You’ve probably heard coaches say, “that guy has great hips”—referring to an athlete who moves fluidly and effortlessly in all directions. A key driver for most sports skills, the hips can make or break your performance. But when’s the last time you saw a teammate get excited about training his or her hips? Like never.
Emphasizing the importance of the hips, a recent video analysis found that three out of four elite football players could not execute a Single-Leg Squat or Hop without their knee collapsing inward, a major indicator for ACL injury (Figure 1). The reason? Weak hips, particularly the external rotators.
Most of these players confessed that, although their training included Squats, Cleans and standard cone and ladder drills, they did not actively strengthen other hip muscles, such as their internal and external rotators and hip flexors. Yet if you want to move efficiently in all directions, you cannot ignore strength and mobility in your hips.
Working on this overlooked area isn’t difficult, and it can be accomplished as part of a well-rounded plan. The key is picking the right exercises and performing them correctly.
Before we discuss hip strengthening techniques, you need to understand the different movements the hips are capable of, so that you will address each one in your training program.
- Flexion – the angle between the thigh and the torso is decreased, as in squatting
- Extension – the angle between the thigh and the torso is increased, as in jumping
- Hyperextension – the thigh is moved backwards beyond the midline of the body, as in sprinting
- Lateral (External) Rotation – the thigh is turned outward, as in the duck walk (feet turned outward)
- Medial (Internal) Rotation – the thigh is turned inward, as in walking with feet turned inward
- Hip Abduction – the thigh is opened and moved away from the centerline of the body
- Hip Adduction – the thigh is moved toward the centerline of the body
In Part 2 of this series, I will provide hip training techniques and programs designed to build explosive multi-directional speed.