Hip Mobility & Strength for Athletic Performance

Those of you who have trained under me are probably sick to death of how much I stress the importance of proper hip function. I truly believe that regaining proper function of the hip complex is a preventative measure for injuries as well as improved athletic performance.

Probably one the most fundamental movements we all need to master is a proper squat. It carries over to a majority of our daily functional activities such as getting out of a chair, walking up stairs, and lifting objects. It also pertains to the daily function of our athletes such as maintaining a good base position as a lineman, jumping for a basketball player, and exploding out of the blocks as a sprinter.

We have to think of our lower extremities as a continuous chain of joints.  As a student, I was taught the term “load sharing” from my mentor Omi Iwasaki, from the Exos (Formerly Athletes’ Performance) training facility in Carson, CA. Basically, we need the hips, knees, and ankles to work in unison while maintaining good core stability in order to maximize function and prevent injury.

Have you ever thought about why basketball players have “jumper’s knees?” Is it because their quads aren’t strong enough? Or is it because their quads are doing too much because their hip function sucks?

Regain Mobility: We need to ensure there is proper joint mobility and muscle flexibility to actually allow the hip joint to move. This step can be achieved with various manual therapy, self-myofascial, & stretching techniques. This step is often times overlooked and people will get straight to the strengthening. There is no use strengthening something that doesn’t have a functional available range.

Optimal Activation: We need to make sure that we wake up the muscles that were “asleep.” Most often the culprits are the gluteus medius and maximus. Simple exercises such as clam-shells, sidelying hip abduction, and prone hip extension with good technique are often a good start.

Integration into Functional Movement: Exercises such as single leg balancing, pushing movements such as squatting, and pulling movements such as single leg dead lifts are all great ways to carry over our previous steps. An important concept is that these postures and movements should be performed with minimal to no compensation because we need to, “practice like we play.”

Coaching: You need someone that can not only teach you the movements, but also make sure you are feeling the exercise in the correct muscle groups. Our bodies are smart in the sense that we are the “masters of cheating or compensation.” The body will always take the “path of least resistance” because it is easier and less work.

Let’s train our bodies to move the way they were designed to!

~ Dr. Jason Han, PT, DPT, SCS, CSCS, TPI-CGFI