Yes, the title is a Chubby Checker reference. I actually got to meet him way back in my college days when I worked for Borders Books & Music – we managed to have him in for a record signing event and all day we were playing his music over the store stereo. There was one point where one of my co-workers told me to “do the twist” and while I had no intention of doing so (I can’t dance) I happened to look down and noticed that by just standing around my right foot would habitually be further forward than my left. I didn’t think too much of it until later when after becoming certified as a personal trainer one of the ladies who took my small-group training classes mentioned that she was a nurse and she noticed that I should watch my back as my hips were unevenly twisted. I basically had what is known as a “pelvic rotation” and it is something I see in at least half of the people I work with.
Simple test: Take your shoes off and march in place for a moment. Right after you stop take a look down at your feet. Is one foot further forward than the other? Then look behind you to check your heels. Are they even? If both your toelines and your heels are uneven then you have a pelvic rotation. It is possible to have a pelvic rotation without seeing it with the feet but that requires someone else walking around you to check your actual hips & thighs. So for the purposes of this article we will only look at if your feet reflect a twist in the pelvis – but you may want to have a trained movement professional take a look to be more accurate. So what causes a pelvic rotation?
When one hip is twisted forward it is usually accompanied by tightness in the hip flexors on the front of the hip, the adductors (inner thigh muscles), and sometimes the quadriceps on the front of the thigh as well. Attendant weakness in the gluteus medius muscle on the upper part of the hip may also be noted. If you have scoliosis this may be a contributing factor though that is highly individual.
Someone with a pelvic rotation (“twisted hip”) will want to work on lengthening (stretch and manual work such as massage and/or rolling) the inner thigh, quadriceps, and hip flexors. Working on the lumbar muscles of the low back may be beneficial as well, especially if the rotation is coupled with any tilting of the pelvis (see my posture articles 2 & 3 located in the blog section of our website). Strengthening the glutes and hamstrings may also help – properly-conducted squats & deadlifts as well as a little targeted work on the glutes on the side of the rotation (lateral band walks, clamshells, etc.) will prove to be of great benefit.
This isn’t the space to go into how to properly perform the aforementioned exercises but we can get started with a couple of basic stretches to get you started before looking into this in more detail with a fitness or movement professional. The butterfly stretch for the inner thighs is a useful one to do and easy to follow: just sit on the floor with the soles of your feet pressed together and as close in to your groin as possible. Using your elbows, push your thighs down while keeping your back straight. This is also known as the “groin stretch” and you should feel this in the inner thighs. Hold this for about a minute before transitioning to a kneeling hip flexor stretch. Get into a half-kneeling position with the foot on your “good side” forward and the knee on your “bad side” underneath your hip. Tuck your pelvis under without arching your back – if you’re doing this properly you should feel a stretch on the front of your hip and top of the thigh on the side your rotation is on. Hold this for a minute before standing for a quad stretch. Hold onto something stable for support and grasp the foot of your rotated side by bending that leg. Make like you’re dropping that hip down towards the floor and pull a little harder on the foot – you should feel this on the front of your thigh. Hold this for a minute. Repeat this every day and periodically check your feet as previously described or have your coach check for you to see if anything changes over the course of time.
Is it possible to change one’s pelvic orientation over time? Usually it is – I have done it and I’ve also helped others do so as well. The amount of time it takes to do so depends on a variety of factors such as age, consistency in sticking with an intelligently-designed routine, past orthopedic & injury history, and lifestyle. Regardless, it is important to remember that our goal is not necessarily to “fix the pelvic rotation” (there can be many variables that go into why it is there in the first place, including genetic), but to take appropriate steps to address it should you have one. It is entirely possible to help condition your muscles in a more balanced way without showing a marked change in degree of rotation – but the presence or absence of rotation observed can serve as a clear marker as to where the emphasis should be when designing a training program.