Hip Flexibility for Hockey and Volleyball

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By Chad Zimmerman

Regardless of your sport or the skill you're using, keeping proper and consistent form is crucial to success. However, constant repetition of any movement can create issues and possibly lead to injuries. Here two experts explain how to maintain hip form for hockey and volleyball. 

If you need to know something about the game of hockey, ask a Canadian. And if your hockey game needs a boost, well, ask a Canadian. Specifically, ask Canadian Anthony Slater, director of performance at Athletes' Performance in Los Angeles. Slater is AP's go-to guy for hockey player program design.

"In hockey, your skating speed is much faster than your best running speed," Slater says. "Working to stop and reaccelerate puts a huge stress on the groin and hip flexors." According to Slater, maintaining long and warm hip flexors and groin during competition can boost your performance and reduce the chance of injury. "Using a progression of exercises, we do a warm up that gets the hip flexors as long as they can be," he says.

Slater's warm-up includes up to 10 exercises. Here, he recommends three that will help you get those hip flexors primed for the ice.

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

• Step into lunge position
• Keep front knee behind toes
• Lower back knee to ground
• Keep upper body relatively straight to stretch hip flexor and squeeze back leg's glute
• Hold for 2-3 seconds
• Repeat 5-6 times for each leg

Coaching Point: Draw in your abs, fire your glutes and lean back slightly to get more of a stretch. Make sure not to arch your back at all.

Knee Hug with Lunge

• Standing, raise one knee to chest
• Grab bent knee with both hands and hug knee to chest
• Hold for one count then step bent leg forward into lunge position
• Keep front knee behind toes
• Lower back knee one to two inches above ground
• Drive off front leg and bring opposite leg up and hug knee to chest
• Repeat 4-5 hugs for each leg

Coaching Point: Step as high as possible to get as much extension on the back leg as you can. You may need to shorten your step into the lunge position. If you start reaching too far, you won't be able to drive off that front leg.

High Knee March

• March with exaggerated and forceful high knee action
• Move arms forcefully through full range of motion
• Keep toes pointed up when driving knee
• March 10-15 yards

Advanced: To increase the speed of movement, progress to a skipping motion, making two consecutive contacts with each foot. This adds rhythm to the warm-up.

Coaching Point: The March should not be a choppy motion but a clean range of motion. It's like a soldier marching by driving his knee up, keeping his toe up and getting full extension from the back leg.

"In volleyball, since you're often in a defensive position—bent over at the hips with your butt stuck out—you have the potential to develop short, inflexible hip flexors," explains Sara Wiley, strength and conditioning coach for the University of Minnesota women's volleyball team. "Tight hips can restrict your range of motion and limit the ground you cover on the court."

By working on hip mobility every day with her athletes, Wiley prevents drop-offs in their performance while improving their overall speed, strength and power. Performing two or three hip mobility exercises before starting any workout also reduces the risk of injury.

Perform 8-12 reps of the following drills, focusing on range of motion and maintaining a good stable joint.

Walking Single-Leg RDL

• Stand on one leg with slight bend in knee
• Bend forward at waist and push hips back
• Keep back leg in line with back
• Reach down and touch ground in front of foot
• Repeat for opposite leg

Side Lunge into Warrior

• Step laterally left and dip hips into side lunge
• Keep right leg straight and both feet pointed forward
• Rotate hips left into forward lunge position
• Reach arms above head and face chest toward ceiling
• Repeat for opposite leg

Split Squats with Isometric Hold

• Step forward into lunge position with weight on front foot
• Keep front knee behind toes and back knee one to two inches off ground
• Lean back, flex glutes and hold flex for 20-30 seconds
• Repeat with opposite leg forward

Kneeling Hip Circles

• Start on hands and knees
• Bring right knee toward chest
• Rotate knee to side, keeping hips parallel to floor
• Circle knee back to starting position
• Repeat in opposite direction
• Repeat for opposite leg

Lying Knee Raise

• Lie on stomach with hips flat on ground
• Rotate instep of right foot toward floor
• Raise right knee toward right armpit
• Return to starting position
• Don't let right foot touch floor during movement
• Keep hips, chest and arms flat on floor throughout movement
• Repeat for opposite leg

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock