Hip Mobility for Throwers and Strikers

29 Aug Hip Mobility for Throwers and Strikers

Are you an athlete participating in golf, baseball, tennis, softball, volleyball, ice hockey, or even lacrosse? If so, the execution of the athletic actions involved in your sport very much entails the hips. The hips are integral in the ability to generate rotary power, maintain postural positioning, execute overhead throwing motions, swinging of the bat, stick, or raquet, changes of direction, and acceleration. Recognize limitations in the hip complex can adversely affect every aspect of the athletic actions in your sport, lower the power outputs from your body, increase the potential  for  injury, and decrease the upside of your athletic career.

Introduction

To give you a little background on the importance of the hips I recall a conversation with Mark Verstegan founder of Exos (formerly Athlete’s Performance) in regards to the hips. I remembering him stating there are over 20 muscles which attach to the hips. Think about that for one moment. Twenty muscles associated with one joint, that is a large number of structures associated with a single joint of the body and points to the importance of addressing the hips in your strength and conditioning programs. If you think about for a moment how much time is spent on “rotator cuff” programs for the MLB pitcher?

This structure of the body only entails 4 muscles and every pitcher will perform some type of rotator cuff program.  The importance of hips with over 20 muscles associated with the structure I could argue may be more important than rotator cuff training and at the very least should only reinforce the importance of addressing the hips for optimal health and performance.

The hips are a very complex structure of the kinetic chain relative to sports performance. The structures of the hips contain very strong and powerful muscles supporting the kinetic chain and generating speed. In addition, the hips are an integral structure in terms of postural positioning and the executing of functional movement patterns. In order to achieve these requirements of sport, the soft tissue and articular structures of the hips must have the appropriate levels of extensibility and ranges of motion in order to support and execute these positions and movement patterns. As a result of the need to develop extensibility, mobility, strength, and power within the structures of the hip a comprehensive set of modalities is required.

The first step in development of the hips is mobility. I will refer to noted physical therapist Gray Cook on this subject and his mantra “moblity before stability.” This simple statement essentially indicates the process of developing the kinetic chain begins with creating extensibility and range of motion. Once this step has commenced the process of developing stability, strength, and power can be implemented. The same holds true for the hips where the process begins with developing extensibility and mobility. Before we outline these processes let us take a moment to review the functional anatomy of he hips so that we are all on the same page.

Functional Anatomy of the Hips

he 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 innerbody.com)

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.

We can recognize from the discussion on the functional anatomy of the hips the number of structures associated with the hips is extensive and the functioning of these structures is very extensive to say the least. Per our previous statements addressing the hips relative to the optimal sports performance is extremely in-depth and complex. We recognize the first step in this process centers around the development of mobility.

Hip Mobility

Mobility is a combination of both joint range of motion and flexibility. The hip is considered a ball and socket joint with a large intended range of motion. This large intended range of motion allows the athlete the ability to execute multi-planar movement patterns, maintain postural positioning, and optimize power development. If mobility is limited the ability to perform movement patterns efficiently, execute complex athletic actions during competition, and generate power can be impeded.

Mobility may become limited due decreased joint ranges of motion from articular deformations, limited extensibility of surrounding soft tissues or a combination of both. The goal within a strength and conditioning program is to assist in the development of the proper levels of flexibility, joint range of motion, and mobility for the athlete. In order to accomplish this goal  it is necessary to understand certain principles associated with flexibility and mobility training. These principles are elasticity, viscosity, and plasticity.

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, soft tissues demonstrate certain properties making them unique within the kinetic chain. Elasticity, Viscosity, and Plasticity are these soft tissue properties identified by NASM.

Elasticity

Elasticity can be defined as the “spring-like” characteristic of soft tissue that enables the tissue to return to its original shape and size after external forces are removed from the kinetic chain. Elasticity within the muscular system coincides with the principle of elastic limit.

Elastic Limit is the cornerstone of flexibility training and is defined as the smallest amount of stress needed to create a permanent change in length of the tissue. (Alter, Science of Flexibility, Human Kinetics Publishing, 1996) External forces in the form of flexibility training below the elastic limit will not incur a permanent change within the tissue. Once the external forces placed upon the tissue, if below the elastic limit, are removed, the soft tissue will return to its previous length.

Plasticity

Permanent adaptation of soft tissue in terms of elongation is defined as plasticity. Plasticity is the property of soft tissue that allows for permanent changes in length when loaded beyond its elastic limit. (Clark, Integrated Flexibility Training, NASM, 2000) According to Woo and Zairns, a 3-5% increase in tissue length is required to elicit a plastic deformation. In addition, when forces exceed 6-10% micro-tissue failure can occur resulting in injury. For this reason it is very important for the strength and conditioning professional to work within these percentages of tissue elongation to develop the desired tissue extensibility without resulting injury.

