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I did Tae Kwan Do for many years, but I took a hiatus for a couple of years and now that I've started up again, I find myself ending nearly every class with a minor strain in my right hip. I started coming to classes early to do extra stretching, which has helped some, but I still seem to strain it on a fairly regular basis.

Are there some stretches, strength-building exercises, or other habits that will help me prevent this from happening/recover more quickly? Or modifications to common techniques that will make things easier on my hips until I'm back to baseline strength and flexibility? Related to this question, but I think more specific and I have been keeping that advice in mind.

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First, it's normal to have hip soreness when beginning or restarting TKD. It's hard to say if you're causing yourself real injury, and as always I suggest you consult a physician if this is a real concern for you. Only you can really tell if the soreness/strain you're feeling is the normal soreness of training, or a sign of something serious. Monitor it closely.

A few exercises that will help, some of these you may already do:

  • This video at 8:52 Feet together. Face down. Knees spread.
  • This video at 2:44 Classic hip flexor stretch. Kneeling, pressing hip forward.
  • Could not find video or image for these next two so bear with me:
    • On your hands and knees, lift bent leg to the side like a dog peeing. Do about 20 reps each leg.
    • On your hands and knees, tuck bent knee into chest, then slowly lift until the thigh is parallel with the floor behind you. Keep the leg bent as before 20 reps each leg.
  • Dynamic stretch kicks. Straight leg. With ankle flexed (contrast with toe pointed) puts more emphasis on the hip. Try to kick yourself in the forehead. If you succeed, it will be super funny (kidding). Exercise caution with dynamic stretching, as it may aggravate injured muscles.
  • Same dynamic kicking as above, but do outside and inside crescents. I usually do these after the straight stretching kicks mentioned above. The circular crescent kicks put more emphasis on the hip than the straight stretch kicks. Try to get full range of motion.
  • Slow kicks with one hand on the wall. Practice full range of motion with your chambers. This will strengthen your hips as well as increase range of motion. Your instructor will be able to direct you through these. Remember, you have your hand on the wall so you don't have to worry about balance, and you're going slow so you don't have to worry about speed, so no excuse not to get the kick technically perfect.
  • Squats. This is for strength and range of motion in the hips.
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I would need to see you in action to really give you a proper answer. Stretching helps, but if you're performing one or more techniques wrong, you may hurt your hips too. You may also have inflammation of the hips which is exacerbated by the exercises. My wife incidentally has this problem which is why I mention it.

While you have the above things looked at by someone who can see and touch you, I suggest focusing on not exaggerating any movements. Most injuries come from doing things with your joints that they were not designed for and/or are not used to doing. For instance, if you are leading your turning (roundhouse) kick with your hip to such an extent that it feels like you're swinging your foot on a piece of rope, you're doing it wrong. Ditto for exaggerating the side kick's hip movement or pushing your center-split too far too soon.

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