The ability to move your thigh freely in your hip socket is crucial for all style of dance. To be able to do this without pain, popping or crunchy sounds is even better. This quick series of exercises targets the muscles all around the hip socket to help keep you moving without pain or sound effects.
The Clamshell - great for strengthening the 6 muscles that turn out your leg. Those same muscles also help to stabilize the head of your femur in the hip socket.
Lay on your side with your bottom and shoulders against a wall. Bend your bottom elbow and rest your head on your arm, bend your knees like you are sitting in a chair (about a 90 degree angle at your hips and knees). Keeping your feet resting on each other and your bottom in contact with the wall behind you, lift your top knee up as far as you can maintain alignment. Try to use 4 counts to lift. Then lower to your starting position for 4 counts. Repeat 10x on each leg. Once this gets easy, place a 4-8 inch diameter ball between your feet and do the exercise that way.
Standing Dips - Great for the muscles on the outside of the hip (abductors). These muscles are responsible for stabilizing your pelvis on your thighs (as well as other things).
Stand on a phone book, yoga block or small step stool and place your hands either on a wall or countertop or sturdy piece of furniture for balance. Move yourself to the side of what you are standing on so one foot is now unsupported in the air. Without bending either knee, lower the free foot towards the floor (like you are going to dip your toes in water). You can either concentrate on the dipping side hip lowering or the supporting side hip lifting up. Return back to your starting position. Repeat 10x. Remember the goal is not to try to touch the floor, but to shift the hips and return to the neutral starting position.
Knee Knocks - Great for working internal rotation or turn in of the hip. If a person is missing the turned in range of motion, their turnout can be adversely affected. Additionally, if a dancer is working alot in a turned out position, this exercise will help them to lengthen their turnout muscles since it stretches them. In order to walk properly the leg needs to be able to rotate both inward and outward at different points in the gait cycle.
Lay on your back with a soft kickball, nerf type soccer ball or a yoga brick held vertically, between your bent knees. Your feet should be slightly wider than hip width apart and your knees are bent. By rotating from the top of your thighs in the hip socket, turn your legs in to press your knees into the ball or block. Press as hard as you can the first time and release right away. For the actual exercise, press with about 1/4 of your power, hold for 8 seconds and release without really moving your legs. Repeat this 10x.
Leg Stirs - This exercise helps to activate the muscles in the back of the hip/thigh area and is good for teaching all of the muscles of the hip socket how to turn on and off in the proper sequence. It can be quite helpful in diminishing the problem of snapping / clicking hip. If snapping or clicking hip is a problem, you need to reduce your range of motion during this exercise to a size that does not create the sound effects.
Lay on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor in line with your sits bones. Take a strong or heavy theraband and fold it in half. Place the band under your thigh and allow it to support the weight of your gesture leg as you lift that foot off of the floor. Using your hands to create the movement, stir your thigh in the hip socket. Complete 8 circles in both directions. As you are making the circle, avoid movement in the pelvis or supporting side foot.