Hips Don't Lie
I love this time of year. Regardless of your favorite team, or even if you are not interested in the sport of football, the Super Bowl is exciting (what does that have to do with Shakira?!). As a young kid, I learned to read starting with the scores in the sports section of the newspaper, and then took to a book my parents gifted me on the Super Bowl. I memorized that book at one point.
Football became an obsession. "Ok, great, Tim. What does that have to do with our hips?" If you want to be a good tackler, keep your eyes on the ball-carrier's hips. The hips, as Shakira has sung, do not lie. As a smaller kid playing safety (while on defense) most of my career, I had to learn this tactic early and apply it often. Head across the body, shoulder into the guts. Wrap the legs, lift and drive!
However, if the ballcarrier's hips are stronger than yours, all bets are off. He could probably just run you over. Just ask Marshawn Lynch about hip strength, and about that action, boss.
Strong, coordinated hips are also a great way to increase power in a boxer's punch, in a tennis player's serve, or in a golfer's drive, for example.
But, as in the previous post, before we use our muscles in the proper kinetic chains (*we train movements, not muscles), we must awaken those which are asleep, and relax those which are overactive. This is where our warm-ups come in.
Side note: There are entire specialties and certifications dedicated to restoring proper movement and excellent implementation of warm-ups, including the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI).
For now, though, let us stick with relatively simple concepts that you can use, even at home, with little to no equipment or experience.
***A warm-up for any activity should accomplish a few things:
1. Increase dynamic mobility - the ability of your joints to move through their full ranges of motion, ideally
2. Increase temperature, oxygen- and nutrient flow to the working tissues
3. Closely, even directly, mimic the activity you are about to do - intensity, movement patterns, duration - think NFL players going through their warm-ups: receivers catching passes, linemen going through techniques, kickers and punters doing their thing. Or, think of NBA players who are dripping in sweat by game-time. (Heat acclimatization and sweating can be an article for another time).
The point here is, you want to ramp up your preparedness for the activity of your choosing. Gradually increase the intensity towards that near maximal level for when you need it. Hence the three previous articles about planning. You have to have a plan!
Remember, at the origin of all movement is your brain. Fry your "computer" by asking it to do too much, too soon after turning it on (like opening all of the applications right away, or that one family member who has 43,000 tabs open on their internet browser, but wonders why their computer is slow), and you risk injury, or a less-than effort in your workout. This is a point of contention I have with those cardio classes that push you "all-out" for an hour. But their hearts are in the right place; they're thinking in terms of motivation.
Anyway, warm-ups for your trunk and glutes will awaken them to give you great power. Sounds like something out of a superhero movie. Well, having strong glutes properly connected with your hamstrings, and an abdomen to match can make you a super version of yourself. Making you amazing is our obsession, so here we go:
**The main reasons for promoting glute activation are:
A. Increasing hip mobility through a desired range of motion, specifically as extensors (kicking back) and external rotators of the hip.
**The Phyt Chick walked us through a lot of this already, earlier this week. Refer back to her post.
B. Moving your glutes together with your hamstrings (see image) (the movement is hip extension, like a galloping horse. Often, these two groups can become disassociated when lacking proper communication. I won't even go into the adductor portion of movement here - bringing your leg closer to your mid-line - that could be an entire article!)
C. Increasing trunk stability (this requires "active trunk activation," including muscles on your posterior side by your spinal cord, as well as individualized, core-specific training.)
***In any given movement, "your core" can vary in its composition. The common thread is muscles associated with the trunk of your body to provide stability and force transfer through your center while your limbs move. That's the core. It stays; your limbs move.
D. Combining A, B and C here to increase your power
How do we accomplish this? Without us physically seeing you move, it is difficult to say which exercises and in what order will give you the most benefit. That is where working with a professional gives the greatest return on your time and money. However, we provide you here with a list of exercises to try at your own risk, for you to deduce where you may be tight and for you to learn more about yourself. All you will need is about 12 square feet of space, a foam roller, and some patience.
For a moment, though, please let us be open with you. We have to admit we are victims of our own success. We wished to have professional, instructional videos prepared by the publishing of this post. When we started this blog, our goal was simple: at least one post per week for a year. We have already exceeded that desire, with the welcome additions of The Phyt Chick and more guests to follow. Exciting times!
But, anyway, the videos. Back in earlier parts of our careers, we spent a lot of time debunking fitness myths and sending people PDF's containing lists of YouTube exercise stretching and warm-up videos with descriptions like, "Skip to 0:40, but then don't do it like the person in the video; do it this way..."
Hence, one reason for us to shoot our own videos. Cannot wait to show you when they are done. So, for now you get words. I hope the inclusion of Marshawn Lynch videos does enough for your entertainment and attention span that you will tolerate our wordiness.
Just take the lists of these exercises with a grain of salt for now until our instructions can be more explicit (via video). Here we are applying broad concepts for how the hip complex and its complementing joints should work, based on their design. Not all will work for everyone, but the point here is to:
1. Discover your typically tight or overactive spots in your hip complex and adjacent joints
2. Discover your underactive/ inactive spots in your hip complex and adjacent joints
3. Develop a sensible warm-up sequence that efficiently addresses the above needs
4. Perfect it
5. Adjust it on the fly, as you familiarize with the exercises
1. Foam rolling. The jury is still out on exactly what it does. But, you can at least use it to check on your neuromuscular system - a lot of people claim that the fascia gets bunched up, causing muscle stiffness, but it could quite possibly be localized movement patterns that cause certain muscle fibers within a group to become more active than others.
