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This article is guest blogged by Travis Hansen, author of The Speed Encyclopedia.
He also wrote Why Acceleration is More Important than Top Speed in Most Sports and Building Your Horsepower – The Power Development Model Part 1 and Part 2, which are full excerpts from his book.
He also wrote 8 Reasons Athletes Injure Their Hip Flexors, a great read if you missed it.
To read all his articles on this blog, click here.
How To Develop The Hip Flexors For Speed
It’s probably no secret that anyone reading this article is going to be very familiar with the collective hip flexor group. Before I get into specific drills and progressions for proper development of this region of our anatomy, so that you can enhance various types of athletic movement, I think it’s important to cover their anatomical arrangement and function briefly.
There are approximately a dozen of these muscles that cross the front or anterior portion of our hip. Some of these muscles are termed “intrinsic” and only originate and insert at the pelvis and upper femur, while others are “extrinsic” and have attachment at both the front of the hip and down pass the knee at specific locations. What this means is that if you analyze each and every hip flexor muscle and consider all 3 plane of motion than the potential for movement is vast and complicated. Some of the muscles internally rotate the hip (Adductors and TFL), while other flexors externally rotate the hip (Illiopsoas). Some of the muscles extend (Rectus Femoris) while others flex the knee (Sartorius and Gracilis). Some of the muscles abduct while others adduct the hip. But the one thing all of these muscles share in common, and what you should practically focus on in regards to sprinting and linear speed development is their ability to flex the hip and swing the leg.
I find it interesting that very little attention has been given to enhancing the concentric action of these muscles, since that is what they are responsible for in athletic movement (Sprinting, jumping, cutting, etc.). In other words, “Specificity” of the hip flexor group still seems to be lacking and we need to fill that need to help put our athletes in a better position to excel. The two immediate counterpoints that I commonly hear when discussing this particular issue is MAT (Muscle Activation Techniques) and staple heavy lower body strength training exercises address these areas. Although I completely agree, I still strongly feel that specific strength and joint action is missing, and there is nothing wrong with some extra supplemental training for this area, in the same way we treat the posterior chain with Glute Ham-Raises, Swings, Bridge variations, etc.
MAT techniques are too low in intensity and mainly serve as a wake up call to the musculature, and would only be sufficient for a short period of time if someone was coming out of rehab. Maximum strength exercises, such as: Squats and Deads do indeed affect the hip flexors but the type of muscle contraction is not specific to speed movements being that it’s isometric in nature, and the amount of overload that we can apply to the hip flexors is arguable as to whether or not it is truly overloading the muscles and stimulating positive changes that result in greater performance.
Taking all of this into consideration, I’m now going to show you the hip flexor training progression system that I implement with all of my athletes at the Reno Speed School. These are concentric based movements that do the best job at attempting to “isolate” this area, which helps naturally increase the training intensity and create overload to the tissue that are other exercises may be missing.
Exercise #1: Supine Hip Flexor Training
Exercise #2: Standing Hip Flexor Training
Exercise #3: Standing Resisted Hip Flexor Training
Exercise #4: Half Kneeling Resisted Hip Flexor Training
About the Author
Travis Hansen was the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Reno Bighorns of the NBADL for their 2010 season, and he is currently the Director of The Reno Speed School inside the South Reno Athletic Club.
He is the author of The Speed Encyclopedia.