Ranell Hobson of the Academy of Sport Speed & Agility discusses the importance of players developing strength and mobility in their hips, a key attribute for physical performance in football.
I recently spent several weekends assessing the running function and essential mobility of young footballers in preparation of training them in football specific speed. One vital aspect that is continually absent in these players at all levels was mobility in their hips.
The muscle group of focus in this article is the hip flexors (Illiacus and Psoas Major). If the hip flexors are shortened, then the hips are pulled into flexion. If the hips are in a constantly flexed position, the primary hip extensors (Gluteals) are unable to achieve a full and forceful contraction.
Knowing that the gluteals directly impact horizontal propulsion, maximum speed, the capacity to decelerate and jump, and prevent hamstrings from taking excessive loads and risking injury, then tight hip flexors will decrease performance in all of these areas.
Add to this the knowledge that tight hip flexors decrease the athlete’s capacity to take advantage of the sling-shot action of the hip flexors in the recovery phase of the swing thigh and you have performance impediments in both anterior and posterior kinetic chains.
If a player complains about chronically tight hip flexors even though they routinely stretch, then attention needs to be diverted to the core. Since the hip flexors originate on the Lumbar Vertebrae, they play an important role in lumbar spine stabilisation. An inability to stabilise the low back during play and training due to weak core musculature will cause the hip flexors to step up and hold an isometric contraction to stabilise the lumbar spine.
For explosive acceleration, players need to be able to maintain a strong and stable torso with the pelvic girdle locked in neutral and generate powerful hip extension with the gluteals. Core training for footballers should include Flexion Stabilisation Training as well as rotational stability exercises.
Make sure that players have a weekly stretch and stability routine so that they can maximise their athletic potential and decrease their risk of on field injury.
For more information go to: www.academyofsportspeed.com
Figure 1: Short Adductor to Long Adductor – Keep foot of outstretched leg firmly planted, press little toe into ground and deliberately open through hips.
Figure 2: Long Lunge with Elbow to Ankle – Press rear heel away in a long lunge position as you melt your hips to the ground.
Figure 3: 4 Stage Hip Flexor – Keep front foot firmly planted and continually press hip forward as you increase the length of the fascial line