Rise & Grind: Training Your Engine Part 1 – Hip Mobility
Rise & Grind serves as a resource centre for athletes, providing tools pertaining to skill development, injury prevention, muscle development, nutrition, education, X’s and O’s, mental toughness and much more; all this in efforts to maximize your potential!
The hips are your body’s engine. One of the first changes my basketball players report to me, within a week of beginning training, is how great their hips feel when moving on the court. Performance training is more than just how heavy, and how fast you can move a weight. Performance training is also about allowing your joints to move, unrestricted, in a full range of motion, paired with stability. A combination of pre-requisite mobility, and a high level of stability will allow your body to move the way it was intended, while also significantly reducing your risk for injury.
In this first of two articles on the hips, I am going to focus on hip mobility, with the goal of giving you easy to follow strategies and drills that you can use to improve the function of your hips.
A study (Iashvili, 1982) concluded that “the level of joint mobility generally relates strongly to sporting proficiency. The higher the level of sporting proficiency, the greater the passive and active flexibility”. A lack of mobility at the hips will cause a change in optimal function at the hips, putting the muscle-tendon system, and overall joint structure at an increase risk of injury. A concept known as the ‘Joint-by-Joint Approach’, tells us that some joints in the body are meant for stability, and some are meant for mobility (Cook, 2010).
The hips are built to be both mobile, and stable, and a lack of freedom of movement at the hips will cause the knees, and lower back (joints meant for stability) to compensate. Since the body works as an integrated kinetic chain, with no postural defects ever being truly isolated, a lack of mobility in the hips can also lead to structural issues all the way down to the feet and ankles. This unnecessary stress contributes heavily to the high incidence of knee, lower back, and ankle injuries in basketball players.
Without the ability of your hip to move with the range of motion required in basketball, the muscles at the hip joint will be unable to generate their full potential of power in actions such as sprinting, sliding, and jumping. For example, if the hip flexors and hip adductors (inner thigh) are tight, your glutes (hip extensors & abductors) will be unable to fully extend and abduct, thus decreasing overall effectiveness, and movement efficiency.
How to Mobilize your Hips
When correcting postural issues at the hips, it is important to strike an effective balance between mobility and stability by following a proper sequence of developing mobility before stability, and developing passive before active mobility, along with isolated before integrated stability.
It is important to first have the pre-requisite mobility in your hips prior to developing stability. While stability at the hips can positively affect your ability to develop sufficient mobility, to develop stability prior to mobility would be like allowing concrete to set in the wrong mould.
To develop the necessary mobility for sport performance, you must ensure you develop sufficient joint range of motion, tissue length, and muscle flexibility (Cook, 2010). These qualities can be developed by focusing on both an athlete’s passive flexibility, and active mobility.
Passive flexibility exercises will primarily improve the tissue length of the muscle complex itself. For athletes, active mobility is much more important for sports performance, however sufficient passive flexibility is necessary to provide a ‘buffer zone’ in the event that a joint is unexpectedly pushed beyond its’ normal range of motion as is required in the sport (Siff, 2004). A lack of passive flexibility can also lead to longer recovery times due to decreased circulation of fluids (Ylinen, 2008). Passive flexibility is typically improved via a slow and constant static stretch, which does not require the athlete to use the muscles surrounding the joint to move to achieve the desired stretch. Self-Myofascial Release (via foam rolling, massage etc) may also be needed to help reduce unnecessary tension in the muscle. Developing an athletes’ passive flexibility is necessary when the athlete’s joint range of motion is restricted by unnecessary tension the muscle complex itself (Siff, 2004). Here are a few examples of exercises that can be used to develop an athletes’ passive flexibility in the hips.
In order to transfer your passive flexibility to movements required in sport, it is important for the athlete to work on their ability to actively move their joints through a full range of motion through use of the muscles surrounding the joint, rather than having an object/person holding the joint in place for them (Tsatsouline, 2001). It doesn’t matter how much passive flexibility you have, if you are too weak to actively move your joint through a full range of motion. Active mobility drills may take place in a supine, half kneeling, quadruped, or standing position. If performed in a standing position, active mobility drills also have the capability of being great for fundamental movement pattern development, by simultaneously training the mobility, stability, coordination, and timing necessary for athletic movements seen on the basketball court. Here are a few examples of exercises that can be used to develop an athletes’ active mobility in the hips.
How to Integrate into a Practice or Game
Try to avoid passive flexibility work prior to a practice or game, as it has become common knowledge that static stretching can be detrimental to an athletes’ power output. However, if an athlete is extremely inflexible, to the point that it impairs their fundamental movement patterns, then in order to help prevent injury, the athlete will be better off performing passive flexibility work. Active mobility drills, such as the examples provided above, should be used prior to the athlete stepping foot on the court. Once these have been performed, it will be important for the athlete to begin movement’s specific to what they will see in a basketball game. The best way to do this is to simply have the athlete go through a series of movements that would actually occur in a game (lay-up line, defensive slides/cuts, ball handling), beginning with slow movements, and progressing to game speed by the end of the warm up. When going through the sport specific movements, be sure that your players are focusing on their range of motion and muscles they are using (Siff, 2004).
-Your hips need a combination between mobility & stability
-You must first train for mobility
-Mobility at the hips will allow for more powerful jumping, sprinting, and sliding
-You will need a combination of passive flexibility, and active mobility training
-Put more emphasis on active mobility; Excessive passive flexibility training (especially at young ages) can be detrimental to an athletes’ joints, postural development, and explosiveness (Tsatsouline, 2001)
-Everyone is Different! Consult with a qualified strength & conditioning coach, physiotherapist, or other health care/fitness professional to determine specifically what course of action to take to optimize your hip performance
Siff, M. (2004) Super Training. Super Training Institute. Denver, CO.
Cook, G. (2010) Movement. On Target Publications. On Target Publications. Santa Cruz, CA.
Iashvili, A. (1982) Active and Passive Flexibility in Athletes Specializing in Different Sports. Teorgiya i Praktika Fizischeskoi Kultury (translated by M Yessis) 7: 51-52
Tsatsouline, P. (2001) Relax Into Stretch. Advanced Fitness Solutions. St. Paul, MN.
Ylinen, J. (2008) Stretching Therapy: For Sport and Manual Therapies. Churchill Livingstone Elsevier