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My students have been complaining recently of clicky hips when they do certain exercises. Are there any activities that I can include in our warm-up to prevent this?
By the way, I love your ‘Perfect Pointe’ books. What a great program!
Thanks so much for your question, and believe me, you are not alone. Many teachers struggle with students complaining of clicking hips in class, and are often unsure as to how to deal with it. While some people claim that non-painful clicking hips are nothing to worry about, in my experience, non-painful clicking hips soon become painful if the issues that are causing the noise are not dealt with. Early intervention, before the click becomes painful, means much faster rehabilitation and less time off performing to full capacity.
Most clicking in the hips comes from an imbalance of muscles, and of excessive tension in one area, that interferes with fluid movement. There are “Clicks” “Pops” “Cracks” and “Clunks” all of which are different structures! However all are the result of poor co-ordination of the muscles around the hips, putting excessive load on some muscles, while others remain weak. It is very important that each muscle is performing its required job, especially when working at a high level. This is why stretching is often not the answer to resolving the click. Specific strengthening of the weak muscles, gentle stretching or hands on releases of the tight structures, and correction of any postural factors that are leading to these imbalances are essential to getting rid of the click once and for all!
The clicking usually occurs in one of four different types of students. Often tell-tale signs of weaknesses can be seen in the students postural control outside of the ballet class, or in between exercises, so you usually need to watch the student when they are ‘hanging out’ to work out which type they are.
1) The student who sticks their bottom out, turns the legs in and relaxes the tummy in standing, resulting in tight hip flexors (especially TFL) and poor turnout control.
2) The student who has very open hips and tends to shift their hips forward in regular standing - sitting into the ligaments at the front of the hips and slumping the upper body forward.
3) The student who tends to hitch their working hip when in a retire, and has over developed the TFL and Gluteus Medius muscles.
4) The student who has excellent flexibility, but who do not have the strength yet to control their legs en lair. I see this frequently in students who perform a lot in competitions and spend a lot of time on their flexibility and ‘tricks’ but not quite as much time on conditioning exercises.
This does make it very tricky for a teacher in class to help all students at once - as they all have slightly different issues! Do you have the Training Turnout Book? This helps explain lots of different exercises for each of these areas so that you can help the students out more.
However, the key factor in all of these students is that they lack true deep core strength, even though they all develop different strategies to cope with it, so this is something that really needs to be worked on in all students. While ideally they should be working their deep core in all ballet classes, sometimes this is not really engaging properly. Students often need specific instruction on exactly how to engage their true deep abdominals, as well as a regular conditioning class, to really engage the innermost muscles correctly. Once the core is working consistently in class and in daily life, this reduces the load onto all of the other muscles around the hips enormously.
Often during the period of integrating true core control into class, it is necessary to lower the height of the working leg to approximately 1/2 of the students full working height for a short period. Students and teachers should not be afraid of doing this for short periods, and it can result in great improvements in their technique.
It is obviously very hard to give specific exercises for all of these areas in an email, however if you look at each student individually with the above ideas in mind, and then work through the Core Stability for Dancers book, and the appropriate areas of the Training Turnout course with your students, then this should iron out any issues!
I hope that this helps!