Whether you're a football player, power lifter, Olympic weightlifter, CrossFitter, runner or just an everyday athlete, the importance of the fully extendable hip is absolutely crucial to your success, the body working at its optimum and in preventing the build up of chronic injury
Hips that remain flexed for a prolonged time (sitting, driving, watching the world cup ect) often develop flexion contractures. This situation may be associated with gross weakness of the hip extensors, a painful or inflamed hip joint capsule or a chronically subluxed hip. Over time, adaptive shortening occurs in the flexor muscles and capsular ligaments, thereby limiting full hip extension.
An athlete that runs with short steps, or who can't open their hips at the top of squat, Olympic lift, and/or deadlift shows an indication that they lack the activation and strength required through the hip extensors(gluts) and have developed a shortening of the hip flexors.
With a hip flexion contracture, the hip remains partially flexed while the person attempts to stand upright. This posture redirects the force of body weight anterior to the hip, creating a hip flexion torque. Whereas gravity normally extends the hip during standing, gravity now acts as a hip flexor. In order to prevent collapse into full hip and knee flexion, active forces are required from hip extensor muscles. In turn, the metabolic cost of standing increases and in some persons, over time, increases the desire to sit. Often, prolonged sitting perpetuates the circumstances that initiated the flexion contracture.
Standing with a hip flexion contracture interferes with the joint’s ability to optimally dissipate compression loads across the hip. Hip joint forces increase in response to the greater muscular demand to support the flexed posture. Furthermore, standing with a partially flexed hips realigns the joint surfaces such that the regions of thicker articular cartilage no longer optimally overlap. This arrangement theoretically increases the stress across the hip, which over time may increase the wear on the joint surfaces.
Here's some tips on maximising hip extension
- Strengthen the hip extensor muscles (glute max, hamstrings, and posterior head of adductor magnus as primary. Posterior fibers of glute medius and anterior fibers of the adductor magnus as secondary)
Stretch the hip flexors and capsular ligaments (extension combined with slight abduction and internal rotation – close packed position)
Activation of the abdominal muscles through posterior tilting of the pelvis may also encourage extension of the hip joint.
We encourage most clients to develop the ability to posteriorly tilt their pelvis in disassociation from their lumbar spine.
Brett Wiener is an Osteopath and has coached at several locations across Melbourne. Much of his work can be found throughout the Level 1 Injury Prevention & Management Coaches Course