Hip Mobility and Flexibility for track and field athletes

on May 20, 2021

Abstract: 

The objective of this paper is to demonstrate techniques to improve hip flexibility and mobility, especially for track and field athletes. However, it also seeks to explain the underlying importance of hip flexibility and mobility. When an athlete’s hips are shown to be tight or even immobile, muscle imbalance may occur and eventually lead to injury. Muscle imbalance in the hip often causes knee and hip pain, due to the hip flexors and quadriceps overworking in order to compensate for weaker, imbalanced muscles. The hip mobility and flexibility exercises illustrated here are designed to significantly improve the range of motion (ROM) of the hips. Enhanced ROM can improve motor performance, skill execution and even prevent injury. Excellent hip extension improves the ability of full hip flexion, which in turn helps to develop more power from the lower body as there are no restrictions of movement. Furthermore, the added mobility and flexibility reduces muscle imbalance and therefore reduce the risk of injuries.

Methods:

10 Hip Mobility and 6 Hip Flexibility exercises are described in this paper. The exercises are to be performed 3x per week with at least 24 hours break in-between to achieve optimum results.

Conclusion:

This paper sought to outline the importance of hip mobility and flexibility, in particular for non-contact-sport athletes (such as those in track and field), and their effects on athletic performance and injury prevention. After at least 6 weeks, the ROM of the hip will be expected to improve significantly. Furthermore, other results can be seen in better/longer strides while running and even improved throwing resulting from superior hip rotation.

Hip Mobility

ExerciseDescription Sets x RepsPicture
1

-bouncing movement while maintaining squat stance shown in picture 

-shift hips from right to left while doing minimal bounces.

5sets of 15 seconds           hipmobility1
2

-maintain position shown in picture.

-move hips front and back while maintaining body in straight position

5sets of 15 seconds           
3

-maintain position shown in picture.

-legs spread wide, knees fully extended.

-move hips up and down while keeping the back straight

5sets of 15 seconds           
4

-lay down, arms lay out above head level

– knees up, flexed (bent)

-keep feet together then move knees left and right

-keep shoulders on the ground.

-rotate hips.

5sets of 15 seconds           
5

-lay down flat.

-arms open wide.

-move one leg to the opposite hand as shown in the picture.

-repeat for the other side.

-both knees have to be straight.

-hold for 15 seconds then move to the opposite direct

5sets of 15 seconds            
6

-start in position shown in the first picture.

-as low as possible to the ground (touching if possible)

-extend both knees, and slowly move to the opposite of the first position (shown in the last picture)

-repeat the steps.

5sets of 15 each side

           

             

           

7– maintain in lunge position while the resistance band pulls hip of the front leg to abduction. Resist the resistance band5sets of 15 seconds each side           
8

– maintain in lunge position while the resistance band pulls back the hip of the back leg.

– move the hips back and forward throughout the set.

5sets of 15 seconds each side           
9

-maintain in lunge position while the resistance band pulls the hip of the front leg to adduction.

-resist and maintain a proper straight lunge position.

5sets of 15 seconds each side           
10

-maintain in lunge position while the resistance band pushes the hip forward.

-move the hips back and forward throughout the set.

5sets of 15 seconds each side           

Table 1: Mobility Exercises

Hip Flexibility

ExerciseDescription Sets x RepsPicture
1

-both knees straight 

-arms straight, both on the ground as shown in picture.

-move arms forward and backwards like a walking motion.

-keep back and legs straight.

5sets of 15 seconds            hipflexibility1
2

-maintain position shown in picture.

-feet pointed up, knee straight while other is bent

-maintain 90-degree angle of hips as shown in the picture

5sets of 15 seconds           
3

Legs spread out wide open. Both hands touch one foot then make way to the other feet by maintaining position shown in picture.

  • Move like a clock.
  • Upper body bends forward in each hour of a clock (only between the legs.)
5sets of 15 seconds           
4

-start in lunge position, front leg toes touching the wall.

– (left feet in front) both hands hold the wall on the right side

-body leans towards the left. 

-left knee pushes out.

-body should feel like it’s hanging.

5sets of 15 seconds each side           
5

-one knee extended and the other bent while keeping the feet flat on the ground.

-legs wide open as shown in picture

-both hands on the ground and move the body using the hands like a walking pattern

-start from left foot to right foot. Then repeat in the opposite direction.

