I once read, “you can’t do anything athletic without hip extension.” Depending on your definition of athletic, it’s a tough statement to argue. When it comes to sports played in the upright position, powerful hip extension is the single most important anatomical movement an athlete can possess. This blog is dedicated to educate our community on the importance of hip extension, its counterpart hip flexion, and what we do at The Factory to build our athletes' hip musculature.
What is Hip Extension/Flexion?
Hip extension is simply an increase in angle between the thigh and pelvis. We are in hip extension when standing or when the leg goes behind our torso. Powerful hip extension requires a powerful contraction of the glutes and hip extensors to thrust the hips forward. Below are a number of professional and collegiate athletes in a powerful hip extension.
Hip flexion is a decrease in angle between the thighs. Think sitting. Hip flexion is important in sprinting mechanics as increased hip flexion in the stride leg creates a larger negative foot strike (i.e. more space to create force in the foot strike.) Here’s a picture of Christian Mccafferey in perfect stride showing hip flexion in the lead stride leg and hip extension in the rear. The second image is of a Factory athlete performing a sprinting drill and looking a lot like CMAC.
So how do we train hip power at the Factory?
First we have to create active flexibility and range of motion in flexion and extension. Think of active flexibility as the ability to use your body while in a lengthened position (the opposite being passive flexibility using external forces to reach an end range of motion.) Here’s a Factory staple exercise to increase active flexibility in both extension and flexion!
Second we build strength in the glutes and hamstrings with exercises such as the single leg Bulgarian split squat. This is probably the single most important exercise we do at the Factory. What I love about the split squat is that we are also increasing flexibility, creating knee stability, and improving range of motion in the ankle.
Third, we create explosive power with exercises such as the Russian kettle bell swing, banded hip thrusts, or power cleans for our more advanced athletes. These exercises also have the benefit of increasing efficiency of the kinetic chain, teaching younger athletes to create power from the ground up.
Chubbs was right, its all in the hips... extension that is.