How To Apply Franklin Method Imagery In Pilates To Improve Hip Flexibility & Stability

Monday February 5th, 2018

by Tom Waldron

Optimal hip function is important. Not just for the hip, but for other areas of the body too. It is very common that issues at the hip can hinder how the patellar tracks in the femoral groove, or how well your spine moves. The pelvis houses the body’s centre of gravity so one can assume that having a healthy and well functioning pelvis will positively influence a person’s experience in exercise but also in how they move in their daily lives. 
Rose MacDonald, the physiotherapist at Crystal Palance Athletic Club which as an elite athletic club in the UK found that 60% of the athletes she worked with who had knee pain also had hip ‘dysfunction’. She concluded that the pelvic ‘dysfunction’ was contributory to the knee pain her athletes were experiencing…. 

So the pelvis is a really important area and yet so few people know how the pelvis is evolutionary designed to function in daily life… Yes you can go to exercise classes like pilates to strengthen muscles around the pelvis, but doing strength exercises for the glutes or pelvic floor doesn’t always guarantee an improvement in pelvic function. 

In fact, it is common that a lot of people are just practicing their old and unconscious patterns (like tension or lack of co-ordination) in exercise classes. Strengthening those patterns that perhaps aren’t supporting them in their health and fitness goals. 

So with all that in mind, do you want to learn another exercise? Or do you want to learn how to be fundamentally efficient in your life? If you move in an efficient way, every exercise you do will produce health and efficiency. If you move in a way that is discombobulated and produces tension, then every exercise you do may reinforce that pattern….

‘You don’t get what you want, you get what you practice’ – Eric Franklin

If we can embody healthy function at the hip, that will be a great foundation to do pilates, yoga or more importantly, move in the rest of our lives. So let’s take a look at the hip…

Pelvic Power

The hip joint is made up of two bones, the femur head and the ilia (accetabulm). There are many movement possibilities at the hip joint along with many muscles that help power those movements. For this article we are going to be focusing on hip flexion and extension.

Hip flexion is not ‘purely’ flexion. It is a combination of movements. When you flex your hip, the femur head ‘rolls back and down’ inside the acetabulum.

As you lower your leg and bring the leg behind you into extension, the femur head ‘rolls up and forward’ inside the acetabulum. The is the osteo-kninematics of the femur head in flexion and extension. Before we embody this function, let’s take a moment to notice our current baseline at our hip joints. Pelvic Power by Eric Franklin. 2003

Status quo – Stand up and notice the current awareness of your hip joints. Be aware of the weight placement through your legs and feet. Finally take note of your current ‘pelvic posture’. Do you feel like you have even weight through both legs?

Embodying The Hip Joints

Find your right hip joint with your left hand. Remember to not get confused by palpating the ‘bony’ part of your hip which is the ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine). The hip joint is more narrow and closer to your central axis. From here, lift the right leg into the air and imagine your right femur head ‘rolling back and down’ inside the acetabulum. When you lower your leg down and behind your body, bringing your hip into extension, imagine the femur head ‘rolling up and forward’. Repeat 5 times before taking your hand away and notice if there is a positive change in the right hip joint/leg in comparison to the left. 

Notice the difference in weight transfer from the practiced side to the non practiced side. Does it feel like you’re more stable and integrated with the right leg in comparison to the left leg? Notice hip flexion and hip flexibility. Does it feel like the right leg is more flexible in comparison to the left leg? By moving and imaging function we are upgrading the neuromuscular feedback from the body to the brain, this generally results in improved flexibility, more stability and less tension.

Now move onto the left leg. Pelvic Power by Eric Franklin. 2003

Let’s Apply This Franklin Method Hip Embodiment To Pilates Exercises

Dead Bugs – Lye supine with your hips and knees flexed. Bring both legs into ‘table top’. Imagine both femur heads sinking and relaxing into the acetabulum. Move into 20 alternate dead bugs. As you lower one foot down to the floor can you imagine the femur head ‘rolling up and forward’ as you bring the leg back up to the table top position can you imagine the femur head ‘rolling back and down’ inside the acetabulum. Notice the increased sense of awareness at the hip joints and pelvis as you do this exercise.

Single Leg Stretches – Lye supine with both legs in the ‘table top’ position. Stretch one leg away imagining the femur heads ‘rolling up and forward’ bring the leg back into the ‘table top’ while imaging the femur head ‘rolling back and down’. Repeat for 20 repetitions to both legs. Again when you have finished, notice the improved sense of feeling at the pelvis. 

What You Focus On Is Just As Important As What You Do

You can apply the femur head imagery to many more exercises be it pilates, sport, dance or yoga. For most people the real value from movement and exercise is what they focus on rather than what they are physically doing. A person can be doing great exercises but if their focus is negative, they most likely will not have a positive movement experience. Focusing on function while moving  allows the mind and the body to be united to the same goal – to have a positive movement experience. 

‘Embodying function improves function’ – Eric Franklin 

Dynamic Alignment Through Imagery 2nd Edition by Eric Franklin. 2012

You can learn more about Tom here:


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