By now, football season is over for just about everyone in high school except for those lucky teams that are playing for the whole ball of wax. So, for the rest of us, we have to wait for other sports to get underway while some others catch up on rest, gain some of their weight back, and let injuries heal.
For the coaches, it is time to start getting ready for next season. At least this is where I am. Actually, we have one week under our belt of the advanced phase of Archaic Training. Looking at my group this year, I find every year I have the same problem with newcomers-hip flexibility. So, during these early phases of training it is a great time to take care of this problem because it can really slow athletic progress.
The importance of hip flexibility is obvious even though it is really nothing more than the ability to move the joint in the socket. However, its impact in sport is great. It is the difference between a 4.5 and a 4.7. I believe its greatest impact is seen during the start or a sprint. I really don't know the physics behind this concept; however, when we worked on this aspect of training as a team, our times dropped as a team.
Players who have had a history of poor starts before drastically improved their times. How much did they improve? OK, I'll give you numbers since everyone wants improvements quantified. I won't use 40 times because, frankly, I find a tremendous lack of consistency at a whole lot of "4.5's" get timed at "4.8's" under proper timing standards.
Instead I'll use track times because they are registered and usually timed by people who don't want my athletes to do well. I had an athlete go from a 6.6 to a 6.4 in a 55. Outside he went from an 11.2 to a 10.8 in the 100. This was during his junior year. Hip flexibility is not just important for good sprint times, it is also extremely important in the agility runs as well.
How Do I Know?
How do you know if your athletes suffer from poor hip flexibility? The first red flag is the inability to squat all the way down with minimal knee action. If your athlete squats and their knees move forward or buckle, that is usually a sign of poor flexibility in the hips and sometimes ankles. Another sign is the inability to move the hips backward during the beginning of the descent.
Also, I look for their hips to pop forward at the apex of their ascent. I will also have them throw a medicine ball over their head and watch for the same motion. Those are the two signs that usually tell me where an athlete is in his development. And sometimes, athletes lose this flexibility. So what do we do?
I make it a base part of our program. I rank it first in priorities during off-season. It is usually the first thing we do. We start with our hip mobility drills using track high hurdles. While some may be aware of a few of these maneuvers, we use myriad drills that not only retrain motor skills development but also segue easily into sport-specific skills.
Emphasis is placed on torso movement, shin angle and pelvic tilt to impact upon maximal torso power. These drills are extremely easy to use and implement and will be covered in extraordinary detail in future installments and video.
In the weight room, we do Olympic lifts to the basement on the catch. Personally this is the best indicator of hip flexibility. I emphasize the heels staying on the ground and the butt working its way out back. Front squats, snatch drop squats and overhead squats are also great. I also like kettle bell swings and overhead medicine ball throws, again emphasizing the butt working out back. For you functional freaks or people with a space problem (a future article), try picking heavy rocks, almost like a Zercher squat.
I like walking in tall grass and shallow water as well. As far as actual stretching, I like the Zdoroyev hip movements and seated stretch down the middle with legs spread and then later with a twist.
Try incorporating some of these movements into your workouts. As the training model is unfurled for you, you will see a dramatic improvement in strength while you watching your sprint times drop and other sport performance improve.