Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hip Extension - Make It Your Dominant Action

As appeared at the

If one was to interview 100 athletes and asked them what would they like more of and what would they like less of, I bet that 2 of the most popular answers would be to increase speed and to have less lower back pain.
What if I told you that there’s 1 specific movement that you’re not training that could make both of these goals a reality?
Enter Hip Extension.

What Is It?

Hip Extension is where the leg goes back behind the midline of the body as demonstrated in this video at 16secs.
It us performed primarily by the glute maximus and secondary by the adductor magnus with the hamstrings providing some supplementary assistance.
Optimally you should be able to achieve 10 degrees range of motion without compensating through the lumbar spine or hamstrings.

What Hip Extension Will Do For You?

All sprinters know the importance of training hip extension to improve their sprinting times and providing that hip extension is the basic push off movement at the completion of each step, rightly so.
Specifically it gives you great propulsion out of the blocks by providing you with a long first step at the start of a sprint.


Maximum speed, which generally kicks in at 30m of any sprint, is also enhanced as the posterior chain (which produces hip extension) acts as the prime mover, taking over the quadriceps.

In a postural sense, a well developed hip extension movement and thus, well developed glute muscles will also bring your hips out of excessive anterior tilt, decreasing lower back stress.

Why Don’t I Have Adequate Hip Extension?

Like all body movements, hip extension has its agonist (glutes) and antagonist (quadriceps, hip flexors).
When one side is stronger than the other side then the tug of war is being pulled one way more than the other, in this case the hips (pelvis) are being pulled up and backwards by the erector spinae and down and forwards by the hip flexors and quadriceps.
The glutes are now in a constant lengthened and stretched position which in turn makes it a weak muscle (think of the elastic band in your pj’s that all worn and loose).
To add even more dysfunction onto the pile, as technology continues to take over the world, so does sitting which reinforces tight quadriceps and hip flexors.
So the main problems associated with a lack of hip extension range of motion and strength is:
  • Inhibited glutes
  • Tight hip flexors, quadriceps, adductors, illiotibial band/tensor fasciae latae
  • All resulting in excessive pelvic tilt
What Do I Do Then?
Before each session you will need to inhibit and lengthen your tight muscles (itb/tfl, hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors). Myofascial release techniques are a great choice here such as manual massage, self massage, foam rolling, tennis balls along with any form of stretching you’d like to do but as static stretching has the greatest effect on decreasing muscle force production, it’s a pretty good choice.
Immediately after you’ve inhibited the tight muscles you need to activate the dormant/weak muscles (glutes). This can be done with single leg prone hip extensions, glute bridges from an elevated surface (to decrease hamstring involvement), bird dogs, wall marches etc. 

Now that you have those glutes ready to work, it’s time to strengthen them through deadlifts variations, squat variations, single leg lunge and step up variations as well as straight leg hip extensions, weighted hip thrust, pendulums, reverse hyperextensions and glute ham raises. 

To really get hip extension to work for you in the sports arena it’s critical that you take it 1 step further using sled push drags then head off to the track and do some straight leg bounds, high knee skips and various sprint starts and traditional sprints.

To program hip extension simply choose 1 activation exercise, 1 strength exercise and 1 assistance exercise and do them 2 – 3 times a week. If you’re an athlete then you should hot the track 1 – 2 per week as well or incorporate them into your team training sessions.
Just make sure to finish each exercise with full extension of the ankle, knee and hip which is called triple extension. For additional hip extension work you can use a split stance on your upper body exercises, squeezing the trail leg, alternating legs each set. If you have a one side weaker than the other then it is critical that you do MORE for that side using an imbalanced training approach. The weak side won’t catch up doing the same amount of work as the other side.

Just make sure that whenever you are training hip extension that you don’t move yourself into lumbar spine hyperextension, which can actually cause facet damage to the spine.

