Do you feel limited or tight with your hips while running or sprinting? A key to enhancing performance and force production is to have increased mobility within the Hips. In order to gain the maximum amount of mobility you must have a proper warm-up that focuses on the specific range of motion and the stretch-shortening cycle for your sport. As in a sprinter would have a greater stretch-shortening cycle than a jogger within the working musculature. Having sufficient mobility within the Hips is a contributing factor to increasing the stretch-shortening cycle of the musculature in the lower body.
Every warm-up should have two components, one a general warm-up and two a sport-specific warm-up. The warm-up should gradually progress and provide sufficient intensity to increase muscle and core temperatures without causing fatigue or reducing energy stores. Also having a sound understanding of the two main components to flexibility in your warm-up routine which will provide the direction to gain maximum performance and force production. The two components that measure range of motion of a muscle group are Static and Dynamic flexibility. Static flexibility is the range of possible movement about a joint and its surrounding muscles during a passive movement. While Dynamic flexibility is the available range of motion during active movements and it requires voluntary muscle action. Since we a focused on increasing Hip mobility, we will focus on Dynamic flexibility of the Hip with a few drills that can help increase your range of motion.
Dynamic Stretches for the Hip
The Active Spiderman Stretch is a great all around stretch. The positioning of the drill is kneeling with hands on the floor in front of you in a lunge position so that it allows you to stretch the hip flexors of the back leg as well as the adductors and glutes on the front side hip. Push your hips forward as you actively and slowly push the forward knee laterally. This drill is best done actively, with alternating each side and contract the backside glute with each rep. This position the front leg you can see how this stretch would be effective for improving your squat.
The Posterior Self Hip Mobilization is a perfect drill for those who suffer from a tight posterior/inferior hip capsule, limiting flexion and external rotation. The key here is to keep the femur relatively vertical with the knee driving pressure straight up through the femur into the back of the hip. Gently shifting in and out of flexion, adduction and external rotation will actively stretch the hip capsule and surrounding musculature allowing the femoral head to glide posteriorly and inferiorly during the squat.
As a suggestion, add posterior traction by using a resistance band can enhance the effectiveness of the drill as well as provide relief for those of you who have anterior impingement with the hip in flexion.
The Softball Pin and Stretch is obviously done if the foam roller will not get the job done and if you have some really tight hips. Softballs seem to be the perfect size while balancing both tolerability and effectiveness. Although Lacrosse balls are popular, they are often too small and painful to use effectively. Position yourself by finding the target area with the ball and then actively Pin and Stretch the area underneath, keeping the ball still but actively moving the hip joint. This technique is more effective because the Pin and Stretch provides more consistent pressure on the target area. Also, by actively flexing and externally rotating the hip you can mobilize into the specific ranges of that you are looking to improve for the deep squat.
The Goblet Squat Hold is simply an isometric hold at the bottom of a Goblet Squat but it can be brutally effective to improve your hip flexibility. Using a moderately heavy weight lower into the bottom of the squat with the elbows just inside the knees, resting on the medial side of the Vastus Medialis. Keeping the feet straight, use your elbows to drive your knees outward increasing the stretch on the adductors. Do not forget to breathe in deeply for roughly 10 breathes through the nose and forcefully out through the mouth during the entire drill to feel the full effect of the stretch.
Gaining increased mobility of the Hip can lead to enhanced performance and force production. Having a solid foundation of strength and mobility within the Hip is beneficial to every sport and for athletes at all ages and levels. In the previous article focused on the management of injuries to the Hip and the series will focus on strengthening of the Hip. If you would like more information about this topic please remain part of this blog to learn about the Hip.
Article by: Coach Derrick Campbell, USTF-L1