by: Jason Galindo
As CrossFit athletes, I’m sure most of you have heard your coach scream from across the room, “Use your damn hips!” This is a frequently used coaching cue because hip disfunction is common, to some degree. The most powerful forces that are generated by the body are produced by the hip. Sadly, the majority of athletes that enter the gym aren’t afforded the opportunity to experience that power because of hip disfunction. This disfunction is displayed during a number of movements, such as squats, kettlebell swings, kipping, deadlifts, etc. This, unfortunately, creates postures and mechanics that reduce power and stability leading to decreased performance and ultimately, injury. The poor mechanics originate from substandard training and insufficient practice of critical hip driven movements.
Hip disfunction is evident to some degree in all but the most skilled athletes or those who’ve trained to correct it. Even though this is, in most circumstances, a correctable flaw, this isn’t corrected overnight. Some sources show that it could take five years to fully develop the hip’s explosive capacity where hip disfunction is no longer visible.
Hip disfunction leads to postures resulting from the legs compensating for the hip’s failure. Specifically, utilizing leg extension to compensate for weak or nonexistent hip extension. Some of the causes and consequences of hip disfunction include:
Insufficient glute and hamstring recruitment
Center of balance shifting excessively toward the toes or back toward the heels
Excessive shear force in the hips, knees and lumbar spine
Leg extension being the sole power producer (quad dominant)
The most critical effect of all these is a tremendous decrease in stability, balance, and power drastically reducing performance and increasing risk of injury.
Focused training and practice of physically demanding hip extension movements is the only way to mitigate and eventually, eliminate the disfunction and its effects. Knowing that it could take upwards of five years to eliminate all disfunction, Coach Greg Glassman offers the following.
“No exercise offers as much opportunity to correct muted hip function tendencies as perfect form, high-rep push press. Muted hip function is evident within the first .01 of a second of a bad push press. We see it best in the dip and drive of a bad push press, where the knees jut forward while the pelvis rolls back pushing the belly forward. In fact, the push press is the best way to conjure up this fault even in people who otherwise may have a beautiful squat and seem immune to this curse. A load that can be push-pressed for a max of twenty reps will typically induce this fault for the final four or five reps. More athletes will do it than not – including many good ones.”
If you are plagued with hip disfunction, continue training under the watchful eye of a qualified and experienced coach. As hip disfunction improves, athletic performance improves. A high functioning (explosive and free from disfunction) hip and a high functioning human being operate in tandem. An explosive and functional hip is one of the lines in the sand that separate an average from a good to a great athlete.