I hope you enjoyed and get a lot out of this focus on hip extension and let me know any thoughts or questions you have to make you a better athlete.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January Blitz Phase 5 - Hypertrophy

So in the end we had enough time to do 6 days of hypertrophy work to finish off the January Blitz. No this isn't one of those "gain 5kgs in 4 days" programs as you can't gain anything in that time but it was more a trial run of the different method we've focused on for January.

I eventually split it up into 2 x 3 day "bits." (technical i know...)

Bit #1 we kept with the drop off method we used in the other phases. On day 1 we worked up to an 8 rep max and then did as many sets of 6 reps with the 8 rep max weight as we could, stopping at 5 sets regardless (mainly for time reasons). We did this for 3 days in a row. If we reached 6 reps for all 5 sets then you increase the weight for the next day's workout and if you didn't reach the full 30 reps then you decreased the weight for the next day's workout.

We did 6 exercises: lat pulldowns, bench press to the neck, trap bar shrugs, face pulls, single arm lean away lateral raises + chain and hammer curls + chain.

The choice of exercise was actually strategic in the sense that we were purely aiming to build the illusion of growth so as you can see we focused on lats, upper chest, shrugs, rear delts/upper back, side delts and the brachialis. When each of these muscles are developed, you look wide as a barn door, even if you're not!

Bit #2 I simply set a rep target of 25, 37 and 50 reps for each respective day using some of the same exercises but still focusing on the same muscles.

Day 1 - pull up, floor bench press, db shrug, rear delt raise with chains, seated lateral raise and reverse curls + chains

Day 2 - lat pulldowns, bench press to neck, db shrug, ring face pull, standing lateral raise and reverse curls

Day 3 - lat pulldowns, feet elevated ring push up, db shrug, pronated grip db chest supported row, db upright row and hammer curls

No sets were to failure but rather each set was focusing on completing as many explosive, quality reps as possible then the set was over. There's no room for building up excess fatigue in a high frequency training plan.

I have seen some results from this (I was the only one to complete all 6 days in a row) and I think something like this long term could work wonders so I might try it later in the year.

Starting next Tuesday we'll back to our normal workouts and footy training starts Wednesday night so we might need to adjust some of the volume we use but we will still focus on developing max acceleration and speed.

Friday, January 20, 2012

January Blitz Phase 4 - Max Velocity / Acceleration

We finally made it to phase 4, max velocity.

As it turned out we couldn't do exactly what I planned so it actually turned into max acceleration but that was no big deal.

The aim of this phase was to use our strength, force absorption and force output phases to transfer into actual speed, because what's strength if you can't express it? Pretty useless really.

So we did some sprinting for 3 days in a row with this set up:
  1. Sled Sprints @ 22.5kgs
  2. Sled Sprints @ 11.25kgs
  3. Bodyweight Traditional Sprints

We timed the traditional sprints where Lachy clocked a 1.84sec 10m time and Troy got 1.81secs. I didn't get to time Nick unfortunately.

For bench presses we did basic throws from the bottom position so we were on our backs with our elbows resting on the floor and after a 2 - 3 second pause, just exploded up and threw the bar as high as we could. We also did this 3 days in a row.

To take us up to the Australia Day weekend we're now doing a "get big" week which the boys have been looking forward to for a while. We haven't focused a lot of hypertrophy in the off season  program yet but we're only doing 7 days so it's not like we'll explode to 100kgs or anything but if we can get some result in a week then the principles we are following will be a success and we can use it again with a more long term approach.

I'll detail this phase in a couple of days.

Monday, January 16, 2012

January Blitz Phase 3 - Force Output

On Sunday of last week we finished up with phase 3 which was force absorption. If you remember the main take away from this phase it's that the more force you can put in, the more force you can take out.

This phase lasted for 4 days which again we did all in a row with the aim of transferring the gains we got from phase 3, into actual performance (jumping) in phase 4.

