way: When you move, you should be moving with 100 percent of your body, your muscles functioning like one integrated, fluid system. Bad posture, imbalances, and muscular compensation disconnect the muscles in the body. This disconnect, Bradley says, is the crux of the problem: “If you only move the hip 50 percent of its natural range of motion, then you’re only getting 50 percent of the benefit as it relates to your metabolism. But if you’re moving it through its full natural range, then you’re getting full muscle engagement and full metabolic benefit.”
3 Movements to Activate the Deep Hip
These three dynamic movements are designed and sequenced specifically to access the hip flexors and activate the psoas—the core muscle that connects the lumbar vertebrae to the femur—and re-establish full range of motion in the hip joint.
The first exercise, Elev8d Figure 4, unloads your spine. We spend all day vertical, and our back often rounded, shoulders forward (especially if you sit at a computer all day). “Loading the spine horizontally puts you in mid-back/thoracic extension,” explains Bradley. “And as you cross the leg over and push that leg away you’re teaching the leg bone how to rotate in the hip joint.” Even if you just did this static exercise, you’d spend the rest of the day with activated hip flexors.
Next, the Elev8d Bear Crawl Sideways focuses on lateral hip motion you don’t often get in day-to-day life. “We’re so linear [straight ahead or up and down] so when we move left to right, it makes you load one hip at a time,” says Bradley. “And because most people favor one side versus the other—with the gas pedal, clicking a mouse, carry around a shoulder bag—we need to wake up these deep hip muscles to do the work while your spine is loaded in extension.” In this exercise, be sure to pull back with the hips, keeping as much of the work out of the shoulders and arms as you can. By loading the hips one at a time, you are ensuring that both sides are getting the same amount of work, effectively balancing this muscle group.
Finally, the Fake Jumps target the psoas and low back muscles. Think about this exercise as a plyometric jump that never gets off the ground. “You create that movement of jumping up onto a box but safely,” says Bradley. “Swing your arms forward at high speed and then almost push off with your legs.” This exercise is a surprising amount of work. Not only do you drop down into a deep squat, but the sheer force of energy required to spring up will surprise you.
If you can fire this foundational hip flexor group on a sustained, daily basis, your muscles will be conditioned to stay activated. The more frequently you access and activate these deep muscles, the more lean muscle mass you will create, thus, raising your metabolic rate.
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