5sets of 15 seconds each side

            

             

6

-lay down as shown in picture

-push the knee (right in picture) down using the opposite leg feet.

-keep upper body flat on ground.

-both knees should be bent

5sets of 15 each side             

Table 2: flexibility exercises.

Introduction

In general, sports injuries are more commonly associated with contact sports (such as hockey, rugby, football) as opposed to non-contact. However, research indicates that the opposite is in fact the case. Research conducted by (Sankaravel, 2017)  and (Lee, 2018) with the Perak SUKMA athletes revealed that of the 405 non-contact-sport athletes observed, 135 reported injuries, whereas of 533 contact-sport athletes only 105 claimed some form of injury. These results suggest that a higher proportion of injured athletes exist among non-contact sports, contrary to popular belief. 

When an athlete’s hips are shown to be tight or even immobile, muscle imbalance may occur and eventually lead to injury. Muscle imbalance in the hip often causes knee and hip pain, due to the hip flexors and quadriceps overworking in order to compensate for weaker, imbalanced muscles. Furthermore, the range of motion (ROM) of the hip would also be restricted, requiring the pelvis to posteriorly tilt to achieve the desired ROM, likely resulting in low back pain. Finally, should the gluteal muscles also be impinged in their function the hamstrings would need to compensate, which may lead to hamstring injury. Performing hip flexibility and mobility exercises can often reduce the risk of these injuries from happening.

When it comes to flexibility and mobility exercises, stretching is commonly used to effect an increase in ROM (Behm, 2015). In addition, to improve in techniques that are sports specific, the combination of passive and static-active stretching exercises have been shown to provide larger changes in ROM (Samson, 2012). However, contemporarily, dynamic stretching techniques are used more often by athletes as they can be sports specific, i.e.,  relating to common movements common in the sport. Dynamic stretching also increases body temperature (Fletcher, 2004), hence providing further benefit in the preparation for physical activity and/or sport.

Mobility is defined as the joint’s ability to travel without any kind of constraint or pain, targeting the full ROM. In fact, the ability to move a joint through its complete ROM is arguably the most underrated aspect a track and field athlete will explore when training to enhance their performance. It is a highly adaptable aspect of fitness and the benefits of mobility training are applicable at any age. Having mobile joints is important to maintain pain-free, unimpeded, fluid and independent movement (Gummelt, 2015). Therefore, it can be inferred that a key component to avoiding injuries is improving ROM.

Mobility training is the process of improving mobility in all joints. Overall, having a healthy ROM in all the joints of your body means your body is free to move and adjust to its position in the most efficient way (Ilano, 2020). Mobility exercises work to reduce the potential imbalances the body develops over time, ultimately helping to diminish the risk of injury. Additionally, mobility exercises can stimulate and circulate the synovial fluid in the bursa, which effectively “cleans” the joint. This is important as the joint has no direct blood supply and is nourished by this synovial fluid, which also simultaneously removes waste products. 

Flexibility is defined as a muscle’s ability to lengthen (Kassel, 2018). Flexibility also refers to the capacity of a connective tissue to elongate temporarily. Typically, flexibility requires external force to reach the desired positions, for example a foreign body or stretching device affecting a particular body part while the athlete is stationary.

Flexibility training, particularly among athletes who train for high performance, works to reduce soreness and stiffness (Gummelt, 2015). It is also a form of relaxation that can not only have a positive effect on physical health and performance, but also mental fitness. For athletes to achieve peak performance, full length of the muscle must be utilized , as the muscles may not be able to provide the explosiveness required for a specific movement if the muscles are not flexible enough (Joseph, 2002). For instance, tight hip flexors tend to shorten the ROM of a full step while in sprint, inhibiting performance. 

Hip Mobility and Flexibility Program. 

The objective of this paper is to demonstrate techniques to improve hip flexibility and mobility, especially for track and field athletes. However, it also seeks to explain the underlying importance of hip flexibility and mobility. Enhanced ROM can improve motor performance, skill execution and even prevent injury. Excellent hip extension improves the athlete’s ROM in their hips, leading to longer strides and, ultimately, increasing running speed. The ability of full hip flexion (which allows us to squat in full ROM) helps to develop more power from the lower body as there are no restrictions of movement. 

