Functional Anatomy of the Hip Complex

05 May Functional Anatomy of the Hip Complex

The Hip Complex is an oft discussed anatomical area of the kinetic chain when discussing performance training. I recall sitting on a discussion board with Mark Verstegan of Athlete’s Performance a few years ago and question came from the audience on the importance of the hips relative to performance training.

Mark began answering the question by stating the hip joint within the kinetic chain consists of over 20 muscular attachments. Just recognizing this statement in of itself points to the importance of this joint relative to human movement. If we pause for a moment and think about the hips, the number of soft tissues associated with this joint, and the requirements of the hips relative to human movement, it is imperative the health and fitness professional understand the anatomy associated with this joint.

The articular structures comprising the hip are the pelvis and femur. The hip joint is classified as a ball and socket joint. The structure of the hip joint provides for a high range of motion with the femur circumventing through a 360 degree circle. The femur can also rotate 90 degrees its axis. (Inner Body, Hip Joint.

Once we understand the articular structures of the hip complex we can move onto the functional anatomy of this joint. I often reference Michael Clark of the National Academy of Sports Medicine when we begin to discuss functional anatomy. What we must recognize is functional anatomy is very different than the anatomy we learned in college. In general anatomy was typically discussed in a state of independent joints within the kinetic chain. For example, the knee joint is a hinge joint and the hamstring complex on the posterior side of the kinetic chain was an active flexor of this joint.

We know from a functional anatomical perspective the hamstring complex is involved in much more than just flexion of the knee. These soft tissues are responsible for deceleration in the gait pattern, extension of the hip, and stabilization of both the knee and hip. That being said, understanding the functional anatomy of the hip is imperative in performance training regardless of the clientele base you are training.

A number of muscle groups are associated with the hip complex, and as a result it is necessary to review each individual muscle group in order to understand the functioning of these soft tissues relative to hip complex.

Anterior Upper Leg

The anterior upper leg contains the Quadriceps; a grouping of five individual muscles. The rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, and vastus medialis comprise the quadriceps. The Sartorius and Iliopsoas are additionly found in the anterior portion of the upper leg. The rectus femoris is a primary extensor of the knee and the rectus femoris is a flexor of the hip. The sarotius is a flexor and rotator of the hip in addition to flexion of the knee. The iliopsoas is a strong hip flexor. The integrated function of the quadriceps, sartoirus, and iliopsoas is stabilization of the knee and hip, deceleration of knee flexion, abduction, internal rotation, and deceleration of hip extension.

Posterior Upper Leg

The Hamstrings are the primary grouping of muscles of the posterior upper leg. The hamstrings are comprised of the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris. The hamstring complex is an extensor of the hip joint and a flexor of the knee. The integrated function of the hamstrings is as stabilizers of both the hip and knee during movement and decelerators of knee extension.

Medial Upper Leg

The medial upper leg consists primarily of the Adductors of the hip and leg. The pectineus, adductor longus, brevis, magnus, and gracilias are the primary musculature of the medial thigh responsible for adducting, flexing, and internally rotating of the femur. Internal rotation is of primary importance in the golf swing to properly rotate in the backswing and downswing. Restrictions in mobility or stability within these muscles can adversely affect the golf swing. In addition, the adductor complex stabilizes the hip and acts as a decelerator of hip flexion.

Gluteal Region

The gluteal region is comprised of the musculature of the posterior and lateral portions of the pelvis and upper leg. The Gluteal muscles are comprised of the gluteus maximus, medius, minimus and are arranged in three layers. The gluteus maximus is the most superficial of the three muscles and is a primary extensor, and lateral rotator of the hip. The gluteus medius is located laterally on the hip. It creates abduction, and medial rotation of the hip in addition to stabilizing the pelvis. The gluteus minimus is the deepest layer of the three gluteal muscles and is an abductor, medial rotator, and stabilizer of the hip. The gluteals are commonly referred to as the ‘kings’ of the golf swing because of their primary involvement in every phase of the golf swing. Internal rotation, external rotation, stabilization, and rotary speed development are the responsibilities of the gluteals during the golf swing.

The Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL), Iliotibial Tract (IT Band), and Piriformis are the additional structures found within the posterior pelvis and lateral upper leg. The TFL, located next to gluteus medius, assists in abduction of the thigh, internal and medial rotation, and flexion of the hip. The TFL, in addition, is a stabilizer of both the hip and knee. The IT Band is comprised of fascia and runs longitudinally from the iliac crest to the tibia and assists in stabilization of the knee. The piriformis originates at the sacrum and inserts on the greater trochanter are a lateral rotator and abductor of the femur. The piriformis in concert with a series of additional muscles provide stabilization of the pelvis, assistance in hip extension, and deceleration of internal rotation.

Recognizing the functional anatomy of the hip complex provides the health and fitness professional a foundation by which to develop comprehensive training programs for their clientele. Obviously, a number of additional requirements are needed in the development of such programming but functional anatomy is definitively a base by which this type of programming can be developed.

About Performance Coach Sean Cochran: Sean Cochran, one of the most recognized performance coaches in sports today. A career spanning positions with 2 major league baseball organizations, over 10 years on the PGA Tour and work with top professionals including three-time Masters, PGA, and British Open Champion Phil Mickelson, future hall of fame Trevor Hoffman, and Cy Young award winner Jake Peavy provides Sean a proven track record of success.  He has been involved in the production of numerous performance videos and authored books including; Performance Golf Fitness, Complete Conditioning for Martial Arts, and Fit to Hit. He has been a presenter of educational seminars for numerous organizations including the world renown Titleist Performance Institute.

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