The fastest athletes have mobile hips. No, you don't need to be limber like a gymnast. But you do need to have enough hip mobility to move through the range of motion needed to execute proper sprint form.
If your hip flexors are tight, it will be difficult for you to fully extend your hips on the stride, which will ultimately limit your stride power.
Here are several exercises you can use in your warm-ups to prepare your hips for sprint workouts or any sport where sprinting is required.
There are two variations, Front-to-Back and Side-to-Side. Both are great to include at the beginning of your warm-up.
To perform Front-to-Back Leg Swings, stand up tall with your left side facing a stationary object—a fence, a post or another athlete. Reach out with your left hand and hold the object for support. Staying tall, keep your right leg straight and swing it forward and backward from the hip as far as possible. Do not swing your body. When you've performed the desired number of repetitions, turn around so that your right side faces your support and perform with your left leg.
For the Side-to-Side variation, face a stationary object. Lean forward slightly and hold the stationary object with your left hand. Straighten your right leg and move it slightly in front of your body. Swing your right leg side-to-side as high as is comfortable. You can swing your left arm in opposition to help with balance. After the desired number of repetitions, switch sides.
Eagles, performed lying down, are a little more challenging than Leg Swings.
Lie on your back. Straighten your arms and stretch them out to form a "T." Keeping your right leg as straight as possible, lift it and move it across your body until it touches your left hand. Keep your left hand on the ground throughout. Switch sides.
To perform stomach Eagles, lie on your stomach and form a "T" with your body. Move your right leg behind your body and attempt to touch your left hand with your right foot. Switch sides.
These two drills can be performed with track hurdles, any obstacle or a pretend obstacle. There are two variations: stepping forward and stepping over.
To perform the Step Forward Drill, face the obstacle and stand tall. Lift your right foot and bring it tight to your hip, just like in sprinting. Swing your right leg forward, allowing your foot to uncouple from your hip. As this happens, kick your right foot forward so that it is above the obstacle. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, then switch legs.
To perform the Step Over Drill, stand next to the obstacle so that your right side faces it. In a circular motion, lift your right foot over the obstacle. Once your foot touches the ground in front of the obstacle, reverse the motion. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, then switch legs.
Lunges are an important hip mobility exercise. We will focus on two variations: side and step-behind.
To perform the Side Lunge, stand up tall. Keeping your left leg straight, take a big step to the right with your right leg, keeping your right foot pointing straight ahead. Flex your right knee and hip as you land, until your knee is at 90 degrees. Reverse directions. Perform with the left side. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
To perform the Step-Behind Lunges, stand up tall. Lift your right knee in front of you. Swing it around and behind you. As your right foot lands behind you, flex your left knee and hip until your knee is at 90 degrees. Stand up and perform with your left leg. Repeat until the desired number of repetitions have been performed.
Normally most of these exercises should be done for sets of 10-20 repetitions. I like to use Leg Swings and Eagles as general warm-up exercises, with the Hurdle Drills and Lunges as more of a specific warm-up. For example:
- Jog 400 meters
- Leg Swings, front/back: 10-20 times
- Leg Swings, side-to-side: 10-20 times each leg
- Eagles: 10-20 times each leg
- Stomach Eagles: 10-20 times each leg
- Heel to Hip: 10-20 meters
- March: 10-20 meters
- Inchworms: 10-20 meters
- Hurdle Drill, step forward: 10-20 times each leg
- Hurdle Drill, step over: 10-20 times each leg
- High Knee Walk: 10-20 meters
- High Knee Skip: 10-20 meters
- A-Skips: 10-20 meters