Hip Internal Rotator Strengthening

So, you’ve found out that you or your athlete has got a hip internal rotation deficit (HIRD). Here’s how to go about putting it right.

The HIRD Action Plan

Yes, this is oversimplifying things somewhat, but there are two main causes for HIRD that we will look to focus on initially; inhibition or weakness of the internal rotators and tightness or overactivity of the external rotators. Today we’ll cover strengthening, tomorrow mobility.

Internal Rotator Strengthening

Personally I’ve found that strengthening exercises elicit the greatest improvements in range of motion (ROM) in the short-term. Indeed it’s not uncommon to see instant improvements in ROM after performing IR strengthening exercises. Here’s my top 3:

90/90 Internal Rotation

You’ll need a theraband or something similar for this one. The starting position for this exercise is flat on your back with the hips and knees flexed to 90o. Loop the band around each ankle and place a foam roller or rolled up towel between your knees. To perform the exercise, keep the knees stationary and try to move the feet away from one another. This exercise can also be performed seated or prone, however supine would be my personal preference.

Straight Leg Internal Rotation

Don’t put the band away yet. This time loop it around the foot of the leg to be worked; it should loop around the foot like the bottom of a Jegging (before you say anything, yes, I have managed to fit Jeggings into an article about IR). Now attach the other end of the band to a stable anchor point such as a table leg or the side of a squat rack. The anchor should be to the left of your body when working the left leg and vice versa for the right. To perform the exercise begin flat on your back with your leg straight and heel on the floor before rotating the toes toward the body – clockwise for the left, anti-clockwise for the right.

Reverse Clams

Traditionally clams are used to strengthen the deep gluteal muscles into external rotation however we can switch this little beauty around to target the IR’s. The added bonus is that it also doesn’t require any equipment. Lie on your side, bring your hips up to 45o and flex your knees to 90o. Keep the knee of the working leg pressed against the other and then move the foot towards the ceiling. Simples.

Guidelines for Strengthening Exercises

I generally look for about 10-15 reps for 3-4 sets in total with most individuals with HIRD; it doesn’t have to be all in one exercise though, feel free to mix-and-match. Don’t go anywhere near failure here, keep the form spot on and make sure you work through your entire ROM. If you’ve got IR problems then these are performed in the warm-up and also on recovery days, however, I would recommend that everyone puts a set or two of these into their lower body warm-up. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes when performing deep squats!

So, until tomorrow, get busy strengthening those IR’s…

Exercises, Performance, Prehab & Rehab , , , ,

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  1. Owen McGrath

    I had juvenile arthritis as a child (I’m 36 now) and I have some wear at the weight bearing area of he hips. My internal hip rotation is very poor. However my doctor has not told me that there is any impingement due to this wear. I feel that this poor rotation inhibits my performance at Brazilian jujitsu. I’ve tried various stretching but it doesn’t seem to improve my rotation. I’ve read your article and I now think it is mostly likely that my rotator muscles in my hip are all very weak. I wonder how often I should preform these strength and stretching in order to try and improve my internal rotation?

    Thanks for your help.


    • Maloney Performance

      Hi Owen,

      We’d generally look for athletes to perform these 5+ days a week for a period of 3-4 weeks to begin with. This should give you an idea of whether it’s helping at all. Then you can look to maintain with slightly less volume if so, or try and explore another avenue.

      Hope this helps,

  2. Dave

    I started doing these exercises 3 days ago and I’m noticing a dull ache in my hip flexors. nothing terrible, just sort of a mild soreness. Totally normal? indicitive of tighness in that region as well? I’m an avid golfer, low single digit handicap and my instructor pointed out the lack of internal rotation. no history of significant low back pain and would like to keep it that way and hopefully improve my swing more.

    • Maloney Performance

      Hi Dave,
      It sounds like you have some degree of hip impingement given those symptoms. The first stop before looking to improve internal rotation would be to work on hip centration – if you google hip centration and either Kelly Starrett or Evan Osar you’ll find they have some good drills. As always, if you have any pain make sure you get it looked at be a professional. Hope this helps.

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