Benefits of Side Hip Bridge.
Side Hip Bridge with bend knees is an excellent lift to develop the Gluteus Medius muscle, which is one of the many key muscles in abducting the leg, as well as stabilizing hips in particular and lower extremities in general. From my experience, after testing and training many people on regular basis, many are surprised how weak initially that exercise feels, even if you seem to be relatively strong with basic movements such as squats.
That is not a surprise if you know that Gluteus Medius often experiences atrophy due to excessive sitting. Another factor is that many people are rarely taught how to do things correctly with their bodies and just kind of make due anyhow, compensating along the way and never learning to use this muscle as a part of overall body’s orchestra network of muscles, tendons, fascia and other structures that participate in the symphony of movement creation.
Let’s get started!
I suggest that you spend some time with this lift and make it a regular for both your overall dynamic warm ups and work sets on leg training days. If you find yourself very weak in this lift you need to practice it more often, like every day.
The reason is that, while your perception is that you work really hard, the reality is that you are barely lifting your hip a few inches. In other words, the actual work performed is not that large and the body can recover relatively fast.
More frequent practice however, will lead to higher degree of neural proficiency and ultimately, will result in better muscle control and you being able to generate higher intensity in this exercise. Your brain and your nervous system need to remind this muscle who the boss is and they need to do it often initially, so “notes are taken” so to speak. At this point, the harder practice should become less frequent in order to facilitate proper recovery from harder level of work, but I would still keep a light set or two for your daily movement prep and joint mobility routine.
You can do it for one or two sets of 10 reps as a warm up and two to three sets 5-12 reps for your work sets. Initially, even the bodyweight version might be pretty challenging, but over time, you will be able to add some weight to make it harder.
Take your time setting up and do it correctly. Basically, you will be in the deep squat position, just sideways. Make sure to keep the angle of 90 degrees or less between the top of your bottom thigh and your torso. Keep your entire shin and ankle on the floor or elevated surface that you are working on (some sort of 2’’ to 4’’ pad in order to begin the move from the deficit position). Keep your head leveled with the body.
Make sure to be honest to yourself, as this exercise is for you and not for some hot demo – frankly it does not look glamorous at all, but it is just something that you need to master, just like T-pulls, H-pulls and Y-pulls with wall-mounted cables are a must for healthy and strong shoulders.
Your body will want to cheat in a couple of ways.
First, it will attempt to push you away from your supporting leg along the floor, sliding on your support shoulder, instead of lifting the hip straight up. In order to avoid that, you need to focus hard on lifting the hip straight up by abducting the hip and keeping your support shoulder in the same spot – if you do it correctly you will see that you will stay in the deep squat position sideways with your bottom thigh and torso at ninety degrees or less.
Second, your body will lift your ankle of the floor and make you tilt forward instead of lifting your hip straight up with the entire shin and ankle flush to the support surface. In doing so, the body compensates and shifts away from using the Gluteus Medius at its currently weak angle to some other, stronger muscles, like your hip flexor. Make sure to keep the shin flush and your ankle flat — lift the hip straight up.
Integrate Side Hip Bridge into your training.
I highly recommend that you invest some time into the mastery of the Side Hip Lift with bent knees – it will pay off with better lateral and counter-lateral stability of the body, stronger and more stable single leg movements, increased strength in the bottom of the squat and deadlift-like movements, and help with change of directions, as well as more stable knees and lower body in general.
It will also help to counter the natural atrophy of Gluteus Medius associated with excessive sitting, as well as help to correct the muscle imbalances often seen in ground grapplers and horse riders, who spend a lot of time squeezing things in between their legs (adduction) and very little time pushing things out with their thighs and knees (abduction).
Enjoy and Live Strong!