Developing the Hips
The hips may be the most overlooked muscle group for improving sports performance. At Westside, we say the key to strength and speed is from the top of the lifting belt down to the bottom of the shorts.
Let’s start with how to build the hips, beginning with box squats. Box squats teach an athlete to push down through the hips before involving the legs with the hamstrings. The quads do very little in squatting but are essential to decelerate in football, soccer, ice skating, or landing in jumping events.
How to box squat:
Like many things, there is only one correct method to box squat. The box height does not matter—you can use either a high box well above parallel or a super low one on a six-inch box.
You should sit back by bending at the hips, not the knees. Be sure you sit on the box fully while releasing the hips and having the shins past vertical to overload the hips and the hamstrings. The correct technique cannot happen while squatting without a box, or you will fall backward.
When box squatting, use a wide-as-possible stance to place as much hip muscle activation as possible to build flexibility and strength to prevent injuries while playing ball sports. Also, push out the knees and feet, placing the work on the hips. You are lifting the bar, so you must drive your shoulders into the bar first. If you push with the feet first, you will bend forward, turning a squat into a Goodmorning.
Using a shallow box (six, eight, or ten inches) will build flexibility in the hips and target muscles that do not work above parallel. Your lifts can be for an all-time single rep record or 25 reps to force the hip muscles into play.
Belt squats will work the legs and hips to the max while giving the back needed rest. Belt squat marching for one to five minutes will hit the hips like nothing before. Another option is heavy supports, much like Bill Clark and his hip lift. The great Paul Anderson performed many hip lifts with supports up to 2,000 pounds.
If you lack the flexibility to do low box squatting, try Ukrainian deadlifts. To do a Ukrainian deadlift, stand on two pylo boxes while holding a Kettlebell squat as low as possible.
If an athlete is overly tight in the hips, as they reach a point where they cannot go lower, the coach can place their hands on the athlete’s hips and push downward to force the hips to go slightly lower as they perform a set of reps. In a short time, 30 to 45 days, the athlete will reach a lower position on their own. This technique is power stretching, and it works very well. Using resistance is the superior method to increasing the range of motion.
The Westside Belt Squat, trade-named the ATP, makes it possible to deadlift, power clean, or power snatch while simultaneously using the loaded belt squat. It coordinates the speed that the legs and back extend together.
- For the glutes, use the Strap Model Reverse Hyper® with the legs pulling outward and the toe pointing inward with a minimum of 50 percent of your squat. Consistently add weight when possible.
You can use the Inverse Leg Curl Machine to reduce the weight of the inverse curl until you can do a Russian leg curl. One of our UFC fighters can hold a 45-pound plate and do a one-legged Russian leg curl for four or five sets of two to six reps and no more hamstring injuries. If the NFL invested in an inverse curl machine, the football players would be on the field and not hurt on the bench.
The calf-ham-glute training bench was built for the Soviet Union’s weightlifters and track personnel such as Valerie Boresoff, the Olympic 100-meter champion. You should hold weight, when possible, across your back or hold a plate against the chest. Do two to six reps for several sets. This exercise is a valuable tool for hamstrings.
Don’t forget the soft tissue work. Westside combats injuries in the soft tissues by doing 200 reps each day, if possible. You should do band curls last after the larger special exercises.
Leg raises will strengthen the hips, but also the often-overlooked psoas. Hanging legs are the best but also the most difficult to do. Done correctly, you must lift legs high enough to touch toes to the same bar from which you are hanging. Point toes first in, then out, and then straighten for challenging muscle activation. Add weight when possible. Also, you can isometric hold at different angles for time.
If you cannot do hanging leg raises, lie on a bench or floor, lift legs, and then roll back and lift legs over your head. Add weight when possible.
There are leg lift machines that support the upper body while lifting the legs. Westside has a particular Leg Lift Machine with top plates to exert force against, making it very effective.
Special Weight Sled Work
You should start with powerwalking with a sled strap hooked to your belt. Over straddle off your heel to put most of the work on the hamstrings, glutes, and hips. Go 60 meters for strength with high weight. Do not lean forward, as this will place a more significant portion of the effort on the calves. Six to ten trips are just a guide because General Physical Preparedness (GPP) varies from athlete to athlete. Walking backward is very effective for the hips and knees.
Note: If you find you are too far forward, carry a light medicine ball to maintain an upright position. Pull the sled for long distances for 800 meters and up. Walk with the weight sled hooked around your ankles with a second set of straps. This method is very effective for building the front hip muscles. As a guide, 10 pounds to 45 pounds works best, but you can use more weight if you continue to walk in a coordinated manner. Do 60 meters up to 400 meters for most.
You can also do lateral sprinting with the weight sled. You would hook the strap to the side of your belt and walk or sprint sideways with long steps. This technique hits the side of the glutes and hips very extensively. Going uphill works best, but be careful not to overdo it.
Last but not least is bending over, grasping the sled strap, and holding it below the knees. This approach is highly effective for the lower back, hamstrings, and hips. Do 60 meters for three to six trips, which works well for most. Remember to keep the strap below the knees.
I chose the information for this article to show how a Jump and Reach Test increased from nine-foot, four inches to nine-foot, seven inches without doing jumps for twelve weeks by only following the training exercises provided in the above information.