Great read from Zachary Getz, DPT of Gotham Physical Therapy debunking this potential myth:
There is a length-tension relationship between the muscles, their neurons and the spinal cord. This communication is local. Based on the "local memory" of your "flexibility" and patterns of use, it is possible your muscles can become fixed in a certain pattern that makes them feel tight. Lack of adequate flexibility training following a session can also affect this.
However, foam rolling can attract blood flow and warmth to the muscles you "roll out," so it is a fine place to start your warm-up. There is also a line of belief led by the likes of Guy Voyeur and his ELDOA training that says you can "stretch your fascia" in a manner similar to pulling apart a metaphorical knot in a plastic bag (like a Ziploc). Perhaps foam rolling can help in this manner. You don't just pull from one direction, but rather all directions, to "pull apart" the knot. I've worked with some osteopaths in the past who have had great success with this method. I have benefited from the application of this technique. So, I remain open-minded.
Quads (video coming, eventually)
IT Band (video)
2. Dynamic Warm-Ups for Hip Mobility and Trunk Activation - this will get the powerhouse combo of your hips, hamstrings and trunk muscles working together.
-> Arm Loop
-> Fire Hydrant
Spider Stretch (not a long stretch; hold for one breath, switch sides)
Pigeon (same as spider stretch)
Downward Dog as a warm-up (show you better than we can tell you)
Fence step-overs (inside-out and outside-in)
Tight and/or overactive quads, hip flexors (both in front of the leg) and lower back muscles (diagonally opposite), especially when combined with weak and/or underactive glutes (your butt) and trunk muscles (diagonal oppositefront) can lead to a functional imbalance in hip position in relation to the spine. This syndrome is known as Lower-Crossed Syndrome. Plenty has been written on this subject already.
But, what is important from a practical standpoint is the functional re-positioning of the hips and spine and then leveraging that new positioning for increasing power. Once the glutes and muscles of the abdomen are working properly, we can use motor recruitment to allow them to regain control of your movement, like this fine young lady below. By attracting more "neurologic flow" to these larger muscle groups that are now awakened, we aim to first overpower the previously dominant, over-active, trouble-causing muscles that were tight for some reason you may have since forgotten.
Second, combining this power training with a proper flexibility training protocol (later topic) at the end of your strength training sessions (separate post), as well as adding in some "targeted yoga" (later topic), can restore balance in your muscles, tendons and joints.
Most functional problems that can be solved, at least those I have encountered thus far professionally, can be fixed in one month at four times per week.
Repetitions + focus = practice = improved movement habits
I have one newer client with a longstanding torn hip labrum who has experience significantly decreased pain along with increased range of motion in just a month at twice weekly sessions. Not a magician, not a doctor. Sure, there are certain things we cannot do, but we work around it.
Much of the muscle-tension issues have to do, simply, with overactive muscles such as the adductors, quads, hip flexors, erector spinae (main lower back muscles) and quadratus lumborum, having by default taken the jobs of the glutes, abdominals, and anterior trunk muscles. Adding to this problem is the inadequate activation and preparation of multifidus. These jobs are namely posture, propulsion and force distribution.
If we activate those muscles which have been asleep and then further recruit their fibers, while also redistributing the tension in the overly tight muscles from their tendons to the muscle bellies, where the tension is best held, then we have succeeded.
Super Bowl Prediction:
Patriots 45, Falcons 27. Hate him or love him, Tom Brady is the GOAT. (Which makes Eli Manning and Giants Defensive Coordinators the GOAT herders..?) There, I said it. I saw Brady on ESPN the other day while I was at the gym. He was speaking alongside Matt Ryan with an ESPN anchor. Brady assumed the power stance - hands on hips, chest wide-open - like he invented it. I was convinced in that moment that he invented it, or has at least practiced it in the mirror. It seemed so natural, not forced. Conversely, Matt Ryan assumed the stereotypical, humble-pro-athlete, "I guess..." conversation. The game is over before it even starts. Brady's focus, intensity and throwing motion are off the charts.
Like Tom Brady, I grew up admiring Joe Montana (and even more so, his favorite target, Jerry Rice). Brady might throw for five TD's this weekend, unless LeGarrette Blount scores a few on the ground. You never know with the Pats. That's what makes them so dangerous. It would take a near-perfect team effort from the Falcons, a complete meltdown from the Pats, or both, for Atlanta to take it. I'm just rooting for a great game.
One thing we could say, though, if the Falcons do win, is this: an aggressive, Cover-3 defense would officially be a staple in stopping today's NFL offenses. Falcons' Head Coach Dan Quinn helped refine this technique in Seattle. Now, he has possibly his greatest challenge yet!
Bonus video: Marshawn and Gronk playing Mortal Kombat on Conan O'Brien - possibly the greatest short film ever made.
Enjoy the Big Game!
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