I wrote the following article for North Pole Hoops, but the drills and exercises here can be applied to any sport, or anyone in general!
The hips are your body’s engine. One of the first changes my basketball
players report to me, within a week of beginning training, is how great their
hips feel when moving on the court.
Performance training is more than just how heavy, and how fast you can
move a weight. Performance training is
also about allowing your joints to move, unrestricted, in a full range of
motion, paired with stability. A combination of pre-requisite mobility, and a
high level of stability will allow your body to move the way it was intended,
while also significantly reducing your risk for injury. In this first of two articles on the hips, I
am going to focus on hip mobility, with the goal of giving you strategies and
drills that you can use to improve the function of your hips.
You never know when you may need a little extra hip mobility!
A study (Iashvili, 1982) concluded that “the level of joint
mobility generally relates strongly to sporting proficiency. The higher the level of sporting proficiency,
the greater the passive and active flexibility”. A lack of mobility at the hips will cause a
change in optimal function at the hips, putting the muscle-tendon system, and
overall joint structure at an increase risk of injury. A concept known as the ‘Joint-by-Joint
Approach’, tells us that some joints in the body are meant for stability, and
some are meant for mobility (Cook, 2010).
The hips are built to be both mobile, and stable, and a lack of freedom
of movement at the hips will cause the knees, and lower back (joints meant for
stability) to compensate. Since the body
works as an integrated kinetic chain, with no postural defects ever being truly
isolated, a lack of mobility in the hips can also lead to structural issues all
the way down to the feet and ankles. This
unnecessary stress contributes heavily to the high incidence of knee, lower
back, and ankle injuries in basketball players.
Without the ability
of your hip to move with the range of motion required in basketball, the
muscles at the hip joint will be unable to generate their full potential of
power in actions such as sprinting, sliding, and jumping. For example, if the hip flexors and hip
adductors (inner thigh) are tight, your glutes (hip extensors & abductors)
will be unable to fully extend and abduct, thus decreasing overall effectiveness,
and movement efficiency.
How to Mobilize your Hips
When correcting postural issues at the hips, it is important
to strike an effective balance between mobility and stability by following a
proper sequence of developing mobility
before stability, and developing passive
before active mobility, along
with isolated before integrated
It is important to first have the pre-requisite mobility in
your hips prior to developing stability.
While stability at the hips can positively affect your ability to
develop sufficient mobility, to develop stability prior to mobility, would be
like allowing concrete to set in the wrong mould.
To develop the necessary mobility for sport performance, you
must ensure you develop sufficient joint range of motion, tissue length, and
muscle flexibility (Cook, 2010). These
qualities can be developed by focusing on both an athlete’s passive
flexibility, and active mobility.
Passive flexibility exercises will primarily improve the
tissue length of the muscle complex itself.
For athletes, active mobility is much more important for sports
performance, however sufficient passive
flexibility is necessary to provide a ‘buffer zone’ in the event that a joint
is unexpectedly pushed beyond its’ normal range of motion as is required in the
sport (Siff, 2004). A lack of passive
flexibility can also lead to longer recovery times due to decreased circulation
of fluids (Ylinen, 2008). Passive
flexibility is typically improved via a slow and constant stretch, which does
not require the athlete to use the muscles surrounding the joint to move to
achieve the desired stretch.
Self-Myofascial Release (via foam rolling etc) may also be needed to
help reduce unnecessary tension in the muscle.
Developing an athletes’ passive flexibility is necessary when the
athlete’s joint range of motion is restricted by the muscle complex itself
(Siff, 2004). Here are a few examples of
exercises that can be used to develop an athletes’ passive flexibility in the
In order to transfer your passive flexibility to movements
required in sport, it is important for the athlete to work on their ability to actively
move their joints through a full range of motion through use of the muscles
surrounding the joint, rather than having an object/person holding the joint in
place for them (Tsatsouline, 2001). It
doesn’t matter how much passive flexibility you have, if you are too weak to
actively move your joint through a full range of motion. Active mobility drills may take place in a
supine, half kneeling, quadruped, or standing position. If performed in a standing position, active
mobility drills also have the capability of being great for fundamental
movement pattern development, by simultaneously training the mobility,
stability, coordination, and timing necessary for athletic movements seen on
the basketball court. Here are a few
examples of exercises that can be used to develop an athletes’ active mobility
in the hips.
How to Integrate into a Practice or Game
Try to avoid passive flexibility work prior to a practice or
game, as it has become common knowledge that static stretching can be detrimental
to an athletes’ power output. However,
if an athlete is extremely inflexible, to the point that it impairs their
fundamental movement patterns, then in order to help prevent injury, the
athlete will be better off performing passive flexibility work. Active mobility drills, such as the examples
provided above, should be used prior to the athlete stepping foot on the
court. Once these have been performed,
it will be important for the athlete to begin movement’s specific to what they
will see in a basketball game. The best
way to do this is to simply have the athlete go through a series of movements
that would actually occur in a game (lay-up line, defensive slides/cuts, ball
handling), beginning with slow movements, and progressing to game speed by the
end of the warm up. When going through
the sport specific movements, be sure that your players are focusing on their
range of motion and muscles they are using (Siff, 2004).
-Your hips need a
combination between mobility & stability
-You must first train for mobility
-Mobility at the hips will allow for more powerful jumping,
sprinting, and sliding
-You will need a combination of passive flexibility, and
-Excessive passive flexibility training (especially at young
ages) can be detrimental to an athletes’ joints, postural development, and
explosiveness (Tsatsouline, 2001)
-Consult with a qualified strength & conditioning coach,
physiotherapist, or other health care/fitness professional to determine exactly
what course of action to take to optimize your hip performance
Siff, M. (2004) Super Training. Super Training Institute.
Cook, G. (2010) Movement. On Target Publications. On Target
Publications. Santa Cruz, CA.
Iashvili, A. (1982) Active and Passive Flexibility in
Athletes Specializing in Different Sports. Teorgiya i Praktika Fizischeskoi
Kultury (translated by M Yessis) 7: 51-52
Tsatsouline, P. (2001) Relax Into Stretch. Advanced Fitness
Solutions. St. Paul, MN.
Ylinen, J. (2008) Stretching Therapy: For Sport and Manual
Therapies. Churchill Livingstone Elsevier