Whether I’m cycling at Flywheel, toning at SLT, or standing on my tippy toes at Pure Barre, one thing remains the same: My instructors always tell me to keep my hips squared off. In short, this just means to not put too much weight on one side or the other, but to keep it balanced throughout both the right and left sides of the body.
While it may not seem like a very big deal, the reality is that when you forget to stay square in your movements, you can actually throw your entire body out of whack. “A few things that will get in the way if you don’t practice good form during exercises are imbalances,” says NASM-certified Tone House head coach Aleix Dreiss. “So for instance, if I am doing a back squat and I don’t keep my hips square, I might consistently turn out my right leg ever so slightly, which essentially loads more on my left quad, glute, and hamstring.” So if you’ve ever wondered why one side of your body feels stronger than the other, or why one side seems more flexible, you might want to start by looking at what’s going on with your hips.
“Our hips are our home base. They help keep our spine in line, many of our organs safe, and they bear the weight of our entire body,” explains SLT instructor Kate DeGennaro. “In a class like SLT—one that is rooted in alignment—squaring off the hips to lunge and plank is crucial to attaining proper form on the megaformer.” But it goes beyond just what’s on the machine. When you don’t square off your hips during your workouts, it can lead to injuries that affect your everyday life.
Dreiss explains that when your muscles aren’t working in harmony in a squared off position, it creates dominant muscles throughout your body, favoring one side over the other. “Eventually this can lead to injury,” she explains. “We want to stay healthy and active for as long as we can, and if we don’t maintain proper form sooner or later, it will catch up to us.” With all that in mind, the pros have a couple more tips to share, and if you keep on scrolling you can find them below.
Always check in with yourself
Knowing your body and taking the time to analyze your form is essential in keeping your hips squared off in poses, as well as maintaining proper form overall.
“Something that we say at Tone House—especially to our 101 classes—is ‘form over speed,’” Dreiss says. “Anyone can do something fast, but can you do it correctly?” These are things that she says we have to ask ourselves when we walk into the gym or any boutique fitness class. “Do I want to do this for the long run or do I only care about how many reps I can do today,” Dreiss urges you to ask yourself.
Let your hips guide you
“A great teacher of mine always says that ‘the bigger joint should guide the smaller joint,’” says Y7 instructor and Vibe Higher coach Joanna Cohen. “The hips are the biggest joint space in our bodies and, in finding alignment, it’s helpful to orient the biggest and strongest joint first so that the smaller and weaker joints can follow.” She explains that when we square the hips, we are giving our shoulders the opportunity to square as well which creates healthy joint stacking. “This creates efficiency for the body so that it doesn’t have to use as much muscular effort to maintain a posture,” Cohen explains.
To witness for yourself what a big difference squaring off your body can make, Cohen recommends starting with a high lunge. “When we square our hips (bigger joint) forward, we find our shoulders (smaller joint) can align right on top of the hips and soften,” she explains. “The front knee (bigger joint) will point forward and stack on top of the front ankle (smaller joint) and there is a moment where it all clicks in and feels almost effortless.”
Isn’t it crazy how something as seemingly mindless as not squaring your hips can make one side of your body stronger? To ensure your hips stay squared, consider trying these at-home exercises to improve your posture.
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