Updated: Aug 21, 2021
How to Dazzle with Leg Twizzles and Improve your Hip Rotation
June 20th, 2020
Are you working on your leg twizzle but noticing you’re getting a little stuck in your range? Don’t you worry, your physio fairy godmother is here to help! A simple yet beautiful floor move, the leg twizzle requires three main movements from our body to perform.
As always, I’m not here to teach you the actual trick, but to break it down from an anatomical and physio perspective. This will help you figure out what you might need to work on outside of class and between sessions with your instructor. So let’s break it down:
The key movements you will need for this floor trick are:
Hip internal and external rotation
Lumbar spine (lower back) lateral flexion
“A leg twizzle deceptive to the eye: it gives the impression that the knee is rotating, but as a matter of fact, 99% of the rotation comes from the hip.”
And this is where most people notice their difficulty lies; with rotation of the hip, particularly hip internal rotation.
Hip internal rotation & flexion places the hip in a closed pack position where everything can feel a bit compressed and uncomfortable, particularly for those with hip injuries. So in today’s blog we are going to focus on how to safely improve our active hip rotation range for those who are injury free.
If we take any hip injury/pathology out of the equation, the two main causes of lack of hip rotation are muscle weakness and muscle shortening. And they do tend to go hand in hand.
“If you’re lacking internal rotation of your hip, you may find these muscles are weak, whilst the external rotators are shortened and limiting the range of these movements.”
‘Every muscle has an antagonist muscle that opposes the movement it is meant to do, and in the hip the external and internal rotators are each other’s antagonists.’
To nail your leg twizzle, firstly try to figure out what direction of movement you’re having difficulty in, and then look at improving that muscle strength first and maybe even releasing the antagonist muscle.
Here are some great exercises to work into hip ER & IR range:
Active assisted hip ER/IR
Resting on your back, use your hands to assist in directing the hip into a rotated position. This will likely take you to your end of passive range of motion. You may find your active range of motion isn’t quite that deep though, so when you remove your hands, use your deep rotators to keep the leg still and stop it from moving back towards the start position.
Four Point Kneel Theraband ER
An all-time favourite of physios in the easy phases of hip rehab, the theraband is a great way to strengthen these rotations. Once in position, keep the knee still on the ground as the movement comes from the hip turning. Make sure you keep the foot resting on the ground as you slide the leg across the floor.
Four Point Kneel Theraband IR The opposite direction of the previous exercise, this will help to strengthen the internal rotators. Once in position, keep the knee still on the ground as the movement comes from the hip turning. Make sure you keep the foot resting on the ground as you slide the leg across the floor.
Clams (ER) A good exercise to start out with if you find your external rotators are rubbish and you need something simple to get them going. Place your feet up on a block, and keep your heels pressed together during this movement to make the most out of the rotators.
Knee and Toe (IR & ER) This Jane Fondaesque exercise reminds me of everything good and bad about the 80s but it is surprisingly challenging to bring your knees together and then your toes together. This requires good isolation of each of your hip rotators.
Standing Hip IR/ER Bring one leg up to hip height and imagine your big toe of that leg has a pencil attached and is ready to draw a large circle. You will notice your back/hip naturally hitch during this motion to assist – that’s normal and is what we do with our leg twizzles on the floor. Aim to draw a large smooth circle with the foot both ways. Now here are a few great techniques to assist in releasing overactive muscles:
External Rotator Release As shown in the video, place the ball a few centimetres behind your hip bone and lay on the ball to apply some pressure to the gluteals. Use the top leg to control the weight and if you feel able, rotate the bottom leg up and down to intensify the release.
Adductor/Internal Rotator Release With the knee resting up on some blocks, place the massage ball under the adductors and if able, straighten the leg and/or rotate the hip into internal rotation to increase the pressure on the muscle. You will notice that I haven’t included any passive stretches in this blog. I am a strong believer that there are more effective ways to improve hip rotation other than putting the hips in uncomfortable and potentially harmful positions so choose to leave passive stretches alone.
So there you have it, some great hip rotation exercises to practice between all your leg twizzles. At the end of the day, these exercises will help improve foundation muscle strength, range of motion, and most importantly your general hip proprioception and control. But don’t forget, the best way to improve your leg twizzles is to actually spend some time working on them!
Have you injured your hip? Or have you been working hard on your twizzles and still not nailing them?
Online telehealth appointments can be booked with the Pole Physio via our ‘Book Online’ page that can be found here. Assessment and tailored rehabilitation are provided in accordance with best practice and evidence-based treatment to help you unleash your 'poletential'.
Got a burning question??? Then leave a comment at the bottom of this page or via @thepole.physio Instagram page.
And lastly don’t forget to tag @thepole.physio on Instagram in any front splits videos you post. We absolutely love seeing people from all over the world challenge themselves with some great exercises, so make sure you let us know what you’re working on!
Until next time, train safe!
The Pole Physio
Please note this blog is not medical advice and if you have an injury or suspected injury I highly advise against performing any of these exercises without consultation and clearance from a medical professional such as a Physiotherapist. If you do attempt them, then you do so at your own risk.