Hip mobility and flexibility is also important for throwers, in improving their delivery, as the external and internal hip rotation plays an important role in their movements. A good example is the pushup occuring during a shotput – here the hips should open and rotate as much as possible, turning toward the throwing direction to generate more velocity. 

Finally, when an athlete lacks mobility, it is likely that they will suffer muscle imbalance, causing other muscles to compensate for the weaker muscles. Over time, the muscle will unfortunately wear down and may develop overuse injuries.

Description 

Table 1 describes 10 mobility exercises specifically for improving hip mobility. As shown in the picture for the first exercise, the athlete is in a deep sumo squat position targeting the glutes and hip adductors – adductor brevis, longus and magnus to be more specific (Halfman, 2012). However, the athlete is bouncing in that specific position from left to right as a progressed way of doing this exercise; a regressed way is that the athlete should stay in that position. 

Moving onto exercise 2, this exercise targets the adductors. As shown in the picture, the athlete has one leg kneeling on the ground while the other, working leg is straight to the side of the body. This exercise helps with improving adductor length and mobility, which is targeted at improving hip adduction ROM. Exercise 3 is similar to exercise 2 but progressed. Instead of working on each leg individually, it stretches both adductors at the same time.

Exercise 4 is used to improve greater mobility of the spine, a progressed version of which is performed in exercise 5. In every movement the body does, the trunk muscles play an important role. They support walking, maintain equilibrium, and provide stability for the whole body. Rotation exercises like in 4 and 5can help enhance trunk stability and strength, which will improve general health and increase sports performance (Leal, 2020).

Exercise 6 depicts a progressed version of the 90/90 hip stretch. This exercise targets the deepest layers of tissue associated with the joint, such as the joint capsule. The constant change of position puts more work in than just sitting in the 90/90 hip stretch position (Hanrahan, 2017). This is important as a restricted capsule has a detrimental effect on the body’s overall flexibility.

Exercise 7-10 are related but target the joint in different angles: these are so-called “joint distraction exercises” (for the hip). The joint distraction exercises use a resistance band, which acts as a wedge to separate the joint surfaces from one another (Guillot, 2019). The separation of the articulating surfaces will provide more space for synovial fluid to fill the joint, reducing friction and providing the body a more fluid motion.

Table 2 describes 6 flexibility exercises specifically for improving hip flexibility. As shown in the picture for the first exercise is a regressed version of the wide-legged forward bend. It utilises the walking motion by the hands as an external force to passively stretch the lower body, targeting the adductors and even the hamstrings. Exercise 2 is commonly known as the knee-to-chest stretch, and is typically used to release tension on the lower back. This helps reduce stiffness associated with spinal arthritis and spinal stenosis (Asher, 2020), which is important for athletes of all sports. Furthermore, it promotes spinal flexion by enabling the natural chain reaction, from the thigh to the hip to the lower back, to occur.

Exercise 3 is a progressed version of the 90/90 hip stretch, and is similar to mobility exercise 6 but as more of a passive stretch (Spina, 2020). Staying in the position shown, the exercise stretches the gluteus minimus muscle and is a good indicator of hip health. 

A progressed version of the wide angle seated forward bend pose is depicted in exercise 4, in which the upper body is pointed forward and rotates like a clock. This way the upper body tends to reach out in different directions, focusing on stretching the hamstrings and groin muscles (Watts, 2020).

Exercise 5 is known as the wall stretch. Holding this position targets the upper and lower Quadratus Lumborum. This exercise relies on the upper arms to take the weight of the body, hanging the body by the arms. The middle part of the body is bent while the legs act as anchors, using the bodyweight to sink into the stretch (Mark, 2020)

In the second last exercise, the athlete stays in a side lunge position stretching the groin, adductors and even the gracilis. However, this specific exercise is regressed, using the upper body to act as a front support as the athlete bends over. Moving in a walking motion using the hands helps increase the ROM in various directions. 

Lastly, exercise 6 is commonly known as the external hip rotator stretch but with additional support from the opposite leg. The support acts as an external force to depress the knee using the foot of the other leg. This results in a stretch down the iliotibial (IT) band, which is located at the side of the outer thigh. 

If you want to know more about Hip Mobility and Flexibility for Track aand Field Athletes, feel free to give us a call at 03-50315946 or send us a Whatsapp or Make an Appointment. We at Rehamed Therapy are always here to help!

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