Load the Hip for Better Lower Body Training

 

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

 

If you are a performance enhancement coach, you are probably (hopefully) constantly searching for the best/right exercises to help keep your athletes and clients healthy, performing well and achieving their goals.

If you are an athlete or fitness enthusiast, you are most likely constantly searching for the best exercises to help keep you healthy, performing well and achieving your goals.

Whether you are the strength coach, the athlete/client or the fitness enthusiast, you probably read more than your fair share of blogs or magazine articles throughout the day, or at least hear about the “latest and greatest” on the news or from your friends and family.

Some of you may even spend Saturday night with a cup of tea and protein shake in hand listening to podcasts or watch continuing educational DVDs covering “the best exercises”…but then again, what kind of loser would do that?

NOT ME!!

While this is all well and good, the best exercises are hardly ever anything new!

While the fitness industry is constantly growing and evolving (which is one of the greatest characteristics of the field), if you backtrack months, years or even decades you will discover that there are relatively few new exercises.

Rather, it is the application (some good, some not so good) of certain exercises that has continued to evolve. And with this evolution, new and improved cues come to light in order to help athletes, clients and the fitness enthusiast better perform the exercise’s and better understand what they should be focusing on. With this, the goal is to enhance the results of the time and effort spent training.

With that being said, there is one concept that I have been implementing with my athletes that has allowed me to consistently improve most lower body exercises.

Whether I am working to get an athlete to squat, hinge (deadlift), lunge or step up better, the concept of “loading the hip” has drastically improved the results of the exercise.

I touched upon this briefly HERE, but wanted to further expound upon it.

Loading the Hip: The Problem

Many times athletes will focus on trying to maintain an upright torso when performing lower body movements. Whether it is because they have read certain articles, watched friends or other gym goers perform the exercises or have been instructed by a coach to “keep your chest up and ass out,” the upright torso position does not allow us to take full advantage of our hips prime drivers…the GLUTES.

A little too upright for my liking…

When too upright, we have the tendency to over extend the low back and anteriorly tilt the pelvis.  This places the glutes in a position that is disadvantageous to full AND timely contraction.

This is no good as the glutes should be doing the majority of the work for the movement. They provide high level hip stability and force transfer, as well as prevent the over use of other compensatory movement patterns (such as using the hamstrings, adductors, hip flexors or quads as primary drivers of the movement…hip extension), that often result in muscle strains, joint damage or other overuse injuries.

So with that being said, we must focus on getting the glutes to “turn on” and perform the work.

Loading the Hip: The Solution

This is where “loading the hip” comes into play. Instead of loading the quads, hamstrings, hip flexors etc. by keeping the torso upright and hip forward, focus on pushing the hips back and allowing the torso to pitch forward to an “athletic position.”

This guy has the forward pitch or “hip load” down!

This promotes more hip flexion (bringing the thigh towards the chest) which places the glutes on stretch and effectively loads the hip…think of it as your glutes being a rubberband that has been stretched and ready to fire off.

Loaded up and ready to fire

I have successfully used a few cues to help athletes accomplish this.

– “Imagine you are about to take off for a sprint” …this has been my money maker for lunges and step ups.

– “Act like you are about to jump and hold the bottom position”…another money maker when trying to allow athletes to feel a proper hip hinge (deadlift).

– “Bring your shoulders over your knees” (Squats, Deadlifts, Lunges, Step Ups).

– “Get into the best position so I can’t push you over” (Squats).

– “Push your hips back as if you were trying to touch the wall behind you” (Squats, Deadlifts).

– “Imagine a rope around your waist and I’m pulling your hips back” (Squats, Deadlifts, Lunges).

These are just a few that have worked well. No matter which cue you use, the final position is what matters.

As always, with these movements you have to be aware of spinal position. Loading the hips is great as long as the athlete/client has sufficient core control in order to maintain a neutral (“straight”) spine.

Getting the hips back and “loaded” is critical if you want to maximize your lower body exercises, stay healthy and promote greater strength gain and athleticism.

Having the hips forward and the torso upright (completely vertical to the ground) places more of the demand on the quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, and low back and not only leaves you at a greater risk for overuse injury, but also prevents you from taking full advantage of your primary “powerhouse” muscles (GLUTES).

For a visual demonstration, check out the video below, then load it up and get your arse in the game (I just went Scottish on you for no good reason).

Like this post if this has helped you, share it with your friends and make sure to help others by sharing any other cues you use in the comments…which cues help you the most?

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