When people learn that you do martial arts they immediately assume you have the ability to kick hapless attackers in the neck while wearing skinny jeans. For many of us that isn’t the case and we require a nearby radiator to lean against in order to throw any kick above waist height. We are used to Thai guys displaying pretty impressive hip mobility but all combat sports athletes can benefit from loosening off creaky hips. Jits guys will have harder guards to pass , wrestlers will be tougher to takedown and boxers will hit harder. In general you will move better and be able to do more stuff.
As well as messing with your ability to preform certain techniques stiff or short hip musculature can lead to whole host of problems for your lower back and knees. If your hips are locked up your body will find that movement somewhere else, usually by increasing the movement at the knee and lower back. These are two joints where we really don’t want to be that bendy. This is also one of the reasons why the frequency of lower back and knee pain is much higher than hip problems.
So if your hips are creaky, you can’t move well and your more likely to get a debilitating injury. But that’s not all. You are also going to be weaker than you might otherwise be. With short hip flexors you will have trouble using one of your most powerful muscle groups, your glutes or as they are known at the Griphouse “yer erse”. Tight hips equals inhibited glutes. This limits your ability to generate power as well as increasing the risk of strains in the hamstrings and lower back as they pick up the hip extension slack.
If we can get your hips working optimally again you can expect:
- Improved technique application
- More power
- Decreased injury risk
- Less session ruining niggly pains.
All good stuff unfortunately the conventional wisdom of spending a few minutes stretching is not likely to lead to lasting change, particularly as you get older.
The Grip Hip Fix.
Snappy title right?
Stage 1. Addressing tissue quality
Getting kicked in the legs or squishing someone in half guard can leave you with some funky adhesions and trigger points in your leg and hip musculature. Stretching while your legs are riddled with these nasties offers a very temporary solution. You will feel like a ninja for a little while but your hips will rapidly go back to their more jacked up state.
Bash those trigger points with a foam roller, concentrating on the front, outside and inside of both legs, before moving onto jamming a lacrosse ball into your glutes.
This is all pretty standard stuff that you will see happening daily at the Griphouse so if your unsure ask someone how it works.
Points to bear in mind.
- Go mega slow. Doing 1-2 passes of the leg is enough so long as you are going slow enough to address all the horrible bits.
- When you do find something that makes you want to hate life, hang out on it and if possible flex the knee joint. It will soon go from disgusting > nasty > unpleasant > wonderfully fine.
Stage 2. Banded Stretches
One of the major problems in finding a solution to the tight hip problem is that the traditional approaches do not deal with the joint capsule. The joint capsule is a bag of fibrous tissue that completely surrounds a joint.
It provides stability both actively and passively ensuring the joint is strong and moving optimally. When the joint capsule is damaged there is often an increase in joint laxity and the risk of dislocation. So we should all be pretty happy we have them.
Unfortunately when we adopt certain positions for too long the joint capsule itself can adaptively shorten. This messes with the joint range of motion and contributes to the problems outlined above.
One of the easiest ways to effect change in the joint capsule is with banded stretches. The band drives movement through the joint capsule as the stretch takes place. The band pulls the head of the femur into a more optimal position.
To account for all movements we must address the hip capsule anteriorly, posteriorly and laterally.
The band pulls the hip capsule forward as the hip flexor stretch is performed. Note the band is in line with the hip. Keep your arse and stomach tight through out and avoid excessively arching your lower back.
Posteriorly (2 positions)
The band pulls the hip back wards while the stretch is performed. Note the lowered attachment point of the hip.
If this kill your knee bring the heel closer. try to keep your chest up and move around going towards the knee and then the foot searching for the tight bits.
Don’t let you lower back arch. keep your chest up and sink back. You are trying to get the biggest stretch with the least amount of movement.
The band pulls the hip capsule to the side as the stretch is performed. The band is set up at hip height to the side and slightly behind the hip.
Hang out in each of these positions for 2mins. That may seem like ages but you will be doing stuff the entire time. This is not a passive stretch you will be actively moving in and out of the end range and utilising the contract and relax method.
Imagine the anterior joint capsule stretch above. You will actively try to pull your knee through the ground towards your other heel for 10seconds then relax and try to sink into a new increased range.
If you need any help with the “how to’s” of all this give me a shout at the gym. If enough people are interested ill do a quick 20min freebie seminar sometime.
Do this routine everyday for 6days and see if you notice a change in your hip mobility. This 6day rule is a great way to assess whether or not a mobility or soft tissue intervention is having an effect, although with this program you will probably notice the difference straight away. Try squatting immediately after completing the routine. You should notice a big change in mobility.
After 6 days switch to doing the program on alternate days for another week. Then move to utilising as and when you feel it is necessary. You will miss that new found hip mobility when it’s gone.
Let me know how you get on.