By Topics: Tammy Kovaluk STACK.com
Hip flexor muscles, located on front of your hip, are often neglected in training programs. Yet these muscles are extremely important for athletic performance. If you sprint, jump or kick, hip flexor exercises should be included in your training regimen.
Let’s look at the importance of hip flexor strengthening exercises for sprinting and jumping.
Role of the Hip Flexors in Sprinting
Your hip flexor muscles assist in the recovery phase, when you bring your leg up and forward. They are major contributors to stride frequency. Strong hip flexors are necessary for rotating your hip quickly to a flexed position and to prepare for foot contact. It can be the difference maker in getting that “extra gear” during sprinting.
Role of the Hip Flexors in Jumping
The hip flexor muscles are highly involved during the counter movement prior to jumping. The counter movement is a spring or coiling action, making it very important for a high jump. Think of a cat recoiling before it jumps high. Good recoil equals high jump. Try this experiment. Stand with your knees straight and jump from that position, without letting them bend at all. Now prepare to jump, but allow your knees to bend before your jump. Feel the difference?
Deane et al. (2005) tested the effects of hip flexor training on sprint, shuttle run and vertical jump performance. Compared to the control group (who did no hip flexor training), subjects who engaged in hip flexion training improved their strength by 12.2 percent and reduced their 40-Yard Dash time by 3.8 percent, and Shuttle Run time by 9 percent.
1. Cable Knee Drives
Cable knee drives are excellent for sprint transference. You can work your sprint technique with this exercise, which requires your opposite standing leg to stabilize—bonuses for improving both your sprinting and athleticism on the field!
- Place an attachment around your ankle in the low pulley position of a cable/functional trainer machine. You can also use a band if you do not have access to a cable machine.
- Take a couple steps out to create some tension.
- With one leg stable, drive the other knee up. At the same time, drive your opposite arm up to cheek height.
- Keep your foot dorsiflexed (toes to top of your sneaker).
Sets/Reps: 3×10-15 per leg
2. Resisted Step-Up Knee Drives
This is another great exercise for sprint transference. Adding a jump and making it an explosive step-up knee drive is excellent for improving your jumping power. If you are new to this exercise, I recommend not using the resistance band to start with.
- Have a partner place a resistance band or tubing around your waist.
- With one leg on a step or box, drive the opposite knee up. Just like Cable Knee Drives, drive your opposite arm to cheek height.
- Make sure your partner doesn’t pull too hard on the band. He or she should apply slight resistance and keep the speed of movement—not slow down or alter technique!
Sets/Reps: 3×8-12 per leg.
As with Cable Knee Drives, sets and reps depend on where you are in your program, goals, form and experience level. the exercise should be challenging but not overly difficult.
3. Wall Drill
This is another great exercise for sprint technique. It’s an excellent drill to use during speed and agility sessions, as part of your warm-up.
- Push your hands against a wall and lean forward at a 45-degree angle.
- Stand on the balls of your feet with your feet under your hips.
- Set and maintain a good plank position against the wall.
- From this position, perform an explosive marching action.
- When driving your lead leg up, bring your ankle beneath your hip and keep your ankle flexed (push your toes to the top of your sneaker).
- Alternate legs. Start with one switch before pausing; every time you switch legs, think of punching your lead knee forward while driving your other leg through the ground.
- Pause 3 seconds between switches. You should feel pressure being put into the wall.
- Punch your knee forward and drive through.
- Pause 3 seconds before each rep, both to reset the drill and increase your hip flexor strength.
Sets/Reps: Start with 1-2 sets of one switch. When you become proficient, move onto 3 switches and finally five switches. It may take a few sessions before you’re ready for five switches—and that’s ok! Don’t rush the drill; be patient and let it come to you.
- 6-10 reps x 1 switch
- 4-6 reps x 3 switches
- 4-6 reps x 5 switches
Deane, R. S., Chow, J. W., Tillman, M. D., & Fournier, K. A. (2005). “Effects of hip flexor training on sprint, shuttle run, and vertical jump performance.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 19(3), 615-621.