Last week I talked about training your body to primarily use the gluteus maximus to generate the power in your movement. What about if you have something holding those glutes back? Oftentimes, we do. And they are your hip flexors.
Your hip flexors do the job of flexing your hip, so bringing your knee to your chest. The main muscles involved in this are your illiopsoas and tensor fascia latae.
The reason that your hip flexors prevent your glutes from firing is that they completely oppose them in their muscle action. Imagine strong glutes as a big engine, and imagine tight hip flexors as brakes. You’ve gotta take your foot off the brakes in order to fully use your engine. Specifically, tight hip flexors prevent a complete extension at the hip. In order to have the hips extend powerfully then, your body needs to adapt its movement by hyperextending the lumbar spine. This leads to sore backs and power left on the table…the engine can’t do its job!
The reason this happens is twofold:
- Hockey players are often in a position that leads the hip flexors to be contracted in a semi lengthened position. Think of the squat you see most players in on the ice.
- Hockey players are also people in the modern world. And people in the modern world spend a lot of time siting! Sitting leads to, guess what…hip flexors contracted in a semi-lengthened.
So for these two reasons together, we find many players with very tight hip flexors. Now, to solve the problem, we need to understand that hip flexors are not of a fixed length. Rather, your body has chosen to adopt a semi-lengthened, semi-contracted state for your hip flexors, because that’s what you’ve been training it to do! (By sitting and skating) This means that your hip flexors can extend, if you teach your body to have them extend. Here’s how:
- Use PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) to trick your hip flexors into lengthening.
- Stretch your hip flexors daily
- Watch and feel your ability to powerfully extend your hips go through the roof!
Here’s a step by step approach to PNF your muscles. It requires a bench and a partner.
- Stand so your bum is on the edge of a bench, bed, or high and stable table
- Grab one knee and pull it to your chest
- Fall back onto the bench keeping your knee to your chest and your other leg straight.
- Have your partner place your foot on his/her shoulder (of the knee that’s up to your chest)
- Have your partner place their hand on your knee that is straight.
- You will push your straight leg into your partners hand as hard as you can for 5s
- As soon as you release your pressure into his hand, have your partner increase the stretch
- Then have your partner hold you in the increased stretch position for 10s
- Repeat up to 5-10x, or as many times as needed to obtain a significant change
Get stronger and faster without doing any training, and restore your hip flexors to their natural length. A side effect of this is that you’ll prevent many injuries. Have fun and happy skating!