Viscoelasticity

 Viscoelasticity is the fluid-like property of soft tissue allowing for deformation to occur without complete recovery after the external forces are removed from the kinetic chain.  (Alter, Science of Flexibility, Human Kinetics Publishing, 1996) The goal of flexibility training is the incomplete recovery of soft tissue in the form of elongation from the external forces placed upon the soft tissues. It is this viscous property of soft tissues that allows for the modality of flexibility training to be beneficial in the development of the required ranges of motion and mobility needed for the golf swing.

Once we understand these underlying principles to the development of extensibility, the process of building a mobility program for the hips can commence. A mobility program for the hips will contain distinct training modalities. These modalities will consist of exercises of develop both soft tissue extensibility and joint range of motion.

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Mobility Training for the Hips

The process by which the development of hip mobility within the kinetic chain occurs is through the implementation of joint range of motion and flexibility modalities. The athlete must understand it is not one type of training or group of exercises through which hip mobility is developed. It is through a comprehensive series of differing types of training modalities this goal is achieved.

It is through this integrated approach to mobility training of the hips by which the required ranges of motion and muscular extensibility will occur. An integrated approach to mobility training will incorporate 3 categorical types of mobility training: 1) Self-myofascial Release/Static Stretching, 2) Joint Range of Motion, and 3) Dynamic.

Self-myofascial Release & Static Stretching

The goal of these modalities is improved extensibility of soft tissues associated with the muscular system of the kinetic chain. Self-myofacial release utilizes a bio-foam roller, stick, or therapy ball to apply pressure onto the muscular system of the kinetic chain whereas static stretching incorporates passive movement of a muscle to the first tissue tension point and holding it for a specified period of time.

Self-myofascial release addresses two components within the muscular system for improved extensibility. Research indicates that the application of concentrated pressure is influential on fascia in the muscular system. (Michael Clark, Director, National Academy of Sports Medicine) The pressure applied improves the extensibility and viscosity of the fascia located in the muscular system. In addition, self-myofascial release techniques reduce over activity in muscles spindles causing hyperactivity within associated soft tissues.

The process by which self-myofascial release is implemented is with the use of a bio-foam roll, stick, or therapy ball by the cliental. The fitness professional will instruct the client to roll over the target muscle searching for “hot spots” where tenderness or mild discomfort is felt. After the client locates a trigger point (i.e. “hot spot”), instruct the client to maintain pressure on the spot for 15-20 seconds. The application of pressure for this period of time allows for an autogenic inhibition response within the muscle spindles and an elongation of fascia in the muscular system to occur.

Static stretching addresses extensibility within the muscular system of the kinetic chain through the process of taking the target muscle to its first tissue tension point and holding this position for 30 seconds. Research indicates the benefits provided by static stretching are in improved viscoelasticty in both the fascia and muscular systems.

Joint Range of Motion

Joint Range of Motion modalities are comprised of actively moving a joint through a specified range of motion. This process is achieved through the utilization of the agonists, synergists, and antagonists associated with the target joint. The activation of a joints agonist causes reciprocal inhibition of the associated antagonist. This results in a greater range of motion within the targeted musculature and associated joint.

The implementation of these modalities occurs when the athlete utilizes a joint’s agonists, synergists, and stabilizers to move an extremity limb into a stretch position and holding it for 2-3 seconds. An example of this technique would be an athlete performing the active straight leg hamstring raise to contract the quadriceps/hip flexors to actively move the leg into a position where the hamstring is inhibited.

Dynamic

Dynamic mobility training is the process of integrating the entire kinetic chain into multiple planes of motion. Force production, reduction, and stabilization are key components of dynamic mobility training where the client will be required to stabilize components of the kinetic chain while simultaneously performing corollary movement patterns. Research indicates dynamic mobility training improves the rate of force production and reduction, motor unit recruitment, and neuromuscular efficiency within the entire kinetic chain. As a result, dynamic mobility training is the final series of modalities to be performed prior to athletic activities or strength training activities.

The implementation of dynamic mobility training requires the utilization of minimal loads (body weight is ideal), the maintenance of proper posture during the movement pattern, the ability to control the movement patterns associated with the exercise, and the correct sequencing of the neuromuscular firing patterns required of the exercise. An example of these requirements would be the multi-planar lunge where the client is required to perform a lunge movement in multiple planes of motion. In order to perform this exercise correctly, the client must maintain the proper postural positions of the exercise, correctly sequence the force production and reduction requirements of the exercise, and synergistically recruit the entire kinetic chain. The process by which dynamic mobility training improves the range of motion and extensibility is through the process of reciprocal inhibition.

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Summary

The hips are an integral structure of the kinetic chain for the athletic population. This  structure is invariably involved in most every component of executing athletic actions. As a result it is imperative the  athlete address the hips  within their strength and conditioning programs. Understanding the anatomical structures and functional anatomy of the hips lays the foundation for addressing the hips appropriately. Once a base understanding of the anatomy is understood we recognize the first step in this process is mobility. The development of mobility provides the athlete with the ability to perform functional movement patterns efficiently, optimize power development, and execute complex movement patterns during competition. Developing mobility in the hips entails the utilization of a number of different modalities which cohesively develop the required levels of mobility within the hips for optimal performance.

Article References

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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.