We used these 2 exercises each day:

For the depth jumps we actually used a progression each day which was:
  1. Portable Power Jumper with 2 Bands
  2. Portable Poweer Jumper with 1 Band (above)
  3. Bodyweight Only
Starting today (Tuesday) we move to phase 4 - max velocity - where we again aim to transfer the gains received from phases 2 and 3 into performance in the form of sled resisted sprints.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January Blitz Phase 2 - Force Absorption

Moving into phase 2 of the January we find ourselves at force absorption.

What's force absorption you ask?

To make this simple as can be think of your muscles and tendons as rubber bands. If you pull the rubber band back 10cms you get little spring back when you let it go.

Let's take that same rubber band and pull it back as far as it can go and what happens? It flies across the room and hits your grade 1 teacher in the eye!! (somewhat true)

So if we liken force absorption to pulling back the rubber band, then it's clear that force absorption is going to do a lot for us athletically.

The most critical benefit it has is it will enable you to "put out" more force in the from of running faster and jumping higher, both a product of how much force you can exert into the ground.

We used the same set up phase 1 training multiple days in a row until we reached our drop off point.

Here's what we did:

The main focus of these "drop and catch" exercises is to have your muscles contract, relax and then contract again as hard as possible. If you're muscles are contracting all the time you won't get anywhere.

Don't believe me?

Tense your arm up and and do 10 upper cuts as fast as you can. Now do them with a relaxed arm.

The ability to turn on and turn off your muscles in a split second can be the difference being good and being great.

Hey what am I wearing in the altitude drop video? This:

Yes he claims big results but this has been recommended to me by a person who has used this actual product and had great gains from it and it only cost me $50 (+ $50 shipping!!).

The next phase is force output which starts tomorrow.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The January Blitz Is On!!

It's a new year and the perfect time for a blitz while we have some time between public holidays.

I've had this planned for a while now but I wasn't sure if I was going to do it but the time seems to be perfect so here we are.

The blitz involves training a specific training quality multiple days in a row at high intensity, high load and high velocity.

As we are training everyday and the focus is on high quality work, we have a set drop off point that once we reach, we stop that phase, have 1 day off and start the next phase

We started phase 1 on Tuesday which was strength. For this we used only 2 exercises: bench press and trap bar deadlifts.

For each day we worked up to a 1 rep max for each exercise and then we decreased the weight to 94% of that 1 rep max and continued with single rep sets until we reached 10 or failure, whichever came first.

So here's what my phase 1 looked like:

Phase 1; Strength

Bench Press 1 Rep Max - 100kgs
94% Singles - 94kgs x 10

Trap Bar Deadlifts 1 Rep Max - 152.5kgs
94% Singles - 143 x 3 (hands were torn apart!! we did a lot of warm up sets not really knowing where we would finish which took it's toll on my tiny hands)


Bench Press 1 Rep Max - 95kgs (could have maybe gone higher but I had no spotter today so played it safe rather then get pinned to the bench all on my own!!)
94% Singles - 89kgs x 10

Trap Bar Deadlifts 1 Rep Max - 145kgs
94% Singles - 136 x 10 (put some thin wraps on the grip handles and battled through the pain barrier - hands still the limiting factor though...back, glutes and legs felt good though)


Bench Press 1 Rep Max - 92.5kgs
94% Singles - 87kgs x 10

Trap Bar Deadlifts 1 Rep Max - 140kgs
94% Singles - 132 x 10 (we tried some clusters with this today so I did 3 x 1 with about 30 - 45secs between each set, then Lachy went, then I went etc to try and give the hands a bit more rest...worked alright but the damage was already done)

We finished up this phase after 3 days.

If we went the double wrap like we did Thursday then we might have been able to go another day with this but my hands were done.

Our drop off point was when our 1 rep max was 90 - 95% of Tuesday's 1 rep max which for me was 137kgs so my quality would have more then likely dropped further on the 4th day, possibly below 90%, which I didn't want.

We only used the drop off point on the 1 rep max, not the singles. They were just there for extra volume and nervous system purposes.

Phase 2 starts tomorrow where we are training force absorption and I'll give a rundown of that phase once it's completed.