Just about every competitive athlete knows about the benefits of powerful hip strength. That’s why training programs prioritize exercises such as Squats, Deadlifts, Cleans and other hip-dominant exercises that train for strength and power.
However, some muscles can benefit from being isolated, yet many athletes and coaches are quick to neglect them. It is essential to lift heavy resistance to increase speed, but what about stability?
RELATED: Essential Hip Flexor Strengthening Exercises
Imagine driving your car down a national highway. The engine revs, the fuel burns and, of course, the wheels spin. The car will travel faster if the wheels spin faster. But if the other car parts move, the car will lose control.
Imagine what would happen if the doors began to open and close by themselves. Imagine what would happen if the car’s bumper started to erratically rock from side to side. The car would struggle to travel straight. It would move side to side by itself and inevitably slow down.
This is exactly what happens when your hip muscles are weak. If you have a weak midsection, your torso will rotate radically as you struggle to hold a stable posture. The result is slower and inefficient movement and an increased chance of injury.
RELATED: 4 Hip Flexor Stretches to Relieve Tight Hips
Here are three areas you need to focus on so you can hold stability and move faster in your sport.
1. Strengthen the Hamstrings
The first group of muscles we analyze are the hamstrings, which are made up of three muscles, the most notable of which is the Biceps Femoris. The Biceps Femoris has three important functions: hip extension, knee flexion and medial rotation of the hip.
As you can imagine, hip extension and knee flexion are vital movements for any sprinter. Medial rotation of the hip is a hindrance. This rotational movement can inconvenience the running gait by causing side to side movement; slowing down foot landing time (due to the time it takes to re-align the foot); and increase the chance of knee damage due to poor foot landing position.
The Fix: I suggest practicing the Romanian Deadlift (RDL) on a single leg. When performing a Single-Leg RDL, an athlete should always pay attention to the foot that’s elevated off the ground. The toe should always point down to develop coordination of the Biceps Femoris.
2. Activate the Glutes
Anterior pelvic tilt is common among young soccer and rugby players. This demonstrates the importance of proper glute activation, which helps to bring them out of the anterior pelvic tilt position.
To activate the glutes, the Glute Bridge is a fantastic tool. However, many athletes struggle to perform it. This is sometimes due to the athlete’s foot position. The more bend an athlete has at the knee, the less his hamstring is engaged, since a bent knee places the hamstrings in a position of disadvantage.
RELATED: Improve Your Squat With 6 At-Home Hip Flexor Mobility Exercises
The fix: It is crucial that athletes hold a neutral posture and not an overly arched lumbar vertebra. I often coach my athletes to gently punch their glute muscles while performing a Glute Bridge. It encourages them to fire the correct muscle and encourages more somatic feedback.
3. Strengthen the Iliacus
Strengthening the iliacus muscles of the hips is a neglected practice in many sporting disciplines. The iliacus is responsible for elevating the knee past a 90-degree angle, and it’s important for stability of the hip. If this muscle is weak, another will pick up the slack and ruin stabiltiy and posture.
The Fix: Roman Chair Knee Raises work well to increase iliacus strength, but I have found that a simple Single Knee Raise with a hold works even better. Make sure to hold a neutral spine throughout the exercise.