A picture of Laura Jawad performing a standing hip shift exercise.

Pregnancy impacts the pelvis in ways that fundamentally shift pelvic range of motion and impact our mobility in the long-term.

The hip shift exercise is a simple and effective tool to help regain the range of motion and mobility lost during pregnancy.

It helps restore “internal rotation” to a pelvis that becomes “externally” rotated as the pelvic inlet opens wider under the load of the growing fetus.

4 x 4 grid of images showing a "non-pregnant" and "pregnant" pelvis from the front and back. The "pregnant" pelvis demonstrates hip bones moving away from midline, opening the pelvic inlet, and the tailbone tucking under and closer to the pubic bone, closing off the back of the pelvis.

Access to internal rotation of the hip and pelvic bones is a cornerstone of human movement.

➡️ Internal rotation of the pelvic bones and the femurs (thigh bones) is critical to taking a step.

➡️ To loading the leg properly as your heel strikes the ground and you roll into stance (foot flat on the ground).

➡️ To effectively loading the glutes as you propel off your foot and into the next step.

When the pelvis gets “stuck” in external rotation, the glutes and the posterior pelvic floor (the area around your tail bone and anus) become short and tight. Short, tight muscles are not strong muscles.

Over time, this can impact the ease with which you walk, run, jump and play.

What Is A Hip Shift?

A hip shift is kind of like a one-sided hip hinge, the pattern behind a deadlift or bending over to pick stuff off the ground.

While a hip hinge also drives hip internal rotation, a hip shift allows you to get deeper by incorporating an element of rotation.

Check out the white dashed-line in the image below. It helps highlight how the upper body rotates over the stance leg as the hip shifts back.

A 4 x 4 grid displaying a hip shift and a hip hinge from the front and from the side. A white dashed line highlights how the torso rotates over the stance leg during a hip shift.
As a unilateral exercise, it also allows you to address side-to-side imbalances and movement asymmetries.

How To Hip Shift

Check this out:

In a hip shift, you’ll set up with feet about hip distance apart and you’ll sit one hip back towards the wall behind you.

As your hip shifts back, you slightly rotate your upper body over your stance leg, your knee travels slightly over your mid-foot and your nose, knee and toes stay in line.

You should feel a sensation of lengthening through your glutes on that side.

Hip Shift Progressions

Here’s a series of exercises to help you progressively learn the hip shift and bring it into other exercises you’re already doing:

1. Supine Hip Shift

Set up on your back in a 90/90 position. You’ll need a foam roller or a ball to place between your knees. Before you begin, your low back should be in contact with the ground.

Inhale as your raise one knee towards the ceiling, shifting the same side hip forward. Exhale and come back to center.

2. Bear Hip Shift

Set up in a bear, hands-and-knees, position. Place a yoga block under your left knee.

In this position, your right hip should drop towards the floor. You should not be side-bending or hiking your left hip. The back of your left pelvis should feel open and the glutes should feel a little “stretched.”

Exhale as you raise your right knee level with your left knee. Inhale to lower. 

3. Lateral Step To Hip Shift

You’ll need a book or a short (3″) yoga block to setup. Stand with your left foot on the book or the block.

Hover your right foot so your hips are even. Inhale as you shift back into your left hip to allow your right foot to come to the ground. In this position, you should feel length or stretch in your glutes on the left side. Exhale, come back to hover the right foot.

This exercise is not a “pelvic list”. Your torso stays long and there’s no side-bending left to drop the right hip.

4. Lateral Lunge With Reach And Rotate

Set up with feet just wider than hip distance.

Shift back into your left hip hip, reaching your right arm towards your left toes. You should not touch your toes!! This reach helps pull your rip hip forward and drive the left hip deeper into the shift.

Inhale as you sit back into the lunge and rotate. Exhale to come back to center.

5. Split Squat With Reach And Rotation

Set up in a split stance.

As you lower into your split squat, reach forward with the arm opposite your forward leg. Pull back with the arm on the same side as your forward leg. Shifting back into your hip as you lower will create length in your glutes for a more power as you rise out of the bottom position.

For examples of how to load the hip shift, you can check out this Single-Leg Deadlift With Rotation.

Right Hip Vs Left Hip

Most people exhibit a “typical” asymmetrical pattern in which their left hip is a little more externally rotated than the right hip.

This can cause it to feel like there’s a mobility limitation in your left hip shift relative to the right.

If you feel a major difference, it’s totally normal.

Use the hip shift exercise as a mobility drill to bring more internal rotation to the left side. It can also become a strength exercise as you incorporate it into loaded exercises.

Hip Shifts For Healthy Hips As You Age

Recently I ran across this quote:

“Perhaps walking is best imagined as an “indicator species,” to use an ecologist’s term. And indicator species signifies the health of an ecosystem, and its endangerment or diminishment can be an early warning sign of systemic trouble. Walking is an indicator species for various kinds of freedom and pleasures: free time, free and alluring space, and unhindered bodies.”

-Rebecca Solnit

This takes my breath away. As I watch my elder family members age, and I observe my peers beginning to feel the aches of aging joints, I place more and more value on my mobility.

Mobility is autonomy. 

And it’s something that needs to be cultivated and maintained over a long-period of time, not just during times of injury and rehabilitation. And not only when lack of mobility begins to feel acute in old age.

Pregnancy and postpartum are a life event that impacts our mobility. Perhaps not severely, but they do provide an opportunity to “tune up” our movement habits.

The hip shift exercise is one of the most important movement skills you can learn during your childbearing year. It’s a simple way to restore range of motion lost during pregnancy and to support healthy, strong hips and glutes that will keep you walking easily and moving well into old age.

For one-on-one personal training that incorporates mobility and targeted strength for pregnancy, postpartum and beyond, please contact me. I’d love to connect:)

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Redmond, WA-based Seattle birth doula Laura Jawad, headshot

My mission is to make sure that having a baby is not a reason why you can’t do all the things.

Contact me with questions about exercise or pelvic health pertaining to pregnancy or postpartum. I offer customized, online pregnancy and postpartum personal training to folks locally (Seattle-area, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland) and beyond.

Proud Certified Prenatal & Postnatal Coach, Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism Coach and Postnatal Fitnesses Specialist.

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